Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Gambia’s former petroleum minister and 8 other former top officials of The Gambia government yesterday pleaded not guilty to the 8 count charges filed against them by the state at the High Court in Banjul.
Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Momodou OS Badjie, Fafa Sanyang, Muntaga Momodou Sallah, Momodou Taal, Seedy Kanyi, Noah Touray, Louise Moses Mendy and Cherno Marena, are charged before Justice O Ottaba in an amended indictment with offences ranging from conspiracy to commit a felony, economic crime, neglect of official duty, disobedience of statutory duty and destroying evidence.
The prosecution alleged that Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Momodou O.S Badjie, Fafa Sanyang, Cherno Marena, Seedy Kanyi and Muntaga Momodou Sallah sometime in 2015 in Banjul and other diverse places while serving in their various capacities as public officers by wilful act or omission caused economic loss to the government of The Gambia at the tune of Seven Million and Sixty Nine Thousand, Eight Hundred and Eighty dollars ($7, 069, 880.70) equivalent to three hundred and twenty nine million four hundred and fifty six thousand, four hundred and forty one Dalasi (D329, 456, 441.00) by causing the Government of the Gambia to make payment to March Trading which act is injurious, detrimental and damaging to the economy of The Gambia.
The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th accused persons are also alleged to have in the same year and place while serving in various capacities as public officers by wilful act or omission caused economic loss to the Government of The Gambia at the tune of three million, six hundred and ten thousand, six hundred and fifty six Dalasi (D3, 610, 656.00) being monies expended for air tickets and perdiem on due diligence mission to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (the purpose for which was not fulfilled) and signing or causing a contract to be signed with March Trading which act is injurious, detrimental and damaging to the economy of The Gambia.
The prosecution further alleged on count three that Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Momodou O.S Badjie, Fafa Sanyang, Cherno Marena, in the same year and places while serving in their various capacities as public officers conspired amongst themselves to commit a felony to wit: by willful act or omission cause economic loss to the government of the Gambia.
Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Momodou O.S Badjie, Fafa Sanyang, Cherno Marena are further alleged to have in the same year and places while serving in their various capacity as public officers and while on due diligence mission to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on the competence and capacity of March Trading to supply fuel to the government of The Gambia, wilfully neglected to execute such mission in accordance with the Gambia Public Procurement Act.
Count five alleges that Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Momodou O.S Badjie, Fafa Sanyang, Cherno Marena in the same year and places while serving in their various capacities as public officers and while on due diligence mission to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on the competence and capacity of March Trading to supply fuel to the Government of The Gambia, wilfully omitted to comply with The Gambia Public Procurement requirements.
Momodou O.S Badjie is alleged on count six and seven that in the same year and place while serving as the Managing Director of the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) wilfully neglected to advertise the pre-qualification bidding process for the contract of supply of petroleum to the GNPC as required and in accordance with the Gambia Public Procurement Act.
On count eight, Noah Touray is alleged to have in the same year and place while serving as Secretary to Cabinet at the Office of the President, knowing that a file pertaining to the contract with GNPC and March Petroleum could be used in Judicial Proceedings against Sira Wally Now-Njai as evidence in court wilfully removed and destroyed the said file.
After all the accused persons took their pleas, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) S H Barkun announced his readiness to proceed with the testimony of his first witness who, he said was in court.
Defence lawyer Hawa Sisay-Sabally for the 4th accused person (Cherno Merena) said her client was earlier granted bail in which an order was made that covers this particular case. She was however told by the presiding judge that the issue of bail was premature as it never aroused.
The defence lawyer Antouman Gaye for the 1st accused person (Sira Wally Ndow-Njai) informed the court that they (himself, Lawyer O M M Njie and S M Tambadou) the defence team for the 1st accused were appearing in the case for the 1st time and they announced their representation for the said accused. They were later handed bundles of documents by the court clerk.
Counsel Gaye said they are yet to go through the documents and needed time to consult with their client to take instructions. He said the facts remain that the 1st accused is in custody which, he said is an important factor that the court need to put in to consideration. He applied for the court to give the defence team 48 hours.
Reacting to Lawyer Gaye’s application, DDP Barkun said change of counsel should not be an excuse for delay but the judge said Gaye’s application is meritorious (worthy).
DPP Barkun also said the bail of some of the accused persons was premised on previous charges and it has been the practice where a charge is fundamentally amended the issue of bail has to be revisited in consideration to the new circumstances.
The presiding judge ordered for the accused persons who are on bail to continue on their bail till the next adjourned date when he shall hear the submissions of the defence on the issue. The case is adjourned to 27th October 2016.
by Fatou Sowe