By Dawda Faye
The former minister of Local Government and Lands, Ismaila Sambou, earlier today before the Janneh Commission stated that it was not proper to allocate 28 lands to the former president, Yahya Jammeh. He was summoned along with Momodou M.K. Colley, who is also a former Local Government and Lands minister, in connection to the leasing of lands allocated to the former president.
Testifying before the commission, Ismaila Sambou stated that he was minister from 2005 to 2010, noting that he served the previous government as ambassador. He went on to say that he worked in the First Republic for twenty-five years, stating that he also worked at the cooperative union and for the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Mr. Sambou disclosed that he joined the central government during former President Jammeh’s time. At this juncture, he was given a letter which indicated that he was being appointed as a minister.
He adduced that after five years as minister, he was terminated and was appointed as an ambassador, adding that his last appointment was as an ambassador.
Counsel Bensouda reminded him that he was summoned in connection to the period he served as minister of Local Government and Lands, and that he approved 28 properties which were allocated to the former president.
In response, he stated that he did not allocate lands but approved the allocation of lands. He was asked whether he was aware of the power given to him by the law to approve the allocation of lands, and he answered in the positive.
Further testifying, he told the commission that he would approve for the allocation of lands if allocators recommended it, noting that he never allocated more than one land to anybody for any reasons.
Counsel Bensouda told him that there was an allocation of land at Fajara Water tank. He was then given some files to identify but after perusing them, he said he could not remember them.
He was again given other files to identify and was told that there were no applications from the Kanilai Family Farms or the former president to allocate the lands. In response, he told the commission that it was the board which was responsible for the scrutinizing of the allocation of lands, but not him.
Counsel Bensouda put it to him that a layout at Cape Point was created. He stated that one of the properties was allocated to his wife, Lamarana Bah. He was told that the layout was to be an open space, but he said he did not know that other people were allocated lands at the layout.
At this juncture, other files were given to him which he perused, and said that this was the first time to see the files. However, he confirmed submitting some files to the investigators.
Counsel Bensouda subsequently tendered the documents and were admitted in evidence.
Earlier, Momodu Colley told the commission that he is a retired civil servant as director of physical planning but he once served as minister of Lands and Regional Government in 2014.
He adduced that he served for 5 years as director of physical planning but served for 33 years at the ministry of physical planning, noting that he is a construction engineer.
He was told that he was summoned in connection to leases he approved, and was put to him that he issued four leases to Kanilai Family Farms. He was also told that all the leases are within the Kanifing Municipal Area.
It was put to him that the lease of land at Kotu comprised 30.6 hectares, and that the commission wanted to know why it was issued. On the Kotu Point lease, he was told that it comprised 2.9 hectares and that there was nothing in the file to show why the land was leased.
He was also informed about the other lease at Kotu Quarry which comprised 19.7 hectares for Kanilai Family Farms. Mr. Colley was also told that there was another lease at Old Jeshwang which comprised 3.69 hectares and it is partly a wetland.
In response, he disclosed that he was fully aware of the four files when they were brought to his office for approval, noting that he objected upon verifying the files. He stated further that he instructed his permanent secretary for the leasing of the lands to go through the right procedures.
Counsel Bensouda put it to him that there was no minute in the files, and he said that it was the negligence of the staff under him. He testified further that he showed his dissatisfaction in the way things were going; adding that he and the former president challenged each other and this was why he was relieved of his position.
At this juncture, he was given his statement to endorse his signature, which he did. Documents relating to the leases issued to the former president were tendered and admitted in evidence.
Counsel Bensouda asked him why the former president would want to acquire these leases. In response, he told the commission that the situation in the country at the time was not normal. He further testified that the former president’s action and rule of law has changed Gambians.
Mr. Junkung Bayo, former general manager of the Central Bank, dwelled on the $35,000,000 loan given by the Taiwanese government to the AFPRC government.