9 Fisheries Officials arraigned, 4 Remanded

By Mamadou Dem
Nine fisheries officials, namely Amadou Saine, Nfarama Dampha, former Director, Nfarama DamphaFamara Darboe, Dr. Demba Banja, then Permanent Secretary, Kebba Konjira, Joseph Gabidon, Musa Jawla, Abdoulie Njie and Momodou Njie were yesterday charged and arraigned before Magistrate Samsideen Conteh of the Banjul Magistrate’s Court.Eleven criminal counts were proffered against the accused persons ranging from multiple counts of Neglect of official duty, Economic Crime and Abuse of office, contrary to the laws of the Gambia.
According to the particulars of offence on count one, Amadou Saine, Nfamara Dampha, Dr. Bamba Banja and Nfamara Darboe (1st 2nd and 3rd accused persons) between the period of January to August 2012, being Permanent Secretaries and Directors at the Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources and Department of Fisheries respectively, failed to ensure that local commercial canoes are issued with fishing licence to carry out fishing activities in the Gambia as required by the fisheries Act 2008 which resulted to financial losses to the Government of the Gambia, thereby committed an offence.
The particulars of offence on Count Two states that the aforesaid persons including Nfamara Darboe (4th accused) between the period of January to August 2012, being Permanent Secretaries and Directors at the Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources and Department of Fisheries respectively, failed  to ensure that local commercial canoes are issued with fishing licence to carry out fishing activities in the Gambia Waters as required by the fisheries Act 2008 which resulted to financial losses which is detrimental to the economy of the Gambia or to the welfare of the people  of the Gambia, thereby committed an offence.
The prosecution alleged on the third count that the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th accused persons, between the period of January 2008 to August 2012, being Permanent Secretaries  and Directors at the Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources and Department of Fisheries respectively, failed to supervise and to ensure the recovery of poaching fines within the time frame as stipulated in the Fisheries Regulation 2008 which resulted to the loss of D21,000.00 to the economy of the state, thereby committed an offence.
According to the fourth count, the four accused persons between the period of January to August, 2012 being Permanent Secretaries and Directors at the Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources and Department of Fisheries respectively, failed to appropriate and in violation of the Fisheries Act and Regulation resulted to the loss of D13, 913,481.38 (Thirteen million nine hundred and thirteen thousand four hundred and eighty one dalasis thirty eight bututs) being monies that could have been recovered by the department thereby committed an offence.
Count Five alleges that the same accused persons, sometime between April and May 2014, in the City of Banjul being Permanent Secretaries and Directors at the Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources and Department of Fisheries respectively, failed to pursue the case of a pouching fine amounting to D500,000.00 (five hundred thousand dalasis) against Red Sea International Fishing Development Company Limited, an omission that is detrimental to the economy of the Gambia, thereby committed an offence.
Count Six alleges that the same accused persons sometime between April and May, 2014 in the City of Banjul, being Permanent Secretaries and Directors at the Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources and Department of Fisheries respectively, neglected their duties by failing to pursue the case of a pouching fine amounting to half a million dalasis against Red Sea International Fishing Development Company Limited, thereby committed an offence.
The seventh count states that Mr. Kebba Konjira between the periods of January 2008 to August 2012, in his capacity as the accountant at the Department of Fisheries, raised payment vouchers in the name of the Director for payment of salaries to staff amounting to D283,925.24 (Two hundred eighty three thousand, nine hundred and twenty-five thousand twenty four bututs) without list of staff paid thereby committed an offence.
The Particulars of offence on Count Eight states that Mr. Konjira sometimes between August 2012 to March 2014, in the city of Banjul allegedly received several payments totalling D1,924,130.00 which he deliberately failed to bank on time as required by the Financial Instructions, thereby committed an offence.
According to Count nine, Mr. Konjira on or about 2012 to 2014, in Gambia’s Capital, being the accountant of the Department of Fisheries, failed to tag physical assets of the Department, thereby committed an offence.
The prosecution added that Mr. Joseph Gabidon, Musa Jawla, Abdoulie Njie and Momodou Njie between the periods of January 2008 to August 2012 being employed at the Department of Fisheries attached at the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Unit as well as at the Inspectorate Unit of the department abused their office by internally printing licence application forms without serially numbering them and selling them to the public without authority, thereby committed an offence.
The last and final count on the charge sheet alleged that Mr. Nfamara Dampha, sometime in 2013, in the City of Banjul and diverse places whilst employed as the Director at the Department of Fisheries awarded a contract to TabaningSita Construction Company without following the Gambia Public Procurement Act (GPPA) Regulations, thereby committed an offence.
However none of the accused persons were able to take their pleas on the charges meted against them as the lower court lacks the jurisdiction to try economic crime cases.
The trial Magistrate then ordered the matter to be transferred to the Special Criminal Division of the High Court as it is the proper court mandated by law to try such offences.
Prior to transferring the matter to the high court, the Magistrate granted some of the accused persons bail, namely Kebba Konjira, Joseph Gabidon, Musa Jawla, Abdoulie Njie and Modou Njie respectively (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th accused persons).
He however ordered for Amadou Saine, Nfamara Dampha, Nfamara Darboe and Dr. Bamba Danja (1st 2nd, 3rd, and 4th) to seek for bail at the high court and ordered for them to be kept in Prison custody pending their appearance at the High Court.
Lawyer Sheriff Tambedou appeared for Dr. Bamba Banja, Joseph Gabidon and Modou Njie and he applied for bail for all of them whilst Barrister Musa Batchilly applied for bail on behalf of Kebba Konjira, Musa Jawla and Abdoulie Njie and Barrister Sheikh Tijan Hydra represented Amadou Saine.

Police Prosecutor, Almameh Manga appeared for the Inspector General of Police in this case. Before granting the accused persons bail, he urged the court to deny bail and remands the accused persons in prison custody on grounds that the accused persons will interfere with potential prosecution witnesses; adding that the matter is still being investigated. Manga further cited Section 208 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Delivering the ruling in a congested and blackout court room due to the failure of the bulbs, the trial Magistrate ordered as mentioned above.