By Rohey Jadama
Mr. Momodou Sabally, the former Secretary General, Head of the Civil Service and Minister of Presidential Affairs yesterday, 18th June, told the Banjul High Court presided over by Justice Emmanuel Amadi that he vehemently denies influencing the Social Security and Housing Finance Cooperation (SSHFC) to sponsor the ‘Youth Career Development Project of Ms. Mariama Sillah.
Sabally is charged with two counts of ‘Economic Crimes’, three on ‘Abuse of Office’, two on ‘Neglect of Official duty’ and a single count on ‘Giving False information to a Public Officer’. He however pleaded not guilty to all the eight charges preferred against him by the state.
Prosecution is alleging that Mr. Sabally has caused economic loss to SSHFC to the tune of Four Hundred and Two Thousand Five Hundred dalasi (D402, 500) by unduly influencing it to sponsor the Youth Career Development Programme managed by the said Ms. Sillah without recourse to due process.
Continuing his testimony as defence witness one (DW1) in the case against him, Mr. Sabally told the court that Ms. Mariama Sillah was introduced to him by Lamin Manga, the former Director General of Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), in his office. He added that Ms. Sillah introduced a program to him called ‘Youth Career development’ which was designed to train school children. He said one of the objectives of the project is to discourage the ‘back way’ journey to Europe.
Mr. Sabally added that Ms. Sillah was seeking funding for that noble programme and that he told her that he does not have the authority and the resources to fund the programme even as Secretary General. He continued “I advised her to approach corporate institutions and I promised to support her in that process because I believe this was an important programme that will fill an important void in the course of youth development in the Gambia,” said DW1.
He added that he never influenced them to fund the programme.
He further told the court that when he saw the programme he was excited because he is a motivational speaker and an author with deep passion for youth development. He added that he called Mr. Edward Graham, the Managing Director of Social Security and spoke to him about Ms. Sillah’s programme and that he asked him whether he will be able to meet her so that she will explain the programme to him.
“I did clarify to Mr. Graham that I’m not directing him to fund the programme and that it was not a directive,” adding “I further advised him to look at it with his team and see whether it is within their corporate social responsibility and he agreed with my advice.”
Mr. Sabally said he later received a call from the Head of Finance, Mr. Abdoulie Cham, regarding the Youth Career Development Programme, and Mr. Cham said they had discussed it with Ms. Sillah and that they found the project laudable.
He said, however, Mr. Cham told him that they found the budget presented to be in the high side.
“At that point I told him that it was not necessary to contact me on the program because I expressly told Mr. Graham that they should look at this project as a team and take their own decision and Mr. Cham further told me that they are going to cut the funding and provide the funding as agreed by their team,” said Sabally.
Sabally also told the court that he was arrested and detained at the NIA headquarters in Banjul for about 4 months but that he could not remember the exact date but it was around 7th July 2014. “I was later brought to court and slammed with certain charges,” he said.