By Mamadou Dem
Gora Njie, first prosecution witness and operative of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), yesterday, 3rd August, 2015 testified in the ongoing criminal trial involving Muntaga Sallah, then permanent secretary at the Ministry of Petroleum
Mr. Sallah is standing trial for allegedly stealing three HP computers valued at 25,400 dollars (approximately 990,600 dalasi).
Continuing with his evidence in – chief against Mr. Sallah, Pw1 testified that on the 21st of June, 2015 he was instructed by his superiors to accompany the accused to his residence in Kerr Serigne to conduct a search. He said he left their office with one Kebba Secka and Lamin Bojang together with the accused and that upon arrival at Kerr Serigne, the accused took them to his bedroom (upstairs).
The NIA operative told the court that during their search, they recovered 3 computer Central Processing Unit (CPU) Servers in cartons placed under the dressing table of the accused. “Photographs were taken for the items found. At the end of the search, the 3 CPU’s were brought to the office,” said the witness.
When asked as to whether the accused told them the owner of the hp computers found in his room, he responded in the affirmative and added that the accused told them that they belong to the ministry of petroleum.
After having a look at three cartons containing CPU’s, the witness confirmed to the court that they were the ones they recovered from the house of the accused.
At this stage, the police prosecutor Sub-Inspector Alpha Badjie applied to tender the said items in evidence as exhibits.
Loubna Farage, the counsel for Mr. Sallah, did not object to the admissibility of the said computers. The three items were accordingly admitted and marked as exhibits A, A1 and A2 respectively.
Under cross -examination by the defence, the witness told the court that he has been working with the NIA for two years now but could not recall how many searches he had conducted while with the NIA.
“The team that you mentioned, comprising of yourself, Lamin Bojang and Kebba Secka, who is the leader?” asked the defence counsel.
“Kebba Secka,” responded the accused.
“So when instructions are given, are they given to you individually or instructed to Kebba Secka alone?” quizzed counsel.
Before the witness responded, the prosecuting officer objected, arguing that the witness was not in court to reveal as to how instructions were given to them by their superiors. He added that the witness was very brief in his evidence in-chief.
“I urged the court not to entertain such questions. I crave the court’s indulgence not to allow the witness to answer that question,” said the prosecutor.
Replying to the prosecution’s objection, counsel Farage described the objection as baseless and which, she said, has no relevance under the law of cross-examination. She further argued that the witness acknowledged in his evidence that he received instructions from his superiors, adding that he did not tell the court who the superior was but only that Kebba Secka was the leader.
The defence counsel said the question asked was simple and relevant, given that there is no basis for such objections. “We urged the court to overrule the objection as it is misconceived,” she submitted.
Delivering his ruling, Principal Magistrate Momodou Jallow ruled that the question was a fair question. He added that there are no enough points of law warranting him to deny the question. He therefore overruled the objection and ordered the witness to answer the question.
The witness then responded that it is not to his knowledge as to whether instructions were given to him individually or to Kebba Secka alone.
When asked about his qualifications, the witness said: “I am an investigator.”
“Mr. Njie what are your qualifications resulting to you being an investigator?” asked counsel.
“A high school graduate,” replied the witness.
“Therefore, is it correct to say that you do not have an engineering qualification or Information Technology qualification?” asked counsel Farage.
Pw1 responded that he does not understand.
At this juncture, the matter was adjourned to Thursday, August 6, for continuation of cross-examination.
The particulars of offence state that Mr. Sallah, while serving as permanent secretary at the ministry of petroleum, and without approval, purchased three HP computers worth $25, 400. 45 which he later stole and took to his home in Senegambia.
The prosecution further alleges that the accused has stolen three HP computers worth $25, 400. 45 which he knew belonged to The Gambia government.
Mr. Sallah is also accused of abusing his office when he instructed without approval the purchase of the computers. The alleged incident is said to have happened in the month of November 2014 in Banjul.