By Landing Ceesay
Atlas Petrol Station Operations Manager, Dodou Njie yesterday gave testimony in the Gam Petroleum Corruption scandal trial at the High Court of the Gambia.
Mr. Njie appeared in Court as the Eight Prosecution Witness (PW8) in the trial at the High Court of the Gambia involving two staff of Gam Petroleum.
The 2 staff namely Saihou Drammeh (1st accused), former Managing Director and Lamin Gassama (2nd accused), former Operations Manager of the institution are charged with 8 counts (3 counts of economic crimes and 5 other counts) in the alleged corruption scandal.
The eight counts are levelled against the two in their maiden court appearance at the High Court in Banjul on 4th April 2022 presided over by Justice Haddy Roche.
Their appearance in court followed their arrest regarding their alleged involvement in the alleged corruption, malpractices and the missing of fuel products worth USD 20 million at the depot.
Mr. Njie told the court that he has been working with Atlas for over 25 years and he is the current Operations Manager. Mr. Njie said he keeps daily, weekly and monthly stock information about Atlas.
Mr. Njie told the court the shortage of fuel that happened in October 2021 was not the first fuel shortage that happened in the country.
Mr. Njie further stated that the new Price structure introduced by the government of the Gambia in October 2021 through a press release dated 30th September 2021 without consulting the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) was one of the reasons for the fuel shortage in the country in October 2021.
Mr. Njie further told the court that in October 2021, when the fuel shortage hit the country, he was part of the investigators that went to check the tanks at Gam Petroleum (GP). Adding, they discovered that there was no physical stock at the depot during their investigation. He told the court that his book record showed that Atlas Petrol Station had stock at GP but there was no physical stock at the depot.
Mr. Njie however told the court that Atlas had a negative balance as of September 2021 and that the negative balance at the Gam Petroleum depot was due to overshooting at the time of loading.
Talking about the new price structure, Mr. Njie confirmed to the court that all the OMCs except one signed up to a letter that they sent to the Government warning them of the consequences of the new price structure. In the letter, the OMCs warned that the new price structure would have a negative impact on the supply chain of oil and gas.
Mr. Njie told the court that the Government’s failure to act on the protest letters by the OMCs also contributed to the shortage of the fuel in October 2021.
“All sectors contributed to the fuel shortage in October including the Government,” Mr. Njie told the court.
Mr. Njie said he doesn’t think that it is fair to blame everyone for the October 2021 fuel crisis except the Gambia Government.
“Government’s failure to react should have been a cocktail of all the contributing factors listed in Exhibit D6 which is the Report by the taskforce and the factors we raised in our letters,” the witness told the court.
Lawyer Abdul Aziz Saho represented the State, while lawyers Christopher E. Mene, B. S. Conteh, S. Akimbo, Bakurin Pauline, and Sasum Sillah represented the 1st accused and 2nd accused persons in the hearing.
Hearing continued on Wednesday.