The president of the Gambia Adama Barrow has an outcome of the report which looked into this issue since August last year.
By Mustapha K Darboe
The Gambia’s Agriculture Minister Omar Jallow has for ‘financial reasons’ connived with a Gambian businessman in the sale of tonnes of expired fertilizer in Senegal and The Gambia.
The businessman, Modou Dibba, has trucked away an estimated twenty-seven thousand plus bags of outdated fertilizer from the government stores in Banjul before he was arrested by the state agents in June last year as he attempted to load ten more trucks.
“I went with my lawyer to the Minister of Agriculture Omar Jallow where my lawyer explained to him that the contract I signed with regards to the fertilizer has a problem as I was detained for three days,” Dibba told investigators.
“This was the time the Minister said he gave the order for the contract to be signed and the fertilizer to be given to me but I should not sell a single bag of fertilizer in the Gambia.”
In 2009, the Government of the Gambia, through the Ministry of Agriculture, purchased 9, 500 tons of fertilizer to the tune of D130, 800, 000. Delivered by Modou Ceesay of Tilikon Company, the fertilizer was meant to subsidise Gambian farmers but it was discovered outdated and spoilt.
Investigations into the activities surrounding the purchase of the fertilizer at the time led to the prosecution of members of Tilikon Company and some agricultural officials.
The fertilizer was since kept in stores with instructions from the Ministry of Agriculture that it should not be used.
The National Environmental Agency, in 2014, also advised that the fertilizer be sent for lab analysis in Dakar to determine the best way of disposal, fearing it might contain ‘impurities such as heavy metals that may potentially pollute an area through seepage and leachate of dissolved contents’.
However, the fertilizer was never sent to Dakar for a test.
Yet, in July 2017, Minister Jallow contracted Modou Dibba, a businessman who deals mainly in coos and maize at Serrekenuda market, to carry out the disposal.
Dibba initially loaded 5 trucks, each containing 400 bags and sold them in Senegal to Modou Jobe, a businessman in Dakar. This was followed by the sale of 6 more truckload of spoilt fertilizer, each containing 400 bags, to Abdou Gaye, a businessman in Touba, Senegal.
The third Senegal-bound consignment of eleven thousand bags was intercepted and denied entry by Senegalese authorities and the businessman took it to Farrafenni. He went back to Banjul to load ten trucks and was arrested in the process.
Kerr Fatou has learnt that the Office of the President is aware of the scandal.
“It is confirmed that the investigation took place and the Ministry of Justice was contacted for advice,” the presidency said in an email response today.
However, according to the information obtained by Kerr Fatou this investigation was concluded since seven months ago – August 24, 2017.
An investigation jointly conducted by the State Intelligence Services, Military Intelligence at the State House and Gambia Police Force, have found out that Minister Jallow has given order for the contract to be signed and fertilizer to be given to Mr Modou Dibba.
The investigators also confirmed that the contract for the sale of the spoilt fertilizer was unilaterally done without due process or prior knowledge of the presidency or Auditor General as required by the Financial Regulation Act.
The investigators also found out that deal was “done for financial reasons”.
The Ministry is said to have told the contractor not to sell the spoilt fertilizer in the Gambia. However, the 11, 000 bags taken to Farrafenni cannot be accounted for by this medium.
In their defense before investigators, the agriculture ministry claimed that the request for removal of the fertilizer stock came from the Gambia Groundnut Corporation.
“These are allegations… Last year, we were contacted on this but the story was never published…,” said Aminata Correa, the press officer at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Omar Jallow was Minister for Agriculture at the time of the military overthrow in 1994. He became the leader of Peoples Progressive Party and bounced back in government following the presidential election victory by a coalition. He himself could not be reached. His Press Officer said he has travelled.