Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ousman Sonko may walk out of a Swiss jail a free man soon unless...

Ousman Sonko, former Interior Minister
The man who once proudly referred himself  as the disciple of Yaya Jammeh may soon be freed from a Swiss for lack of solid and irrefutable evidence against Jammeh's most trusted and longest-serving Interior Minister.

Unless witnesses step up to the plate and provide evidence against one of the most notorious characters that the 22-year dictatorship has ever produced, Ousman Sonko will be a free man in the next 48 hours, according to a very credible source.

We at sidisanneh.blogspot.com have been collaborating with investigative journalists and international lawyers and organizations who have used our blog posts as open and secondary source of information.   However, there is only so much we can do from where we are.

Witnesses and victims who have evidence against him must step forward.  The identities of those who volunteer information to authorities will be protected by the Swiss authorities whose duty it is to guarantee anonymity of witnesses.

If Ousman Sonko walks out of a Swiss jail a free man in the next 48 hours or so, you will have no one to blame but yourselves.  Good luck with that because we would not want to think of the implications as well as the fallout from such an eventuality.  Who will take us seriously, then?  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

State-sponsored corruption at the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation - Part III

This is Part III of a four part series that we ran last year on the downstream petroleum sector.  This part deals with the ownership structure of the GNPC from its inception to when the regime of Jammeh was forced to buy-out Bazzi and partners.  This involuntary - or more appropriately, forced divestiture - was made possible because of a little known clause, apparently buried in the agreement, that many government official said they were unaware of its existence, made it possible for the non-government shareholders to milk the alliance for 5 years before off-loading the liabilities of the GNPC to government.

We, at sidisanneh.blogspot.com, have been focusing more of our attention on the downstream activities that involves GNPC with little attention paid to the off-shore or upstream activities of Yaya Jammeh who was, without doubt, the dominant player and most consequential player in these activities that have resulted in arbitration, cancellation and reinstatement of contracts.  There is no doubt that the entire set of agreements with African Petroleum Corporation and other foreign companies must be reviewed to ensure equity.  Our next new blog post will be looking at these developments and how they will impact future petroleum exploration in The Gambia.

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Yaya Jammeh, Head of the cartel 
The one-of-a-kind 51,000 metric-ton petroleum storage facility built in 2008 at a cost of $ 50 million and located at Mandinari village was jointly owned by a consortium of public enterprise and private individual investors until it was 'nationalized' last year.

Social Security and Housing Finance (31%), Gambia Ports Authority (10%) and Gambia National Petroleum Company Ltd (7%) represent government share in the venture that totals 48%.

The private investors led by the Lebanese-Syrian, Mohammed Bazzi (30.8%) comprise of another Lebanese, Fadi Mezaggi (10.3%), a Gambian, Amadou Samba (9.9%) and Premier Investment Group (1%) which is jointly owned by Mr. Bazzi and Fadi Mezaggi.  How the 1 per cent is shared among the two is unknown.  The two, however, control 42.1% of the facility and with Amadou Samba's 9.9%, the private investors control the facility with 52% an with it the management and operations of the facility.

The Gam-Petroleum Storage Facility Company, as the company is officially known, had two other strategic entities who do not own shares in the company but are critical to the viability of the venture.

The two non-shareholding strategic partners were Total International and the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) - the former serving as the international procurement arm and the latter as the single biggest consumer of heavy and light fuel oil and other petroleum products.

Total International is a French multinational energy company that enjoyed the exclusive right to procure petroleum and petroleum products on behalf of Gam-Petroleum Company and also for its own retailing purposes.  NAWEC on the other hand is a public enterprise whose current liabilities as at 31st October 2014 stood at nearly D 5 billion, D 3 billion of which was outstanding heavy fuel bills owed to supplier.
A separate storage agreement was entered into between Gam-Petroleum and Total International, the details of which are not known in full.  According to official documents government - at least, one or more key ministries - was unaware that the storage facility was used as collateral with obviously the full knowledge and approval of the majority shareholders and Total International.

The fact that the storage facility was used as a collateral without the knowledge of a certain segment of the government, came to light when another surprise was sprung on a regime that is either incompetent or corrupt or both.  It was discovered that the private investors i.e. Messrs. Bazzi, Megazzi and Samba had supplied stock belonging to Total International to NAWEC without the knowledge of the owner.

The discovery was by Total International when it went to access its stock and it was empty who immediately invoked the collateral clause by demanding full and immediate payment of US $ 24.2 million, barring which investors will forfeit the facility.  Under the agreement Total International will take possession and the subsequent selling of the facility, depriving all shareholders, including government of ownership.

During the negotiations, it was revealed that the US$ 24.2 million owed to Total International is inclusive of the US $ 64 million Mohammed Bazzi claimed NAWEC owed to the Euro Africa Group, a company owned by the same Mohammed Bazzi.
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Part IV will look at the events following Total International's decision to invoke the collateral clause, matters relating to NAWEC debt settlement proposal and its implications on the future of the national electricity company.           

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sheriff Diba, Transport Union Leader, died in police custody after being tortured


On March 22nd 2016, we posted the blog post below about the death in custody of Sheriff Diba, a transport union leader.  According to the International Transport Workers' Federation and as reported by Reuters, Mr. Diba's crime was his union "lobbied Jammeh for the reduction of retail fuel prices".

The Gambian Union leader was one of the many victims of Jammeh's total dominance of the energy sector, from upstream to downstream operations.  The former Information Minister who seemed to have had access to the autopsy report owes it to Mr. Diba's family and the Gambian people at large to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities in their investigations of the circumstance leading to his death. The Commissioner of Prisons will also have to be call to book.

Sidi Sanneh
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Murdered Union Leader, Sheriff Diba 
Contrary to official version of events, the Union Leader, Sheriff Dibba, collapsed and died while in police custody at the Banjul Police Station and not at the hospital.

The Fatou Network website has confirmed that Diba did not die in the hospital of "uncomplicated malaria", as claimed by Jammeh's Information Minister.

According to Minister Bojang, Mr. Diba's illness "took a turn for the worse" and died the next day.  A postmortem carried out on February 23 found Diba had heart disease, diabetes, lung and liver problems, he added.

The Minister's story has been ruled by many as mere fabrication, including the London-based International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) that described Bojang's denial as engaging in "sophistry" instead of seriously engaging Gambians and the international community as regards the murder of Sheriff Diba.

Information Minister Bojang 
The ITF continues to maintain that Mr. Diba had been tortured while in custody and is demanding that a commission of inquiry be set up to investigate the circumstances leading up to the death of the union leader.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has also joined the ITF and other international organizations in demanding an independent investigations of the death of Sheriff Diba.

In view of the new revelations, Diba was tortured and died while still in the custody of the police at the Banjul Police HQ, contrary to earlier reports, including this blog, that Diba death occured at Mile II prisons before the body was transferred to the hospital.  
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Jammeh taken to arbitration, again.

We posted this blog on the 17th March, 2014 immediately following the African Petroleum Compnay (Gambia) Ltd lodged an arbitration request with the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Dispute. when Jammeh suddenly decided to terminate the corporation's exploration licences for Blocks 1 and Blocks 4. "for failure to meet the licence obligations of the licencees." Jammeh sooner thereafter and before the final conclusion of the arbitration panel's came out, he dropped his claim and reinstated the contract.  This is part of an ongoing story that has not reached it final conclusion.  

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African Petroleum Corporation has announced that it's wholly-owned subsidiary African Petroleum Gambia Limited has lodged Requests for Arbitration with the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID) based in Washington DC.

The arbitration request is in relation to the regime's notification of the termination of African Petroleum Gambia's exploration licenses over Blocks A1 and A4.

The regime of Yaya Jammeh in January this year terminated the contracts to the relevant Blocks claiming that the company violated Gambia's petroleum laws.  In a press release issued by the Office of The President on January 6th, 2014, an unsuspecting and surprised Gambians were treated to yet another bizarre decision of termination in which the regime was accusing African Petroleum of "failure to meet the license obligations of the licensees."

According to the same release, the terminated licenses are for Blocks A1 and A4 licensed to African Petroleum Gambia Limited and Buried Hill Gambia BV as joint partners and Onshore Block Lower River licensed to Oranto Petroleum Limited.

This is the third time that the Jammeh regime has been taken to arbitration, after Alimeta and Carnegie Minerals.  In the case of Alimenta, the regime had to end up paying $14 million for wrongful seizure of the company's Denton Bridge assets, a debacle that the groundnut sector has not recovered from since. Jammeh is at it again.  This time with multinational oil companies that are literally floating in money and resources.

We have reached out to Buried Hill and Petroleum Gambia's parent company for details of the multiple arbitration requests to find out whether they were jointly filed, and if so, which of the three companies are involved in the arbitration.  We have yet to hear from them.

Gambia's reputation as a safe investment destination has taken another hit.  This time it may prove fatal. These oil companies have the resources to inflict serious and lasting damage to what's left of Gambia's battered image, and to the national treasury at a time when The Gambia can least afford it.

The oil companies will not sit idly by while Jammeh steals proprietary information of these companies after spending huge sums to reach this stage of the process.

We will, of course, continue to follow the story and related developments.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gambia is a criminal enterprise, and Jammeh should assume personal responsibility

This blog post was first published in February 26, 2014.  As the new government of Adama Barrow start to look into the extent of the damage Yaya Jammeh inflicted on the country and its citizens. 

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We learned today that one of Jammeh's multitude of former Foreign Ministers, Mambury Njie, has been charged with "neglect of office" and hauled before a magistrate at the Banjul Magistrate's Court.  Mr. Njie, who has been out of a job for a couple of years and cannot travel out of the country because his travel documents have been seized, is being accused of negligence of duty.  Despite the seizure of his passport and the fact that the courts had granted him bail, he is being held at the Burusibi police station, contrary to law.

According to the charge sheet, the regime of Yaya Jammeh has finally come to realize, after 13 years, that Mambury Njie was a negligent officer for failing to advise government properly before a mining concession contract was signed in 2001 between an Australian mining concern, Carnegie Mining, and the Gambia government.

Carnegie an AIM quoted company is a sand mining concern that entered into a 50-50 joint venture agreement with another Chinese mining concern who were engaged in the development of a zircon/rutile mine in The Gambia in 2002.  It was not until in January 2008, six years into its mining concession in The Gambia that the company received a letter from government requesting Carnegie to cease all operations "pending receipt of certain information in relations to its minerals mined and laboratory results."

The government proceeded to give Carnegie 24-hours ultimatum to come clean or face losing its license to operate in The Gambia.  This order was issued by Yaya Jammeh as the country's Minister (at the time called the Secretary of State) for Mineral Resources.  Jammeh accused Carnegie of concealing the actual minerals being mined, and proceeded to arrest and detained the Managing Director of the company.

We have written extensively on this issue, and those who want some of the details, including arbitration actions taken by Carnegie Minerals, can be found here : http://sidisanneh.blogspot.com/2014/01/carnegie-minerals-falls-victim-of.html

The charging of the former Secretary General with negligence of duty is the latest bizarre action by an embattled government that has obviously lost its way in the face of mounting public pressure resulting from the regime's incompetence and high level corruption.  This regime lacks all moral authority to judge anyone because the regime itself is rotten to the core and needs to be uprooted..

It is to be recalled that as recently as January 2014, another bizarre twist to the Carnegie saga took place when a Cameroonian-born judge of the Special Criminal Court named Emmanuel Nkea surprised everyone but Yaya Jammeh by convening his Court to announce that he's found Carnegie guilty of mining uranium and iron on the sandy beaches of Sanyang village.  The judge proceeded to pronounce to an empty court that he has fined Carnegie $ 200 million.  This was at a time that Carnegie's case was, and still is in arbitration before the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a court action we considered a preemptive move on the part of the Jammeh regime.

After delivering his bizarre judgement, Special Criminal Court Judge Emmanuel Nkea went missing only to resurface two weeks later to tender his resignation in absentia - the letter hand delivered by an acquaint.  The judge had already fled the territory.  It is conceivable that Justice Nkea's fleeing the scene of the crime may be related to the Mambury Njie's case.

It is tempting to draw parallels between this case and the one involving the Financial Director and Managing Director of the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) who were both acquitted and discharged by pleading no case to answer.  The two were also charged with negligence of duty when it was proven the power rested with the Task Force created by and operated from the Office of the President.

Similarly, the Ministry of Mineral resources is under the Office of the President with the President as the Minister for Mineral Resources.  It is public knowledge that the mineral resource portfolio is one of the most secretive Ministries, and thus the least known.  In fact, the public knew nothing about it until heavy duty lorries were seen transporting stuff to the ports for export, and they start speculating beofre they started asking questions.

The Carnegie deal, like the petroleum contracts Jammeh has signed with African Petroleum (Gambia) Limited, Buried Hill (Gambia) BV and Oranto Petroleum, was negotiated and sealed in secret with usually only Jammeh and his Secretary General privy to the details.  He now has a Petroleum Minister who was sacked and reinstated in a span of 24 hours.  The Minister is effectively a hostage of a criminal enterprise because she knows too much.  The entire episode has become a theater of the absurd

It is time for Yaya Jammeh to take full responsibility for his incompetence, and for being the head of a criminal enterprise that characterized his A(F)PRC regime instead of putting the blame elsewhere, always.

Carnegie Minerals falls victim of Gambian dictator

In a recent press conference, Gambia's new Finance Minister revealed the level of  corruption under the regime of Yaya Jammeh after a casual investigation and review of the pubic accounts.
Preliminary figures suggest that Jammeh siphoned of hundreds of millions of US dollars over the years, especially in the last decade.  What has been revealed thus faris the tip of a iceberg.

This blog has written a great deal about several dubious business dealings involving foreign and local business partnerships with Jammeh during his 22 years dictatorships.  One of those business associations was with Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd.

Below is one in a series of blog posts about Carnegie Minerals that was published in January 2014. We will be republishing blog posts relating to Jammeh's other business dealings including but not limited to African Petroleum Company, March Petroleum and Westwood.
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This blog post was first published in 20th January, 2014
Uranium mining in Niger


Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd, a subsidiary of the Australian mining giant, expelled from The Gambia by the dictatorship in 2008 has been found guilty and fined over U.S. $ 200,000,000 by the Special Criminal Court presided by a Cameroonian mercenary judge who is, himself, reportedly under arrest for unknown reason.

It could be recalled that in 2008, security forces raided the offices of Carnegie Minerals in Sanyang village and arrested its Managing Director, Charles Northfield, and accused the company of illegally mining for titanium, iron ore and uranium which was outside the contract which allowed for only zircon, silicon and ilmenite.  Mr. Northfield was later smuggled out of the country by a private British security firm to save their client from certain torment at the hands of a megalomaniac dictator.

In October 2008, following the accusations by the government, Carnegie Minerals(Gambia) Ltd filed for arbitration with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSI) which is a World Bank body established in the mid 60s for this very purpose.  A tribunal has been established comprising of two Americans and a French national, with both parties engaging the services of legal counsel with Jammeh retaining the services of Mayar Brown Rowe & Maw, Paris, France.  Both parties have already filed a post hearing brief on the 19th September 2012 which signals that final decision of the arbitrators couldn't be too far off after almost six years into the process.

Questions being raised now is why would Judge Nkea proceed with the judgement while arbitration tribunal in Washington is still deliberating.  Is it that Jammeh smelt the rat?  Is it a preemptive move in anticipation of an unfavorable ruling from the ICSI tribunal?  Jammeh's record of honoring binding contracts has been anything but good.  He's walked off contracts, seized private investor's property and has deported investors who end up forfeiting investments left behind in The Gambia.  And as a South African online paper at the time Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd ran afoul of Jammeh aptly put it " Being dispossessed is turning into a common occurrence to those that dare venture into Gambia, and as African countries clamor for investors, the list of countries being forced to leave the West African nation seems to be growing."

Accusing the company of malfeasance and breach of contract in 2008, after operating in the country for almost a decade was suspect.  More puzzling and illogical was the accusation that Carnegie Minerals was mining uranium, iron ore and ilmenite in the sandy beaches of Sanyang village, contrary to the mining concession. Granted, ilmenite was mined in the general area in the late 1950s but, as far as records go, there's no record of discoveries of uranium or iron ore deposits in the village of Sanyang or any part of The Gambia.

According to mining experts, the geology of the area doesn't seem to support Jammeh's claim.  It is seen rather as a ploy to get rid of Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd. in an attempt to seek out a more favorable deal for himself.  After all, the entire petroleum and mining concessions in the Gambia have been negotiated exclusively by the Office of the President with few officials having access to details of contracts signed with foreign entities, including the Carnegie deal.  Since they are not tendered internationally, they remain the exclusive domain of the dictator and few of his officials which explains why those who even worked in the Ministry of Petroleum and officials handling the mining concessions are either in jail or they have their travel documents seized and thus prevented from travelling abroad.  It is an industry shrouded in secrecy and for good reason, as we begin to uncover more of the corruption that permeates the Jammeh regime.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

The rigged electoral calendar and President Barrow's 3-year term limit need to be revisited

President Barrow taking the Oath of Office 
Gambia's electoral calendar was tailor-made for Jammeh, at his request, to benefit him and him alone.  The recently concluded presidential elections, the results of which were announced in favor of candidate Adama Barrow, took another seven weeks or 51 days before the incumbent vacated State House.  And he did so under threat of ECOMIG forces who were left with no option but to deliver their ultimatum: leave now or else we'll forcibly remove from from State House and into Mile II prisons.

The parliamentary elections are yet to be held. They are schedule to take place a clear four months (in April) after the presidential elections were conducted that transformed an opposition candidate as the new president who must inherit a parliamentary majority of the party that dominated Gambian politics for 22 years.  The new president is not only inheriting a hostile parliament but he is saddled with a budget that was prepared, approved and executed for, at least, the first two months of the new administration, by the outgoing regime.  It could be legitimately argued that budget execution is still in the hands of those whose allegiance is to the defeated Jammeh regime.  At least, until he departed on 21st January 2017, Jammeh has full control of and directing the levers of power, including the ability to execute the budget to his advantage.  A supplementary budget can be submitted to address some but nit all of the

Realigning the electoral calendar to address the unacceptable gap between the presidential and parliamentary elections is an urgent issue that must be addressed.  The conduct of the presidential and parliamentary elections must be on the same day based on solid financial grounds.  Every effort must be made to utilize scare financial resources scrupulously.  Gambia couldn't afford it then and, certainly. it cannot afford it now, to conduct separate elections for the Presidency and  the National Assembly. Of course, adopting same day elections will also remove the undesirable gap between the expiration of the presidential term and that of the National Assembly to prevent a repeat of what Gambians were put through between December 1st of last year and January 21st of this year.

This brings us to the 3-year term of President Barrow as called for in the MOU of the Opposition Coalition 2016, which are a set of conditions agreed to by the seven opposition political parties plus one independent presidential candidate that made it possible for the candidature of Adama Barrow as the Coalition's presidential flag bearer.  We have no doubt that all aspects of the MOU - including every clause - that support the strategic objectives of the Coalition are negotiated in good faith and with every intention of being honored by all parties.

However, the extraordinary circumstances confronting the Coalition of Adama Barrow warrant a revisit of the terms of the MOU, particularly as it relates to presidential term.  As it stands presently, President Barrow is required to vacate the presidency in January 2020, two years before the end of term of the National Assembly that will be elected in April of this year.  If the 3-year term limit is maintained as well as the 5-year term for the National Assembly, it will create a nightmare scenario that will prove impossible to manage and will make programming of development funds almost impossible.  Government must bring its budgetary programming schedule/cycle in line with both domestic and external actors by ensuring that the lives of both the presidency and national assembly are in sync.

Of course, reducing the term of the incoming National Assembly members to correspond with that of President Barrow's is an option but it will not address the programming issue that a shortened term for the Coalition presidency will pose for Gambia's domestic partners.  It is, therefore, neater and easier to extend the term of President Adama Barrow by 2 years to 2022 instead of 2020.        

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Editorial: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Last December 2nd, I celebrated my 69th year on this beautiful earth with the help of a loving family that has been, for a very long time, the secret of my strength, as I watched Yaya Jammeh unwrapped my best birthday present ever by conceding defeat to presidential candidate now President Adama Barrow. Although he tried to re-wrap my present, the Gambian voters, with the support of the rest of the world, weren't having none of it.  He was finally shown the door on the 21st January, hopefully never to come back.

Jammeh's defeat at the polls and his eventual banishment to Equatorial Guinea was Gambia's greatest moment since the country's independence from Great Britain on the 18th February 1965.  It is, therefore, an understatement to say ridding The Gambia of Jammeh was a good thing.   It was a start of many good things to follow, including but not limited to the freedom to associate and the expression of political views that we denied Gambians for the 22 years that he ruled this tiny nation with an iron fist.

Jammeh's departure from the political scene unleashed over two decades of pent-up anger and frustration resulting from systematic employment of repressive measures, including the denial of basic human and political rights of ordinary Gambians and politicians alike, the slightest infringement of which usually results in torture, imprisonment or even death.

Managing our new found freedoms in the brief post-Jammeh era is proving to a challenge in these early stages.  We have become uniquely impulsive in our criticism of the new government of Adama Barrow without, in many cases, solid basis or justification.  Ousainou Darboe. leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) until he was imprisoned last year by Jammeh regime, has long been accused of being a tribalist is now considered by many, including a long-term supporter and financial backer of the UDP, as the de-facto president of the Gambia who is calling the shots from the safe distance of Marina Parade, where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is located.  He is being heavily criticized for stocking President Barrow's cabinet with his tribesmen, tribeswomen and political hacks who have little or no relevant experience to run a government as badly battered as the one Barrow has inherited.

These criticisms are not totally devoid of facts.  However, we believe they are rather premature at this stage to warrant the avalanche of accusations.  We continue to maintain that the new administration be given the chance to put a cabinet together and allow members the breathing space necessary to start to govern in a way demanded of supporters of the Coalition of 7 political parties plus one Independent presidential candidate.  Adama Barrow's name was on the ballot as the Coalition's candidate for President and was subsequently elected.  He is therefore duty-bound to act as such and not to outsource the presidency to someone else.  If he does, neither history nor the Gambian voter will be kind to him or his party.

We have not lost sight of the fact that  coalition governments are always difficult to manage. Invariably, partisan politics and individual self-interest begin to take hold which can result in a breakup of the alliance.  The current coalition is no exception.   The difference is cracks have started to show even before a full compliment of the cabinet has been appointed and in place.  Daggers and machetes were drawn well before the first batch of minister were named.

It is a truism that coalition governments are always difficult to manage and a notoriously short-lived. In the case of the Coalition of the 7 political parties and one independent presidential candidate, discernible cracks have started to show well before the first tranche of ministers were introduced to the press.  No sooner than the first batch of ministers were sworn in than politicians from different camps started engaging maundering surrogates in social media to taunt and level vicious and accusations designed to bring down those they perceive to pose future threats to their personal self interest and political ambitions.   We implore all involved to cease these political dirty tricks for the good of the Coalition so that members can start addressing the numerous economic, political and social problems created as a result of 22 years of dictatorship.