EYEAFRICA TV: Kololi, THE GAMBIA:- A seasoned legal practitioner and the president of The Gambia Bar Association, Salieu Taal said the legal profession in The Gambia under former President Yahya Jammeh was ‘occupational hazard’.
Lawyer Taal made the remarks while appearing before the truth commission on Tuesday to explain how the legal system was used by the Jammeh regime to instill fear and violate the rights of citizens.
“The practice of law in The Gambia is an occasional hazard, it was very challenging. I felt that it is very hard for a lawyer to practice the trade freely, and independently,” he said.
According to Taal, his first encounter with the Jammeh regime was when he served as the head of legal matters for the Guaranty Trust Bank – Gambia in 2002, in the case of Baba Jobe and the government vs GTbank.
The witness recalled that Baba Jobe took a loan from the bank for his company YDE, involved in the importation of rice, giving two of his compounds as a collateral for the loan.
“The bank gave Baba Jobe the money or YDE the money and he defaulted the payment. At the time, Jammeh came on TV and said that everything that belongs to Baba Jobe, belongs to him,” he explained.
Asked about the relationship that Baba Jobe had with former President Jammeh, the witness said: “Well it was reported that he was really the president’s right-hand man and he exercised a great deal of power and was reported to be fronting for the financial dealings of the president.”
Salieu Taal further revealed that the issue was taken to court, and it was decided by the court that the two properties that were given as a collateral are to be forfeited to the bank. He added that some rents were collected by the bank at the time, however, they were later directed to return the Cape Point property.
“We received a letter from the office of the president, signed by the permanent secretary at the time, i can write the name down if you wish, directing the bank to return one of the properties, that is the one in Cape Point. Stating in the letter that that property belongs to the president and that we should desist in any way or form interfering with the property.”
The head of Gambia Bar Association said the bank acted on the judgement given by the high court, by taking possession of the properties.
Asked about the name on the properties, the witness said he could not recall the name of the individual but it wasn’t Baba Jobe. He however, confirmed that the said person whose name was on the document also signed the mortgage.
Taal added that at the time, the bank was receiving rents from some tenants, but were ordered to return the money collected in cash by the NIA. The witness also revealed that some senior administrative officers were arrested with regards to the issue.