Ex-Health Minister – ‘Nothing Wrong Taking Money from Jammeh; if he Gives, You Take it’
Former Health Minister, Dr Malick Njie was a medical doctor in Yahya Jammeh’s HIV/Aids treatment program. Testifying before the TRRC, Dr Njie confessed to have received hundreds of thousands in Gambian currency from Yahya Jammeh. According to Dr Njie, it makes no sense to reject Jammeh’s presidential gifts.
I must confirm that he gave me money a number of times and I took them. Well, I took the money because you don’t look at a president, irrespective of who the president is, and he gives you the money and you said you will not accept it. For me, that doesn’t make sense. That’s why I took the money,” he said to justify his decision.
Dr Njie doesn’t remember the amount of money he took from the president cumulatively. When he was a Minister, Dr Njie said he recalled some of the circumstances in which Jammeh would give him certain amounts of money for him and his acolytes to enjoy. “like he visits the hospital and pulls out D100, 000 and says go enjoy yourself, which has happened a number of times. I’d called Mrs Awa John who was my chief accountant at the time and hand over the money to her. I’d tell her well; H.E [His Excellency] gave us this money to go and enjoy ourselves”.
Since the amount cannot be divided among the overpopulated staff of the EFSTH where he was heading, Dr. Njie recalled asking his then chief accountant Mrs. Awa John to keep it for the hospital.
“Everybody has seen Yahya Jammeh moved around this country and everybody has seen him moved with money and everybody has seen him giving money around…, and even on the road he will throw it.”
He denied the suggestion that the total sum he took from the then president was up to 1 million dalasi. “The money he gave was always in hundreds of thousands. Maybe D70, 000, D20, 000, D50, 000. And most of the time, like it happened in the State House, the soldiers would rush up to me to say, Sir, our share and I’d give them.
Recalling a particular incident at the Quadrangle, the former minister told the TRRC that he took a certain amount from the president, as one in many cases. “I told him I heard you are here giving people money and it’s time for me to go home, give me my share before the rest come down. [laugh]. He turned around and said to the man [the one the president was standing with], look this man is going to create trouble for me, give him some money and let’s disappear.
He said as soon as he left, his Permanent Secretary called him on the telephone to say, “Sir, I am watching you, so my share, [laugh]. When I got to the gate, the security men at the gate, they all asked for their share and I just picked some of it and threw it at them and said go [with that.] I kept D10, 000 for my PS.” Njie also claimed to have given D5000 to another person. “If the president gives you, you take. That was it.”
Asked by the Dr. Lamin Sise, the chairperson of the TRRC if the monies Jammeh was giving out to him were taxpayers’ monies, Dr Malick Njie responded that he wouldn’t know but said Jammeh took the cash from his suitcase.
Apart from money, Dr. Njie also confessed to taking a car from the former president as a gift. “He even gave me a car and I took it. He offered me a second and a third car and I refused because by then, I didn’t know what he was trying to do. I told him that if you are selling these cars if I have money, I will buy it. You have already given me one and I don’t want to spoil the opportunity for other civil servants to get these cars. According to his testimony, Jammeh invited Kanilai to collect a vehicle but he refused to go.
TRRC is a transitional justice program that’s currently investigating the human rights abuses perpetrated under the former administration, and the hearing’s theme has since been focused on the so-called Presidential Alternative Treatment Program in which Jammeh claimed he could cure HIV/Aids patients within three days. His claim has been disputed by dozens of medical experts locally and internationally including Dr. Njie himself who was administering his herbal drugs to the patients.
He said Jammeh’s claims of curing Aids patients within 3 days was proven wrong and he directly told him. “When we tested them, they were still positive, that shows that what he said didn’t happen. He acknowledged it.”
At this stage, the commission played a recorded video in which Jammeh was told that patients were not cured, featuring Dr. Njie. Jammeh could be heard saying he was going to give the patients a stronger medicine that will take care of their health.
Reacting to the video played to the witness, he said: “We all saw him. We all heard him. He said he received a report. That was my report, that they all tested positive. So, he knew.”