Fisheries Minister Confirms Suspension of P.S Banja Amid Bribery Scandal
The Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources James Furmus Gomez has confirmed to The Chronicle Wednesday that his permanent Secretary Dr. Bamba Banja has been put on administrative suspension following his implication in a massive investigative report published by Malagen last week. Dr. Banja who has served at the Fisheries Ministry for over three decades is heard on audio negotiating the amount of 100 thousand dalasi with officials of Chinese private fish-meal company Golden Lead in an attempt to facilitate an out-of-court settlement. The company based in Gunjur violated the fishing regulatory rules amounting to illegal fishing.
“Yes, I can confirm that Banja is on leave,” said the Minister. In the audio published by Malagen, the PS Banja claimed that the Minister owns half while he will retain the other D50, 000. But the Minister denied the claim when confronted by Malagen’s investigative journalist Kebba Jeffang last week. Today, he said he is not affected by the report in any way. “I am in no way affected by his suspension, invitations [investigations] have started,” the Minister responded.
Commenting on the impact of the story, Malagen’s news editor Mustapha K. Darboe informs that the Office of the Inspector General of Police and the Ombudsman have already commenced probing the alleged corruption scandal at the fisheries ministry.
“It’s a positive thing that the police and the Ombudsman have started looking into the alleged corruption at the fisheries ministry” said Darboe.
He stressed the need for the police to broaden their investigations and focus on key elements of the number of people named in the report, including the Golden Lead company itself. “Those are key elements that cannot be missed in the police investigation because any objective investigations should conduct those elements and not just one individual, because the individual is the permanent secretary. I Think the investigations should be broad enough to capture all the elements in the story” he said.
On Wednesday evening, Malagen wrote on its site: “The police and Ombudsman have contacted Malagen and we respectively declined their request to lead them to our sources. We have a covenant with our sources that we will under no circumstance reveal their identity. Our position is in line with The Gambia Press Union Code of Conduct for media practitioners. Besides, confidentiality of journalistic sources is a press freedom right protected under international law.”