Edward Graham

(JollofNews) – Edward Graham, former managing director of Gambia’s Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) Tuesday broke into tears as he rigorously defended his record at the state-owned corporation.

SSHFC was established by an Act of Parliament in 1981 to provide adequate social protection for workers, facilitate social shelter delivery on a sustainable basis and invest funds of the corporation to achieve optimum returns possible and contribute meaningfully towards the socio-economic development of the Gambia.

However, investigations by the Gambia’s new government of President Adama Barrow has found that various managing directors at the corporation have colluded with the country’s former ruler Yahya Jammeh to loot millions of Dalasis from the state pension.

But appearing before a commission of inquiry that is looking into the financial dealings of former President Jammeh and his associates, Mr Graham credited his record and contributions in transforming the fortunes of the corporation.

Responding to a question by one of the commission members’ Abiosseh George, whether he had used his tenure at the corporation to follow executive directives of former President Jammeh or look after the interest of Gambian pensioners, Mr Graham said: “We build SSHFC from zero so there is no way we can fail it.”

Pausing and wiping away tears, he added: “When we started, SSHFC was nothing and the government was giving us subvention to keep us afloat.  I cannot be blame for what happened at SSHFC. It is the act that gives power for directives to be followed, so it is the act that fails and it should be amended if not we will continue following directives. When it comes to directives professionalism cannot be followed.”

Mr Graham said during his tenure, SSHFC has provided vital support to various state-owned institutions and departments including the country’s water and electricity company, Nawec.

He wondered why commission has failed to show interest or recognise the role SSHFC played in proving financial support to key state institutions or how it helped to avert acute electricity blackout in all parts of the country during his tenure.

Elaborating more on how corporation came to bailout Nawec in the form of loans, Mr Graham said: “I was called to a meeting at the Office of the President by the Secretary General and Permanent Secretary during which I was if we do not come to Nawec’s aid the whole country will be blackout, which will not be good for the country’s economy.

“I told them that we are struggling financially at the moment but they can put it into writing. The loans were later given to Nawec and some repayment have been made but some are still outstanding.”

He added that after pursuing the loans through the executive without success, they decided to go solo and had an agreement with NAWEC in 2016 which was honoured prior to his removal.

Giving another example of how pensioners’ money was used to fund the building of infrastructure in the country, Mr Graham recalled that sometime in September 2012, he was asked by former Civil Service boss Njogu Bah in the presence of the American Ambassador to the Gambia to help fund improvement work at Banjul International Airport.

Bazzi Withdraws Application To Testify In Camera

Also appearomg before the commission, Muhammed Bazzi, a former associate of Former President Jammeh, informed the commission that he has withdrawn his earlier request to testify in camera through his counsel, Loubna Farage .

He said after consultation with his counsel and going through the documents, they agreed that they have got nothing to hide and that they are free to say whatever they want.