A Lebanese-born businessman linked to the country’s deposed ruler has been accused of bribing traditional rulers in communities where sand is mined.
Muhammed Bazzii had offered such bribes of at least $2,500 to village chiefs, locally called Alkalos. For how long the practice has been going, is up for a guess.
According to Mr. Giki Darboe, the Alkalo of the coastal village of Gunjur, Mr. Bazzi had given him and his delegation that met with upon his request at least $2,500 (D100,000 dalasis), a sum that was passed to a local development committee.
Bazzi and Jammeh’s joint sand mining business in Gunjur did not take root but the mining activities became prominent and extensive in two villages that sandwich Gunjur – Sanyang and Kartong.
At least two dozen people were arrested in Kartong for protesting against mining activities there in 2014. Residents say it was degrading their environment and pitiful work conditions left a young boy dead.
They were later pardoned by Bzzi’s main business partner, President Yahya Jammeh, who had warned against any further protest and continued mining.
The sand mined at the villages were used for construction across the country. They were loaded onto trucks. Although authorities had a curfew over transportation of the sand, it was never enforced.
Bazzi’s name came up severally during testimonies in a Commission that is probing the ex-leader. His companies have not been affected by the asset freeze imposed of Jammeh and firms linked to him.
He has opened new companies to secure new deals and continue running his businesses. Government sources said he landed a contract to provide petroleum to the state-owned power company.