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Two Big Catches By Sparrow Hawk In 2013 

By Joe Dinga Pefok
CameroonPostline.com — The Biya regime apparently did not intent to make any arrest in its anti-corruption fight dubbed Operation Sparrow Hawk, in 2013, which was an election year in the country. But partly due to their own makings, the General Managers of two State owned companies seemingly precipitated their own their fall into the net of the Sparrow Hawk.

Charles  Metouck, who was serving as General Manager of National Oil Refining Company, SONARA, in Limbe since September 2002, was in 2012, invited to Yaounde a number of times by the Budgetary and Financial Disciplinary Council of the Supreme State Control, and interrogated on matters related to his financial management of the company. On the instructions of the Head of State, Paul Biya, Metouck was, February 15, 2013, sacked as General Manager of SONARA, and immediately replaced by Ibrahim Talba Malla.
A  Problem That Could Have Been Avoided

Metouck, who illegally kept the keys of his former office and the worker’s batch after he had been fired from office, on Monday, February 18, went back to his former office where he spent quite sometime allegedly signing some documents as well as destroying some others.

When authorities were alerted, a squad of elements from the Judicial Police in Buea were despatched to SONARA in Limbe, where they caught Metouck right inside the office of the General Manager. Arrested and taken to Buea for detention, together with some of his former collaborators, Metouck was soon dragged to the Limbe Magistrate Court on a number of charges which included trespassing and destruction of SONARA documents.

During the trial which was comparatively quite rapid, a claim by Metouck that he was given authorisation by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of SONARA, John Ebong Ngole, to enter the former office, was debunked. The document that was purportedly signed by the Board Chairman was considered by the court to have been forged.

It was allegedly forged by one of Metouck’s former closest collaborators at SONARA, Jean Jules Edinguele, the former Litigation and Insurance Officer. The Limbe Magistrate Court, in a ruling delivered on April 24, 2013, found Metouck and Edinguele guilty as charged, and slammed each of them nine years and nine months imprisonment. The arrest, trial and imprisonment of Metouck, had nothing to do with embezzlement or Operation Sparrow Hawk.  

Meanwhile, one month after Metouck’s arrest, the Budgetary and Financial Disciplinary Council of the Supreme State Control, in a report, charged the former General Manager of SONARA, for committing as many as 40 crimes in his budgetary management at refining company during the period of 2007-2010. He was asked to repay the staggering sum of FCFA 26 billion to SONARA. As a result of the charge, Metouck, at the end of his trial at the Limbe Magistrate Court, was transferred from the Buea Central Prison to the Yaounde Central Prison (Kondengui).

Enter Iya Mohammed

The other major catch of Operation Sparrow Hawk in 2013 was the General Manager of the Cotton Producing Company, SODECOTON, Iya Mohammed, who had been in office since 1984. Iya too had, since the 90s, also held the post of President of the Cameroon Football Federation, FECAFOOT, thus accumulating two very juicy offices.

No one doubts the fact that Iya Mohammed, who was a CPDM bigwig and also councillor in Garoua, had become a multi millionaire, thanks to the posts he occupied, and for so long a time. Being in two offices for that length of time, Iya seemingly considered himself as an untouchable.  

He wielded money and power and, therefore, prone to make the grave error to becoming arrogant even to his the regime that made him. When the regime, also partly as result of public outcry, repeatedly made clear signals to Iya that they wanted him out of FECAFOOT, he arrogantly refused to leave. Instead, he got his men that surrounded him in FECAFOOT, to repeatedly humiliate the Government in public with threats of a FIFA sanction.

The Cameroonian authority that first dared to publicly criticise Iya’s mismanagement of SODECOTON, was the President of the National Assembly, Cavaye Yeguie Djibril, during the June 2011 Parliamentary session. Then on June 13, 2012, the Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of the Supreme State Control, Henri Eyebe Ayissi, signed a decision summoning the SODECOTON General Manager and two others, to appear in front of the Budgetary and Financial Disciplinary Council of the Supreme State Control.

Then, in communiqué issued on March 27, 2013, the Council indicted Iya for 20 mismanagement errors that reportedly cost SODECOTON the loss of FCFA 9 billion. For that, the Council slammed a fine of FCFA 2 billion on Iya who bluntly rejected the indictment. Interestingly enough, the Council also recommended that Iya should not be appointed to hold any public office for a period of seven years.

With Iya’s mandate as President of FECAFOOT drawing to an end, many observers were of the view that the recommendation that he should not be appointed to public office for a period of seven years was another strategy, by the regime, to stop him from running for another mandate. Iya maight have understood the message. But his supporters at FECAFOOT pushed the challenge against the regime further, by insisting that he was illegible for re-election as FECAFOOT President. Though there were increasingly glaring signs from the regime that enough was enough for him at the helm of FECAFOOT, Iya ignored the signals.

In the evening of June 2, 2013, Iya was blocked by the police at the Douala International Airport from leaving the country on a mission to France. His passport was impounded. But he still insisted on going ahead with the FECAFOOT elections, in clear defiance of a Government proposal that a caretaker committee be put in place to restructure the federation in two years. As the election date approached, Iya was arrested on June 10, 2013 and first detained at the Gendarmerie Headquarters. The official charges levelled against him were that of alleged embezzlement of public funds at SODECOTON.

By design than coincidence, Iya was in the evening of June 19 when he was re-elected President of FECAFOOT in a highly controversial election, transferred to the Yaounde Central Prison in Kondengui. In another twist of events, Iya, who was in March 2013 ordered by the Budgetary and Financial Disciplinary Council of the Supreme State Control to pay a fine of FCFA 2 billion for having allegedly caused SODECOTON to lose FCFA 9 billion, was after his arrest in June, charged by the Special Criminal Court for alleged embezzlement of FCFA 13 billion.

Though it is indisputable that Iya was eventually going to be arrested for either mismanagement or embezzlement at SODECOTON, many observers think that the regime might not have had him arrested in 2013 which was an election year, if he had quietly given up ambition to run for another mandate as FECAFOOT President. It is worth noting that it was after Iya’s arrest and transfer to the Yaounde Central Prison to await trail, that President Biya replaced him as General Manager of SODECOTON.

First published in The Post print edition no 01493

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