“Nandos”,the Guptas of the Gambia

By: Fabakary B. Ceesay

(Nandos and Staff)

Almost every African country has a big foreign owned business enterprise that is close to the powers and can lay their hands on any lucrative government business contracts through their government collaborators. Most of them are into every business and every money making venture of these African countries with backing and support of senior government officials. Like in the case of South Africa, where the Guptas, a wealthy Indian family business entrepreneur that were so close to the presidency and had in one way or the other corrupted not only senior government officials but the presidency itself.

In the Gambia it is the Emkay Stores Ltd, also known as “Nandos” an Indian family business operating in the Gambia since1992.  It is a family owned business and the current management is the third generation of the Rajwani family running the affairs of the company. The initial business of the company was importation and wholesale of food products like rice, sugar, oil, milk powder among others.

It is one of the largest wholesalers of food products in the country and of late the company has expanded its business tentacles into building material, construction, real estate, housing, farming and cashew nut exportation. The business also owns several landed properties within and outside of Banjul.

An investigation mounted by Trumpet Newspaper into the business dealing of Emkay Stores revealed that Mr. Nandos is a type of a businessman who does not turn down any business proposal as far as it is in his interest and can go to any level to secure that contract. His office is like a clinic for many senior government officials, be it civilian or security officers.

Though, on Fridays his office gives out thousands of dalasi as charity to needy persons from all walks of life, but most of his staff are not happy with the way he treated them. They felt dejected by him and instead of helping them he preferred giving a helping hand to outsiders.

Trumpet also found out that Nandos was also involved in the Banjul roads and gutters rehabilitation, a contract that was awarded to Hadim Gai of Gai Construction and Engineering. The information is that Nandos did the supply of most of the construction materials to Mr. Gai. This information was corrected and confirmed by Mr.Nandos in a chat with this paper at his business office in Banjul.

The Administrative and financial officer Mr. Abdou Mboge also confirmed the business connection between Emkay Stores and Gai Construction. He confirmed that their company did supply construction materials to Mr. Gai on credit and loan based on mutual business deals. He added that Mr. Gai pays them back whenever the government pays him.

Mr. Nandos himself proudly admits working with different business entities during the second and the third republic. ‘Yes I am a businessman and I worked with lots of business personalities. Even Yahya Jammeh I do business with him. Though, people said he is not good, I did mutual business with him”, said Nandos.

On the business deals with Mr. Hadim Gai, Nandos said, “I have known Hadim Gai for more than twenty years and I have worked with him on different matters. Yes if he is given a contract and he needs financial assistance or material supplies I give it to him and he pays me back”.

The Hadim Gai- Banjul project became a big failure and lost to the government when rain turned Banjul into a lagoon forcing several residents to be evacuated.

However, Mr. Hadim Gai had ignored our several requests and appeals to have an audience with him.

Our investigation also found out that ninety (90) percent of Indians living and operating business in the Gambia are under the umbrella and guidance of Nandos. As the most powerful Indian businessman in the Gambia, most of those Indians are either directly or indirectly under his influence and are answerable to him.

There is a widespread belief that most Indian businesses in the Gambia are either owned or supported by the Nandos, an allegation Mr. Nandos did not deny or confirm. He only shrugs and smiles.

Trumpet Newspaper also found out that Emkay Stores was also involved in an unapproved procurement and distribution of food stuff during Covid-19 pandemic. Nandos was a main supplier for some businesses that were involved in the bidding process.

However, the audit report indicated that the government paid D3, 125,000 to Emkay Stores Limited without GPPA approval on procurement and distribution of food items without following due process.

A Couple of years back, Emkay Stores came into the media limelight and was accused of importing expired mayonnaise into the country, an allegation they denied in a letter to Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).

The company told GCCI that an incident happened regarding a container carrying Mayonnaise heading to Dakar but due to Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on the movement of containers from the port, the said container carrying the mayonnaise overstayed in the Banjul port while awaiting transit to Senegal. The container was intercepted by the Senegalese authorities, where it was discovered that the consignments were expired.

They decried foul play and accused some business rivals of trying to paint a bad image of their company and that Emkay Stores will never put Gambians in harm’s way. They alleged that there was a deliberate attempt to discredit Emkay Stores’ reputation, a company that has more than 400 Gambians on its payroll.

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