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The Journal’s Take On The Week Gone, May 15th to 20th

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Our take on the news and events of the previous week touching on last week’s various topics like the ongoing voter registration exercise and what various stakeholders say about it, visit of Senegalese Prime Minister, Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) reduced the Cash Reserve Requirement (CRR) for commercial banks, waste management workshop and GAMCOTRAPS new project with Safe the Children, Sweden, etc, etc.  

 

There is something funny going on diplomatically between Senegal and The Gambia. Something, difficult to grasp by any rational mind interested in the diplomacy between the two sister states. Just about a week after the end of a seven week border closure between the two countries, Senegalese Prime Minister, Souleymane Ndene Ndiaye, was received by President Yahya Jammeh in his home village of Kanilai last week Wednesday. The two states had refrained from the long-drawn blockade for weeks until trade unionists from the two countries took matters into their own hands an negotiated a settlement that opened the border. Now, both President Jammeh and Prime Minister Ndiaye, last week claimed the border was opened as a result of their negotiations. Were some secrete negotiation going on between the two states? If so why secrete?

The Senegalese Prime minister, who was in Banjul on a day's working visit, held talks with the Gambian leader shortly after arriving at Banjul International Airport where he was received by the Vice President, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, cabinet ministers and service chiefs.

The two sides publicly spoke of the close natural ties between them and the  warmth of the love between presidents Jammeh and Wade, acting as if both had forgotten that just few months back Banjul issued a special statement full with personal attacks against the Senegalese president personally. Their talk of having opened the borders was also not true in the eyes of most people who were informed of the attempts by trade unionist just less than a week earlier. Many of these also know that seven of the Gambian unionists are now in court for their efforts. But Gambian officialdom has little respect for the truth, it appears. Hear Yahya Jammeh say:

"I have no problem with President Wade. In fact, I have never had any problem with any Senegalese. You know, you journalists will just jump and say things that do not happen yet. But I have no problems with anyone. Sometimes, when I read newspapers, I see them writing about serious issues which you don't even know where they come from."

 

"If anyone thinks that I have problems with Abdoulaye Wade, then you are the one who knows that, because I don't have any problem with Abdoulaye Wade or any Senegalese," the Gambian leader said without any mark of shame on his face.

It was just late last year the Jammeh made his then Secretary General and head of the Civil service, Dr. njogu Bah, solemly read out a lengthy tirade of abuses heaped outright on Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. The closest allusion to this was Jammeh’s remarks that “even the teeth and the tongue which are in the same mouth do crush on each other sometimes.”

Meanwhile, in a separate development, President Jammeh on the same day received, at his Kanilai residence, the vice president of the Kirloskar Brothers Limited, an Indian-based corporate international institutional business.

LH Dabi told journalists shortly after his audience with the Gambian leader that his firm plans to invest in The Gambia's agricultural sector, especially in the area of irrigation, with a view to boosting agricultural production and ensuring that the country attains food self-sufficiency within 24 months.

"If everything goes well, The Gambia will be food sufficient and export surplus within the next 24 months," Dabi said.

 

The voter registration, which started earlier on 5th May, has been going on but many have expressed dissatisfaction at the low turn-out to the registration centers nearly two weeks after voter registration started.  The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is targeting a total number of 800 000 voters but only 189,879 voters have been registered from the 5th to 11th May throughout the country, to the disquiet of many. IEC sources disclosed the breakdown of the registration returns for the first week per administration, as 6,631 voters were registered in the Banjul Administrative Area, 54, 461 in the Knifing municipality, and 46, 663 in Brikama, 20, 930 voters were registered in the Kerewan administrative area, 10,680 registered in Mansakonko administrative area, 22, 534 registered in Janjanbureh administrative area, while 25, 980 voters were registered in the Basse administrative area, as of 11th May. Many think the turnouts were low, less than 25% of registered voters. Leader of the opposition Gambia Party for Democracy and Development (GPDP), Henry Gomez, was quoted saying it “is not encouraging.”

He tasked the IEC to do more in the area of sensitization, so that people can register and vote in the forthcoming presidential, legislative and local government elections. Mr. Gomez doubts the Commission will meet its target, considering the current turnout trend.

“It is discouraging to see that the first week of this important exercise failed to bear fruit, as indicated by the figures released by the IEC on the first week of voter’s registration in the country,” Gomez added.

 

In the press interview, the GPDP leader also urged that political parties be allowed air-time at the state television and radio in order to help mobilizes those eligible to vote to get themselves registered. He reminded people that the media institutions belong to all Gambians not the state alone. Gomez went on to call on the IEC to ensure that the planned polls are free, fair and transparent so that people’s voices will be heard and respected.

 

Another problem that has been a cause of general concern in the process is the method of verification of the citizenship of people applying for registration. The APRC regime and its party have long been suspected of mass registration of southern Senegalese to be used for its electoral successes. The opposition PDOIS has also issued a statement on the current general voter registration exercise stating that it has compelled Gambians to witness the “crisis which has gripped our system of determining citizenship.”

Among other things, the statement went on: 

                 

 

The long-awaited registration exercise has begun in earnest. The old voters’ cards are now invalid. If one does not get a new voter’s card one will not be able to vote in the next presidential and National Assembly elections or in any referendum held in 2011 and 2012.

The voter’s card is what enables each Gambian to be equal to the other in power, and voice to say who will manage the affairs of the country on one’s behalf. It is, therefore, important that every Gambian who has attained the age of 18 years or would attain the age of 18 years by 24th November 2011, goes to the nearest registration centre in one’s constituency or one’s place of birth, to be registered as a voter.

As the registration of voter’s commences, Gambians are beginning to witness the crisis which has gripped our system of determining citizenship.

Last week all Gambians who are exposed to the print media may have read the case of the elder’s resident at Kotu Quarry whose ID Cards were seized, despite the fact that they have lived in The Gambia for decades and have been allowed in the past to possess voter’s cards. Their children who were born in The Gambia also could not hide their frustration and shock for having been rendered stateless by depriving their parents of Gambian citizenship.

Forty-six (46) years have elapsed since The Gambia gained the right to self determination. However, no effort has been made to examine the laws on citizenship with a view to make them responsive to the demographic composition of the country.

In the 1980s, we made it abundantly clear that there are people who have lived in this country for decades, but have not been told that they could naturalize and become Gambian citizens, after a seven year stay.

We told such people that they were being cheated by political interest groups, whose members assist them to get national documents and voter’s cards, instead of assisting them to naturalize to become Gambian citizens and get their national documents without any fear of being victimized in the future.

We warned that those who failed to naturalize are turning their own children into stateless persons in The Gambia, because the law on citizenship indicated that one could only be a citizen by birth, if one was born before 1965, if one’s parent or grandparent was born in The Gambia or had naturalized to be a citizen of The Gambia.

Our wise counsel was largely ignored. We further indicated that according to the 1965 constitution those born in The Gambia before 1965 of parents who were not born in The Gambia were given the opportunity to be registered as citizen of The Gambia before 1967, but that the literate people of the day hardly knew what was in the constitution or did not have the interest to conduct civic education to inform the people.

Hence 1967 elapsed without the people concerned knowing their rights. We spared no effort in telling the people that all those women who were married to Gambian men could have been registered to become citizens by marriage. This has also been largely ignored by those who should have benefited.

We made it our duty to explain that the 1970 constitution has made it a requirement that a person born in The Gambia after 1965 could only be a citizen of The Gambia, if one of his or her parents is a citizen of The Gambia.

We cautioned that under such a provision a person could be born in The Gambia of parents who were not born in The Gambia, and have a child who is born in The Gambia who would not be considered a citizen of the country. A ridiculous and ambiguous constitutional provisional, indeed, isn’t it?

During the review of the Constitution in 1996, we pointed out the shortcomings of the 1970 constitution on citizenship, and called for reform.

We called for all those who would have been citizens by naturalization in 1996, but did not apply because of ignorance of the procedures to be mentioned in a provision which accords citizenship through registration.

We also recommended a complete separation between citizenship by birth and citizenship by descent, so that everyone born in The Gambia would be qualified to be a citizen by birth, and all those who are born abroad of a parent who is a Gambian citizen would qualify to be a citizen by descent.

The 1997 constitution did not alter the provisions on citizenship in the 1997 constitution for the better. On the contrary, it made them to be more stringent.

While a person had to stay in The Gambia for seven years and be qualified to apply for naturalization, now one has to stay in The Gambia for 15 years to be qualified.

Secondly, women married to Gambian citizens before 1997 could apply to be registered as citizens without any time stipulated regarding length of residence. Now, both male and female persons have to stay in the country for seven years before one could be qualified to apply for citizenship by marriage.

The APRC executive and members of the National Assembly had done nothing to address the crisis of citizenship nor have they put in place proper procedures to register and provide documents for births and deaths that are durable.

This is why attestations are relied on by tens of thousands of people to get voter’s cards.

If we ever take charge of the country, on our own or through a coalition, we would put on the national agenda the policy of registering all those who would have been citizens of the country by birth, naturalization, marriage and descent if they were aware of what to do.

All of them would get national identity cards. We would also ensure that all those who are already qualified to be Gambian citizens are granted national identity cards.

This would give us a good starting point in knowing who the citizens of the country are. This would be followed by appointing scribes for all village headmen or headwomen to record all birth and deaths, which must be forwarded on a quarterly basis, to the central statistics department which shall have a branch in each region.

All babies shall be issued with a birth certificate which shall take the form of a national identity card. This card would be retained until one reaches 18 years and would be automatically utilized to get a national ID card. This same national ID card would be utilized to get a voter’s card. Under such a system, there will be no need for attestation forms or disputes on citizenship.

There will be no stateless persons. Hence all those stateless persons who are struggling underground to get voter’s cards should blame the APRC for excluding them.

They should form an association instead to demand for inclusion through constitutional and legal reforms on citizenship, and the provision of viable procedures on citizenship by naturalization and marriage that are known to all and could be easily utilized to achieve one’s aim.

 

As characteristic of the small socialist party’s long and academic style, the statement hardly touched on how the immediate problems of getting as many voters as possible to register in a free, fair and accountable process. While the party’s well-informed opinion on the problems of citizenship may be excellent, it is not touching on how best to proceed with things as they currently are. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Mustapha Carayol, chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission issued the warning at a press conference held at the IEC head office last week, calling on chiefs, regional governors, village heads and the general public to desist from registering foreigners or attesting to underage persons.

The issue of registering non-Gambians, which has been on the headlines since the commencement of the general voter registration a few weeks ago, also dominated most of the questions raised at the press conference.

“The system in place will detect any act of double registration. Remember that double registration is a crime and the culprits will be dealt with accordingly,” Carayol warned, adding that the Commission has in place, good systems that can effectively detect double registration.

“Anyone found wanting will face the full wrath of the law regardless of who you are,” the IEC boss told the press conference attended by politicians, civil society, representatives of the foreign donor community, UNDP officials and others.

 

Mr. Carayol also addressed the controversial issue of attestation of undocumented registration applicants, saying that registration centers are not places for those who attest to registrants to sit, noting that any claimant for registration who is without a birth certificate, identity card or passport may collect an attestation form from the registration teams after which, he/she may look for the chief, alkalo or five elders to vouch for their citizenship. Teams of professional attesters in the pay of the ruling APRC party have been attached to registration centers to the chagrin of IEC officials.

“Since the particulars of those that attest to the citizenship of claimants for registration will be captured, the law will take its course if it is found out that the attesters did so fraudulently,” the EC chairman warned.

Responding to questions as to the need for Gambians in the Diaspora to be allowed the chance to vote, the IEC boss said, “If we have enough money, they will be registered and allowed to vote, but until then they cannot vote.”

Some five years ago the commonwealth Secretariat offered to sponsor a proposed enfranchisement of overseas Gambians without any positive response from the government of the Gambia. Mr. Carayol did not touch on that point.

 

The Standard Chartered Bank last week handed over the refurbishment of the RVTH Pediatric Ward which cost the Bank over D456, 000.00. This followed the funding of its initial construction worth D4million by the same bank in 2004.

In a brief handing over ceremony, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare Fatim Badgie, called the furbished Pediatric Ward a breath of fresh air after walking through other parts of the hospital. She commended Standard Chartered Bank for making a positive contribution to His Excellency the President's Vision 2010 Goals. 

 

Also last week, the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) reduced the Cash Reserve Requirement (CRR) for commercial banks by two percent, from 18% to 16%. The reduction means that commercial banks in the country can now have more ‘disposable’ cash in their possession than before, because the money required from them to be lodged at the Central Bank as reserve at any point in time has been reduced.

 

As expected, the move led to a knock-on effect of the banks in turn reducing their lending rates. Two of the country’s biggest commercial banks, Standard Chartered and Trust Bank announced plans to reduce lending rates. Nearly all commercial banks in the country have been on embargoes against lending because, they say, high default rates and weak legal framework for debt recovery. But most observers think it is because government borrows most of the funds available in the market, leaving the banks shying away from giving loans to the private sector, government being a more reliable borrower.

 

Also last week, the National Environmental Agency,NEA organized a workshop at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, funded by  the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, on strategies for waste management in The Gambia, particularly in the greater Banjul Area, GBA. According to organizers the workshop aimed at strengthening the effort of the Gambia government in its efforts to tackle poor waste management and other environment-related problems and to map a lasting solution to the waste management problem the country.

 

One participant noted that waste disposal in The Gambia is becoming a major environmental health hazard. The cost of the disposal of large quantities of waste is considered beyond the country’s financial means. But some noted that beyond this there is also poor institutional capacity and political will to address the problem.

 

Also last week another sensitization campaign-cum workshop was held at the town of Sukuta, about 17 kilometers outside Banjul. Funded by the NGO Save the Children under its “UN women project 2011,” and organized by GAMCOTRAP, a local organization dedicated to fighting harmful traditional practices in the country. Two top leaders of the organization are currently on trial facing what many observers considered to be framed-up charges of theft. The charges were leveled against them as soon as they announced plans to launch a campaign of pressing the National Assembly to banning the practice of female genital cutting in the country. Over fifty participants heard the organization’s executive director, Dr Isatou Touray, declare that the organization is not affiliated to any political party. Dr Touray stated that Gamcotrap has nothing to do with politics, adding: Gamcotrap is an NGO working to promote women’s human rights, looking at harmful traditional practices that affect the health and wellbeing of women and promoting those rights in the context of culture.

The project belongs to everybody, she says. It is sponsored by Save the Children Sweden based in Dakar, in collaboration with the UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, which is supporting GAMCOTRAP in its advocacy for the elimination of FGM in The Gambia.

 

The meeting, she explained, is a continuation of the project with the people of Kombo North, adding that initially it was people of the Kombo South who converged to create awareness about FGM on women’s health and rights-based approaches.

“We are now scaling up to Kombo North, she added, saying the ultimate goal is to reach a consensus to stop FGM, and “hopefully by 2012 the participants drawn from various zone will make a public declaration”.

 

 

Also last week, on 17th May a three-day training workshop on the Gambia’s  periodic drafting of reports to various UN Human Rights treaty monitoring bodies commenced kicked off at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Senegambia. Organized by the Attorney General Chambers and Ministry of Justice and funded by the High Commission for Human Rights (HCHR), the training workshop was said to aim at  setting up a taskforce dedicated to the strengthening of the capacity of The Gambia to enable it to meet its obligation of timely reporting to UN treaty bodies.

Paul d’ Auchamp, Deputy Regional Representative for West Africa, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said The Gambia is facing certain difficulties regarding the unscheduled submission of reports to the treaty bodies saying the training will contribute to the government’s efforts in tackling the challenge and enabling The Gambia to fully comply with its international reporting obligation.

“HCHR stands ready to accompany the Government of The Gambia in these efforts,” he said, further reiterating their continued offer to provide technical advice to the government with regard to the creation of an entity equipped with the mandate and capacities required to champion the efforts of The Gambia in this matter and also commit to assist them with commencing the actual drafting process.

 

Mr. Auchamp emphasized that the training would also address pertinent issues such as the expanded core document, as well as the International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women in The Gambia.

 

Responding to this the Solicitor General and Legal Secretary, Pa Harry Jammeh, said that revealed that The Gambia is a signatory to most of the international human rights treaties.

She is faced with some challenges related to the drafting and submission of reports to the treaty bodies. He added that the delay was not unwillingness but the need for the government to be better prepared technically and organizationally to undertake the important process, in other words more donor resources.

 

The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) last week cooperated with the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), to host a day-long consultative business dialogue with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Trade Blazers at the Sheraton Hotel in Brufut.

The Nigerian private sector members who were on a four-day investment mission to the country, were facilitated under the theme “Harnessing Business Opportunities in The Gambia”

Speaking at the ceremony, the president of GCCI, Bai Matarr Drammeh, revealed that the investment mission between their counterparts was aimed at providing opportunity for the Nigerian private sector to network with the Gambia Business community so as to build sustainable business relationship.

He added that the mission also aimed at providing opportunity for the private sector to explore the investment opportunities that exist in the country, particularly in the area of light manufacturing.

 

“In this investment mission, MAN, in partnership with Trade Blazers, has facilitated up to ten Nigerian manufactory companies from various areas such as foam manufacturing and the production of flour and flour-based products, to visit The Gambia,” said the GCCI boss.

He assured the delegates that the GCCI would continue to play its role in encouraging investment growth as well as promoting trade and partnerships between The Gambia business community and members of the private sectors around the world.

 

But Mr. Drammeh was silent on recent seizures of assets and properties of Libyan investors in the country that was later “legalized” by a High court judge in Banjul recently. The seizures and legal backing by the court would help scare away many potential foreign investors, an observer recently told the Gambia Journal.  A condemnation of the actions by his GCCI would have accorded Mr. Drammeh the necessary confidence in the eyes of potential investors, the observer added. 

 

The local Father Gough Sports Foundation last week dedicated two of its new stands to Ousainou Njie and Bye Malleh Wadda at the Father Gough Sports Complex on Sunday 22nd  May in Manjai Kunda, a suburb of the Kanifing municipality.

The late Ousainou Njie, was the former Managing Director of Gambia Commercial and Development Bank, was said to be patron to all Gambian sports and the owner of Hawks F.C: one of the biggest football houses in The Gambia.

Bye Malleh Wadda, is considered one of the greatest Gambian athletes ever, and represented The Gambia Internationally in six different sports: football, basketball, tennis, athletics, volleyball and rugby.

 

The executive members of the reconstituted Council of Elders in Banjul last week let themselves be known as follows: Alhaji Ousman B. Conateh (Fisco) chairman; Alhaji Mbye Chow, 1st vice chairman; Aji Betty Saine, 2nd vice chairperson;  Alhaji Pa Harley Ceesay, secretary general; Alhaji Momar Saine, assistant secretary general; and Mrs. Kathy Goswell, public Relations Officer. Other members of the executive include Alhaji Abou Jallow, Mrs. Admire Monday, Alhaji Saloum O.B. Njie, Alhaji Abdul Gaffer Loum, Alhaji Alieu Mboge, Alhaji Mustapha Ngum, Alhaji Alagie Sowe, Aji Alimatu Sadia and Aja Awa Jah respectively.

 

With a membership claim of 80, the Council also announced it will be chiefly involved in programs to support and pray for the reelection of President Yahya A.J.J Jammeh and his government and in his efforts to make Banjul one of the most modern cities in the region. It will also embark on Conflict Resolutions within the City, as well as engaging and encouraging youths to get involved in development-oriented programs of the government, and contribute to the socio-economic development of the capital city inline with the president’s vision to transform Banjul into an ultra-modern city.

 

The Occasion also witnessed prayers led by the Imam Ratib of Banjul, Alh.Cherno Alieu Mass Kah and all the Imams of Banjul as well as the Bishop of the Methodist Church of The Gambia, Professor William Peters, who represented the Christian Council and his entourage of highly notable Christians. Both Religious leaders offered prayers for the good health of the president and his continued well being, as well as for God to give him the strength to realize his goals for Banjul and the entire Country. They also prayed that planned elections are held peacefully

 

 

Now to the courts last week. The trial of former High Court Judge, Moses B. Johnson Richards took what looked like a nasty turn resumed last week at the Banjul Magistrates' Court before acting-Principal Magistrate Alagba, when the Nigerian bourn contract-lawman refused to adjourn the case.

When the case was called, defense counsel Sheriff Marie Tambedou told the court that the case was adjourned for continuation of cross-examination of the second defense witness, but the Gambia Bar Association wished to apply for an adjournment.

"We cannot not proceed without the second defense witness. We ask the indulgence of the court to grant our application for an adjournment," Tambedou begged but the trial magistrate insisted that the accused person was competent enough to conduct his own case, and he did not see any reason why the case could not proceed.

Tambedou again rose, and told the court that the accused person was being represented by the Bar and, therefore, he could not represent himself.

"This is part of the oldest rules, which has been in existence in the system for a long time. When a lawyer is involved in a criminal trial, there must be another counsel to represent him or her in the trial," counsel told the court.

He added that despite how competent a particular lawyer was, he needed another counsel to represent him.

The trial magistrate again insisted that the case must proceed, because it had not proceeded for some time, adding that he wanted the court to finish with the second witness that day.

Moses Richards then told the court to grant the application for an adjournment on the grounds that the counsel who led the witness in the evidence-in-chief was not in court, and he was the best person to lead the witness in the cross-examination, adding that justice rushed is justice crushed but the contract judge insisted that the case must continue. The case this way refueled speculations that there is latent hostility between Gambian and Nigerian legal professionals.

 

Also last week the same acting principal magistrate of the Banjul Magistrates Court Taiwo Ade Alagbe, on Wednesday ordered the transfer of the murder case involving five National Drug Enforcement Agency officers, namely Ebou Lowe, Eku PL Grant, Abdoulie MK Jallow, Matarr Conteh and Modou C. Jaw. When the case was called, police prosecutor sgt 3238 Manga applied for the case to be transferred to the Special Criminal Court since it is a capital offence. His application was granted by the presiding magistrate and the court further ordered that the accused persons be remanded in custody.

 

There is what looks like a deep seated culture of brutality, torture and bestiality within the security forces of this country, an observer told the Gambia Journal recently. His words appeared to have been corroborated by some events in Gambian courts last week when a court in Basse heard Modou Colley, 1st accused person and defense witness in the ongoing murder trial of four Police Intervention Unit (PIU) officers at the Basse High Court presided over by Justice Emmanuel Nkea last Wednesday. The witness admitted that he tied the murdered Dembo Sibey twice when he was brought to their guard post in Numuyel village, in the Upper River Region.

 

Colley, a police officer attached to the PIU in Tattoo told the court that on 27th January this year at around 1.30am to 2.00am while in bed, Abukir Jibe, the 4th accused person came and woke him up to inform them that the villagers of Numuyel have apprehended a thief suspected of stealing a motorbike and had brought him to the guard post. According to him, at this time, Bakary Demba, the second accused officer then asked the villagers to go home, as it was late, till the following morning. The police officers then took hold of the motorbike and detained the suspect (the late Dembo Sibey). He said that he then tried to call their officer commanding, Gidom Y. Baldeh at Fatoto, but could not get him.

Colley also claimed that on the orders of Bakary Demba, the 2nd accused who was the guard commander, he tied the deceased with a rope till the following morning. He added that he later tied him again until around lunchtime in the afternoon. He said this was because they were not with handcuffs at the time. He further informed the court that the family members of Dembo Sibey then came to appeal for his release, but he told them that it was beyond his control, since the guard commander, Bakary Demba, the 2nd accused was away in Gambissara. He said he then called the 2nd accused to inform him that the late Dembo’s family was at the guard post. According to him, when the 2nd accused arrived back after lunch, he [the 2nd accused] told the family that he has to forward the matter to Basse Police Station. He added that at that time, the late Dembo then asked his family members to take him to a clinic as he was not feeling well. He explained that he [Colley] and the 2nd accused, Bakary Demba together with other family members escorted Dembo to Numuyel Health Centre, where he was diagnosed and referred to the Basse Health Centre.

 

While at the Numuyel Health Centre, Colley told the court that they were informed that the villagers were coming to attack them, and because of that, they went to the residence of the medical personnel before being rescued by the commissioner of Police, Ebrima Cham. According to him, they were then taken to the Basse Police Station where they got the information that Demba has been moved to Bansang where he passed away. During cross-examination by Lawyer N. Gbuji as to what he observed on the late Dembo when he was brought, he replied that his lips were wounded and face swollen; he added that he also looked very tired and could not stand on his feet. Asked whether the 3rd and 4th accused persons did anything in the matter, he replied in the negative.

With the above cases in mind, no doubt the public relations officer (PRO) of the Gambia Police Force (GPF) has said that security officers are not above the law. ASP Yero Mballow made this remark Thursday while commenting on the ongoing PIU Murder Case of the four police officers.

He said: “As officers, we should be mindful of the way and manner we conduct ourselves. We are here as law enforcement officers not to violate what we are supposed to protect.” The Police spokesman stated that the law is very clear in terms of arrest. He explained that officers are only ordered to use minimum force to get the accused or the suspect arrested and that any other force that is extra-ordinary is definitely not accepted at the end of the day. This has been said over and over again in many different forums, the question is what the authorities are doing to stop or even reduce the frequency of its occurrence.

 

 

Kalilu Njie, the deputy director of the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA), last Monday testified as the second prosecution witness in the trial of Karamo Bojang, the former deputy director NDEA, at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court before acting-Principal Magistrate Alagba. This is the second is appearing and being tried on a two-count charge of stealing and abuse of office.

Testifying, Kalilu Njie told the court that he is the deputy director of the NDEA, and is attached to the main office at Kairaba Avenue.

He said he knew the accused person as the former deputy director of NDEA.

“In May 2006, when Mbye Njie was the assistant station officer at the Serekunda Police Station he (Mbye Njie) was assigned by the accused person, Karamo Bojang, to be part of the investigation into the case of one Samuel Okafu , a Nigerian national resident in Ebo-

 Town, in the city of Serekunda, after the man was found dead, apparently of cocaine drug he had swallowed. The charges are that Mr. Bojang used his position to divert the exhibit drugs to be sold out in the drugs market. 

He added that Mbye Njie was present during the postmortem, and 67 pellets of cocaine were recovered from the stomach of the late Samuel Okafu. 

He further revealed that the 67 pellets of cocaine were later handed over to the accused person, because the accused was the exhibits keeper for hard drugs, while soft drugs like cannabis were given to Alieu Jasseh who used to be the exhibits keeper.

The witness further told the court that “in 2010, the present Director of NDEA Benedict Jammeh had ordered further investigation into the matter of the late Samuel Okafu, adding that Mbye Njie was asked to go to Mile 2 Central Prison to obtain a statement from the accused person.

“The said statement was brought to my office. I went through it, and I saw a portion where the accused person indicated that the drugs were destroyed at the last drugs destruction exercise.” He said he also made a witness statement to that effect.

The procedures for the destruction of drugs, according to Kalilu Njie, is that the agency responsible would write a letter to the Master of the High Court to request that all the exhibits that were dealt with by the courts be forwarded to the agency.

Such destruction of drugs is normally done on 26th June, which coincides with World No Drugs Day, and that the agency would write to personalities to attend the destruction exercise.

Njie pointed out that the exhibits keeper would transport the drugs to the venue for destruction before the personalities would arrive at the venue.

 

Also at the courts last week, Ensa Badje, former police chief, y told the Special Criminal Court that the robbery allegation brought against him was a plot hatched against him by agents of the NIA.

Badjie was continuing his defense testimony under cross-examination in the ongoing robbery trial involving him and chief superintendent of prisons Ali Ceesay.

He further told the court that he spent 22 years as a police officer, adding that he is currently being tried in four different cases with over sixty charges.

 

Also last week, Pristine Consulting Company, a local consulting IT firm contracted by the Gambia government for the production of Biometric Identity Cards, has sued the government for breach of contract at the High Court in Banjul before Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle.

Pristine instituted a civil suit against the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, as 1st defendant, and the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice, as 2nd defendant.

The company is, among others, making diverse claiming tens of millions of dollars from the government of The Gambia.

Hearing of the matter was extended to 26th May 2011 for mention.

Pristine Consulting, its CEO and the company's chief technology officer, were also charged with two counts of economic crimes in a separate court.

They were accused by the Gambia government of stealing, and of withholding the Gambia government's share of over twenty seven million dalasi when engaged by the government to produce the biometric national identity cards and other official documents. 

Abdourahman Touray, the company's CEO has left the jurisdiction, but Hassan Touray, the chief technology officer, was recently at the high court where he was granted bail of 10 million dalasi, which he was reportedly unable to fulfill, and is presently remanded in custody at the State Central Prison at Mile 2.

 

Also last week, state prosecutors brought fresh charges against the former Managing Director of the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, Edward Graham, at the Banjul Magistrates' Court before Magistrate Taiwo Algaba.

This development came barely a month after the state withdrew economic crimes charges against him.

Graham who denied the new charges of abuse of office and economic crimes was subsequently remanded in custody.

According to the particulars of offence on count one, Edward Graham, between January and December 2010, at Banjul and other places, as the Managing Director of the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, abused the authority of his office and directed to be done arbitrary act to wit, directed Omar Starr to employ Ancha Jammeh as the Finance Manager of Home Finance Company Gambia Limited, which is prejudicial to the right of the Home Finance Company Limited.

Count two of the charge sheet read that between January and December 2010, at Banjul, being employed in the public service as the Managing Director of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, he willfully caused the loss of D73, 000 to Home Finance Company Gambia Limited.

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