The out-going Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, who has barely 2 weeks left on his presidency, wants to swear-in Judges, to hear his election petition case within 8 days before the end of his presidency, despite the fact that the court had been dysfunctional for almost two years with many pending appeals.
The Gambia’s lawyers association called the Gambia Bar Association best described the move as a miscarriage of justice; for the President to select judges for the sole purpose of hearing his own election petition at the Supreme Court. They said it simply makes him both the Judge and claimant at the same time .
The desperate Gambian President is challenging the 1 December 2016 Presidential elections of The Gambia, which he lost to his opponent, President Elect Adama Barrow. President Jammeh, whose constitutional term in office expires on Wednesday, 18 January 2017, is frantically trying to hang on to power at all cost, through the aid of the country’s Supreme Court to overturn the verdict of his people in the Presidential election.
President Jammeh and his government denied reports, during a meeting with the African Bar Association from Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on 21 December 2016, that they do not have a constituted Supreme Court, at the time. The constitution requires the Supreme Court to have at least six Judges, in order to be constituted. The disclosure that the country has a constituted Supreme Court shunned many, including the country’s Bar Association, who were never aware of the same.
It later became clear that the government had lied about having a constituted Supreme Court. Instead they had offered positions to six Judges in the sub-region: five from Nigeria and one from Sierra Leone. These were: Justice Habeeb A. O. Abiru from Nigeria; Justice Abubacar Datti Yahya from Nigeria; Abubakar Tijani from Nigeria; Obande Festus from Nigeria, Obande Agim from Nigeria; and Nicholas Colin Brown from Sierra Leone.
The six Judges were only offered the positions in somewhere June 2016, but were yet to accept their positions. As a result, the Supreme Court, which had only one Judge and dysfunctional for 2 years, had to adjourn the President’s petition till Tuesday, 10th January 2017 to hear the petition. The hope was that the six Judges would have accepted their positions and would have been in the country to start the case.
However, due to the sensitive political and high profile nature of the case, as well as the desperation shown by the Gambian President by attempting to bribe these Judges; the reputable and distinguished Judges rejected the offers to become Supreme Court Judges of the Gambia at present.
Thereafter, desperate Yahya Jammeh and his Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle have exhorted many other Supreme Court Judges and Court of Appeal Judges in Nigeria to assist in their criminal enterprise to subvert the will of the Gambian people, but failed to convince any senior Judge in Nigeria.
Instead, the desperate President Jammeh and his Chief Justice settled for shameless 419 Judges from Nigeria, who were bribed to pretend to be qualified Judges in Nigeria and have had the requisite competence to sit in any court in The Gambia, including the country’s Supreme Court to hear the President’s election petition. These shameless 419 Nigerian Judges, who have arrived in the country are: Justice Agboola, Justice A.N.C. Ikoro, Justice Uduma, Justice E.E. Ogar, Justice E.O. Dada, Justice Sulaiman, and Justice E.O. Otaba.
In fact 2 of the 7 Judges were recently involved in controversial political cases in The Gambia, involving the UDP protesters, as recent as August 2016. These were Justice E.O. Otaba and Justice E.O. Dada. Justice Otaba had to recuse himself from the case, after he was shamelessly recorded on tape, commenting on the case he was presiding, by a Gambian exiled journalist, Fatou Camara. The case was then transferred to Justice Dada, whose handling of the case forced all of the defense lawyers in the case to withdraw their representation of the Darboe and Co accused UDP protesters.
The Gambian constitution requires that, in order for one to qualify to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court, they must serve at least 5 or 10 years as a Court of Appeal Judge or 12 years a practicing lawyer in both civil and criminal areas of law, in a common law jurisdiction. None of the selected Judges being considered by Jammeh meets that threshold. If anything no one knows their legal practice background, apart from Mr. Fagbenle.
The Gambian Bar Association has stated that these “persons have never been judges or sat in a judicial capacity,” before in any country. “They were imported and appointed and have demonstrated in several high-profile judgments that they will not take any steps contrary to the will of the President. It is, therefore, a vital priority for the Government of Nigeria and all Bar Associations to condemn the actions and capacity of all judges of foreign nationality currently sitting in Gambia and call for their immediate repatriation to prevent them from undermining the will of the Gambian people,” they added
It is therefore, advised that no Gambian should respect or recognise any decision made by these Nigerian 419 Judges.