Gambian lawyers and members of the country’s opposition have accused the country’s leader, Yahya Jammeh, of using “mercenary judges” from Nigeria, and other officials sent as technical assistants to the country’s judiciary, to hound dissidents, Premium Times reports.
The Gambian Bar Association also accused the Chief Justice of Gambia, Emmanuel Fagbenle, of plotting to use Nigerian judges to overturn the outcome of the December 1, 2016 presidential election in which Mr. Jammeh lost to Adama Barrow.
After initially conceding defeat and congratulating Barrow, Jammeh, who has ruled the tiny West Africa country for 22 years, recanted.
He claimed the polls were characterised by “unacceptable abnormalities”, and filed a petition challenging the result and praying that he be declared winner.
The Gambian opposition, including the GBA and other activist groups, argue that by unanimously annulling the election, Jammeh usurped the role of the country’s Supreme Court, flouted the tenet of the constitution and possibly committed treason.
“While under normal circumstances the right to petition against election results does exist, the situation in the Gambia now, is that there is no constituted panel of the Supreme Court,” the Gambian Bar Association wrote in a statement.
“The GBA notes with concern that since May 2015, there has not been a sitting Supreme Court session due to the absence of a panel. This is despite several reminders issued to the Chief Justice by members of the Bar. In the circumstance; it would be against the principle of natural justice to for the outgoing President to appoint Supreme Court judges to hear a Petition filed by him or on his behalf,” the statement added.
The body said the last decision of the court was not in favour of the government and resulted in the acquittal of former Chief of Defence Staff, Lang Tombong Tamba, a general, and Sarjo Fofana, a rear admiral.
Shortly after that Jammeh dismissed the only two permanent Supreme Court judges, Sallieu Taal, former Vice President of the Gambian Bar Association further explained.
Jammeh had accused the West African regional bloc Ecowas of declaring war after demanding that he stand down following his defeat at the ballot box according to News24.
Regional leaders warned last month that the 15-member Ecowas would “take all necessary action to enforce the results” of the December 1 poll.
Jammeh retorted in a New Year’s speech on Saturday night that the Ecowas summit decision was “totally illegal” as it violated the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states.