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City of Banjul
Wednesday, November 25, 2020

18 imams arraigned for flouting Covid-19 restrictions

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By Momodou Darboe

At least 18 imams were slammed with charges of flouting Covid-19 emergency regulations and paraded before law-courts across the country, the minister for the Interior revealed.
Interior minister Yankuba Sonko made this revelation yesterday as he entertained questions from lawmakers at the National Assembly in Banjul.

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Some parliamentarians engaged the minister on issues of government’s perceived laxity in the enforcement of the emergency regulations in the period of the first 45-day state of public emergency that it declared a little over 65 days ago.
But while admitting some shortfalls in the enforcement of the regulations such as Covid-19 denial and the strength of the police force, Minister Sonko revealed to the representatatives that 18 imams were arrested, charged and taken to court for contravening the Covid-19 regulations.

He also disclosed that 81 drivers were rounded up by the police as it enforced the regulations. Forty-six of the drivers, he disclosed, were fined.
The interior minister admitted that the enforcement was, among others, stymied by the inadequacies of boots on the ground as the country currently has a ratio of 374 citizens to a police officer. He also cited Covid-19 denial as another stumbling block to effective enforcement but saw effectiveness in using carrot than the stick.
“I think sensitisation is the best option and there are arrangements for this,” he added.

Laura Food Company cocaine saga
The Interior minister also revealed to the House that investigators in the Laura Food Company’s 48-pellet cocaine saga have now put the finishing touches to their probe and had in fact sent the file to the AG Chambers for legal advice.

Gunjur murder
In response to a query by the Majority Leader, Kebba Barrow, on the pace of the progress into the investigations in the incident in which a native of Gunjur was murdered in a land dispute between the communities of Gunjur and Berending last year, Minister Sonko informed the House that the alleged murderer Buba Drammeh has been nabbed in Berending on 22nd February this year, placed under custody and is undergoing trial at the high court in Brikama.

Marijuana as herb
There is no distinction between use of marijuana for herbal or other use, possession and related offences, the Interior minister clarified in reply to a question by one of the lawmakers. The minister elucidated that marijuana possession, trafficking and consumption are crimes punishable by the laws.

Police stations
The member for Wuli East, Suwaibou Touray, sought to know from the minister why police stations could not be spread across the country, including his far-flung constituency to combat crime rate. Minister Sonko admitted that the need for police stations across the country is overwhelming but that the idea of police stations everywhere would be difficult to attain. He pointed out that the increasing tendency by many to take the law into their own hands is an indication of the need for deeper outreach by the police but that the institution is under-resourced.
Sittings continue today.

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