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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Court affirms decision for exiled followers of Serign Ndigal to return

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By Bruce Asemota

Justice Ebrima Jaiteh of the Banjul High Court has reaffirmed the decision by Justice Amina Saho-Ceesay for the exiled followers of the religious sect founded by Serign Ndigal to return to The Gambia and repossess their properties.

On 14 January 2009, the sect members fled persecution and immigrated to Senegal and their homes and properties were taken over by people unknown to them with the permission of Sheikh Seck, the alkalo of Kerr Mot Ali village, in the Upper Saloum District of Central River Region.

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At that time the sect was led by Serign Ndigal’s son Basirou Mohammed Secka. Before their exile, Ndigal’s followers were subjected to harassment and unlawful arrest by the police and were imprisoned at Kaur, Njao and police stations and Janjangbureh prison.

After the exit of President Jammeh in 2017, Basirou Mohammed Secka and his followers returned to The Gambia and instituted a lawsuit against the Inspector General of Police, the Minister of Justice, Alkalo Sheikh Seck and the regional governor.

In a judgment delivered in 2017, Justice Saho-Ceesay declared that Basirou Secka and his followers being Gambian citizens are free to return to Kerr Mot Ali village and that they are entitled to possess their respective properties in the village.

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The court further declared that they have the right for their properties not to be taken from them.

The court restrained the police, the justice minister, the alkalo of the village and the regional governor from interfering or dealing with their properties.

It also declared that they should not be discriminated against because of their religion, tradition and culture and that they have the constitutional right to practice and manifest the practice of their religion anywhere in The Gambia.

Recently, Ousman Secka and others filed a fresh suit before the high court presided over by Justice Jaiteh challenging Justice Saho-Ceesay’s judgement.

Sheriff Kumba Jobe defence counsel for Basirou Secka and his followers raised objection on the grounds that the matter had been a subject of trial.

Justice Jaiteh concurred and ruled that once a matter has been decided, it cannot be re-litigated and accordingly dismissed the suit for being an abuse of process.

He reaffirmed Justice Saho-Ceesay’s declarations that Basirou Secka and his followers have right as citizens of The Gambia to return to Kerr Mot Ali village and be given possession of their properties unlawfully acquired by Ousman Secka and others.

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