By Aisha Tamba
Justice Francis A Achibonga of the High Court has yesterday dismissed Banjul Mayor Rohey Lowe’s suit against the Local Government Commission of Inquiry.
Mayor Lowe’s suit, which also included the Attorney General, was seeking an order to dissolve the Commission of Inquiry as presently constituted on grounds of bias, prejudice, and interference with the outcome of its inquiry.
She also wanted a declaration that Samba Faal, Oreme Joiner, and Alagie Sillah being leading members, sympathisers, and associates of the governing NPP/APRC alliance parties to which the appointing authority of the members of the commission belong would be bias and therefore will not be independent in discharge of the Commission’s mandate in violation of section 24 of the constitution and the rules of natural justice.
But in his judgment yesterday, the judge said Mayor Lowe’s suit lacks merit and the commissioners are competent as there is no evidence before the court to hold the commissioners as card-bearing members of the NPP or any political party.
“I did not see how Oreme Joiner’s alleged membership of the NPP can raise a likelihood of bias against the applicant. I did not equally agree with the mayor that Joiner is likely to be politically bias simply because she, the mayor, is a member of a political party opposed to the NPP when there is no evidence to support the claim that Joiner is a member of the NPP. The claim is without merits and therefore dismissed,” the judge said.
On the claim that Samba Faal, and Alagie Sillah be removed as members of the Commission on the grounds that they are not competent by virtue of their past or present positions and/or their association with the National People’s Party and its coalition party members, the judge said the commissioners are competent to be in the commission.
“In my view, by virtue of their previous positions, they are competent to be members of the commission and it is a requirement of the law that at least one shall be a person who has special qualification of or knowledge in the matter in their investigation. Being a former mayor and councillor respectively of a city council, Faal and Sillah are deemed to have knowledge of the workings of the city council hence their inclusion as members,” the judge said.
On the claim that the attorney general and the president’s statements at the ceremony of the inauguration of the commission is prejudicial, the judge said: “I have read statements of the AG and the president and they cannot be prejudicial to the work of the commission.”