Buba Sagnia who almost fell from the dock with apparent relief while the judgment was being read was sentenced to a fine of D20,000 in default to serve three years in prison for acting in excess of the powers of his office by issuing entry clearance to a Syrian and Lebanese nationals, without forwarding the matter to the National Intelligence Agency for security screening. However, he was discharged on the second charge of negligence.
Delivering his judgment in a crowded courtroom, Magistrate Lamin Mbaye said Mr Sagnia did not ‘diligently’ follow the normal procedure before granting clearance to the two nationals. “The accused person in not following the normal procedure certainly amounts to abuse of office. Having regard to the totality of the evidence, I have no doubt that the prosecution have proven its case against the accused with a level of certainty required by law on count one (abuse of office). Public interest dictates that people in senior positions like the accused as he then was, be fully aware of the changing political situations around the world particularly Syria,” the magistrate said.
He said that it was stated in evidence that information about nationals from communist, terrorist and countries in conflict are supposed to be shared with the NIA, adding that the two nationals Mr Sagnia granted clearance are from Syria and Lebanon which countries are under ‘strife’.
“I believed the accused in his capacity as director general of immigration has a duty to be aware of such situation and as such should put the security of The Gambia into contemplation before granting entry clearance visa to nationals from Syria and Lebanon. The accused should have taken proper care and diligence before issuing clearance visas.
“The accused never consulted the director general of the NIA. By acting so, did the accused person put the security of the country at risk? My answer is, yes. I say so because the accused had stated in his cautionary statement that nationals of Syria based in Syria are forwarded to the director general of NIA for further screening,” Magistrate Mbaye said.
On the negligence charge, the magistrate said, there is no evidence that any damages were caused by Mr Sagnia to the state. “There is no evidence in the prosecution’s case that the people issued with the clearance visas have violated any other immigration rules during their stay in the country. From the totality of the evidence, I found that the prosecution did not sufficiently prove all the ingredients of the second charge against the accused person. I therefore found the accused not guilty on count two.”
Before passing his sentence, lawyer for Mr Sagnia urged the court not to impose a custodial sentence. Edward Singhatey described Mr Sagnia as an honest person who has served this country with uprightness. “The convict has been an immigration officer serving the country for 35 years. He has served the country with integrity, honesty, and dedication plus a tremendous commitment to duty which led to his rise through the ranks to the position of director general of immigration department.”
Singhatey said his client was “extremely remorseful” for the offence he has been convicted of and has always performed his duty in good faith. “We urged the court to take into consideration that there was no ill intent or act performed by Mr Sagnia. Neither the Syrian nor the Lebanese entered the country. The convict has a large family and throughout his trial, the accused has suffered various health problems which also caught the mind of the court.
“It is for this reason that we urge the court to exercise its discretion and impose a fine and not custodial sentence. Being the head of a very large family and poor health condition, a custodial sentence could have repercussions not only on the convict but his entire family and those who depend on him. He is a law-abiding citizen all his life and never has a problem with the law. We urge the court to temper justice with mercy. And if the court will not caution and discharge then let it fine the convict,” Singhatey said.
In sentencing Mr Sagnia, Magistrate Mbaye said: “Considering the nature of the offence and the fact that the convict was very responsible and has large family, I upheld my discretion to sentence the convict to a fine of D20,000 or in default he will serve three years imprisonment.” Mr Sagnia paid the fine.]]>