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Friday, April 19, 2024


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By Omar Bah

The Minister of Defence, Serign Modou Njie, has told the National Assembly on Wednesday that a board constituted by the Gambia Armed Forces is currently investigating an alleged theft case at former president Yahya Jammeh’s Kanilai residence.

In September last year, the National Assembly Member for Foni Kansala, Almameh Gibba, reported a theft case to the Minister of Defence at Jammeh’s Kanilai residence, which is currently occupied by GAF.

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Six months on, NAM Gibba raised a parliamentary question for updates.

When asked by the NAM to explain reports of alleged theft, which resulted in the loss of one big mattress, television screen, two washing machines, three deep freezers, ten dying chairs, and VIP coats, Minister Njie responded: “Honourable Speaker, in the case of the alleged theft at the former president’s Kanilai residence, my ministry has instructed GAF High Command to convene a board of inquiry to investigate the matter, and once the board concludes its findings, the report will be shared with this august assembly.”

“How long does it take the military to investigate matters like this because the theft occurred five or six months ago?” NAM Gibba further asked.

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In response, Minister Njie argued: “As per the time, the board will conclude its finding.”

“Honourable Minister, the theft occurred in a house that is well protected, and the custodians of the keys to that house are the army. What can you tell the assembly about this act that occurred before their own eyes?” Gibba posited.

Minister Njie responded that it was Honourable Gibba who informed him about the alleged theft, and immediately his ministry instructed the GAF command to look into the matter.

“I will ask the honourable member to wait patiently until the conclusion of the inquiry,” he added.

Asked by the NAM for Kiang West Lamin Ceesay whether he is confirming to the Assembly that there was a theft at Jammeh’s residence, Minister Njie argued: “I am not confirming anything. It is an alleged theft that has been reported, and the inquiry board is trying to establish the veracity of this allegation.”

Omar Sarjo

In 2017, GAF received an intelligence tip that ex-corporal Omar Sarjo was alleged to be the son of Salif Sadio, the leader of the MFDC separatists in Casamance, Senegal. A GAF investigation revealed that there is no evidence to prove that Mr. Sarjo is the son of Salif Sadio. The outcome of the investigations, however, revealed that the ex-corporal gained admission into the GAF under false pretence, which resulted in his dismissal.

However, a high court judge later declared that his termination was a clear contravention of the 1997 Constitution and ordered his reinstatement.

His lawyer has since written to GAF, demanding his immediate reinstatement.

On Wednesday, during a parliamentary Q&A, the Foni Kansala NAM asked the minister to explain why Omar Sarjo was not reinstated despite a court order to that effect.

Responding to the question, Minister Njie said: “Honourable Speaker, I was told that a legal opinion issued in the case of Omar Sarjo and the Gambia Armed Forces is currently reviewing those legal opinions.”

But Honourable Gibba further charged: “Honourable Minister, I have a document that is a court ruling. Who is the army to suppress a legal opinion, and what powers do they have to do so?

“The court order was sent to the Gambia Armed Forces, and they are currently reviewing the subject matter. If they draw any conclusions on it, I will come back with respect to that legal opinion,” Minister Njie charged.

“But on the same issue, Honourable Minister, Mr. Sarjo’s lawyer wrote to the army and copied various authorities, but still the army is playing deaf ear to this. Can you tell this Assembly what mandate is vested in the army to do so?” Honourable Gibba argued.

In his response, Minister Njie maintained: “Honourable Speaker, it was a legal opinion that was presented to the armed forces for review.”

At that juncture, the NAM for Foni Jarrol intervened and asked the minister why it would take so long to implement a court order, and Minister Njie responded, “Well, I already indicated it is under review, and then we will wait for the conclusion of the review, and then this august assembly will be informed of the outcome. Thank you.”

Also joining the debate is the NAM for Wuli East, Suwaibou Touray, who asked: “Honourable Minister, since the court had passed a ruling for that person’s reinstatement, don’t you think taking too long to implement the order may tantamount to contempt of court?”

Minister Njie reacted: “Well, my answer remains the same; we would wait for the outcome of that.”

The NAM for Banjul South, Touma Njai, asked the minister to explain why the army is “blatantly disregarding a high court order.”

In his response, Minister Njie charged: “Honourable Member, like I said, I was informed that a legal opinion was sent to the Gambia Armed Forces. It was a legal opinion that is under review currently. We should know what a legal opinion entails.”

When asked by the NAM for Busumbala, Muhammed Kanteh, whether a court order can be subjected to review by his ministry’s legal department, Minister Njie explained: “I have not received a court judgement on the matter. What I have been informed of is a legal opinion that was sent to GAF for review.”

At that point, the minority leader and Member for Brikama North, Alhagie Darboe, demanded that the minister provide the Assembly with the legal opinion that was sent to his office with immediate effect.

In response, the minister tensely said: “I will provide it the moment I get it from GAF.”

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