By Omar Bah
With his appointment widely expected to end this month, the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission Alieu Momar Njai has now said that his term will actually end in 2025.
In 2020, Mr Njai told The Standard in an exclusive interview that his current tenure will end in 2023 and not August 2020 as suggested by some officials of political parties.
The UDP spokesman Almamy Taal claimed at the time that the entire IEC members have served their mandate, adding that constitutional institutions like the IEC would make people very concerned if they don’t have their leadership renewed to conform with the demands and the needs of the time.
Reacting to Taal’s assertions at the time, the IEC chairman explained that his current term will only expire in 2023 after which he will not be able to serve as chairman again because he would have been left with only two years to complete his 14-year two-term tenure at the Election House.
Chairman Njai also clarified with documentary proof that he was first appointed as IEC member in late 2006 but in April 2007, he resigned from the position following his appointment as acting Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council.
He was reappointed as commission member again in March 2011, and chairman to replace Mustapha Carayol on 7 April 2016 for an initial period of seven years.
“That seven years will expire in 2023,” Njai told The Standard in 2020 showing his appointment letter dated 7 April 2016.
Going by his own explanation therefore, the constitutional seven-year mandate of Mr Njai’s appointment as chairman should expire on Apirl 7 this year, actually last week.
Yesterday Gambian political activist Pa Samba Jow in a West Coast radio interview reminded government and all stakeholders that the chairman’s appointment has legally ended. Mr Jow therefore argued that Mr Njai cannot legally supervise this weekend’s local government elections in his capacity as chairman of the IEC.
“In October 2020, I had argued that the term of the chairman of the IEC had expired in 2018 and I made that argument based on Section 42 subsection 4 of the 1997 constitution which states that the members of the commission shall be appointed for a period of seven years and maybe appointed for one further term. Mr Njai had then argued that his term had not expired, that in fact his contract was renewed to serve until 2023 and if we were to go by that argument then his term has now finally come to an end,” Jow said on West Coast radio yesterday.
He further argued that Mr Njai has since the last five days been occupying his position illegally.
“I want to make it clear that my argument has nothing to do with the individual but has to do with a country that we are trying to build and a country that is constitution- compliant because no official no matter how great should continue to serve in an office after the expiration of his or her term. So, I call on Mr Njai to do the right thing in preserving his legacy by effectively vacating an office that he can no longer constitutionally hold,” he advised.
Mr Jow further asked whether the government knows about the state of the IEC chairman’s appointment.
Reacting to Pa Samba Jow’s claims, Justice Minister Dawda Jallow said Mr Jow’s assertions are contrary to the records.
“Our records show that the current chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission was first appointed in 2006 briefly but was reappointed in 2011 for a seven-year term which according to Mr Jow expired in 2018. But he got another extension. So, if the term is seven years that extension is due to expire in 2025. So, for it to be expiring in 2023 I need to know what evidence Mr Jow has and we compare with our records. But according to our records the chairman’s term still has two years to go,” the minister said.
When contacted for comments on the matter, IEC chairman Alieu Mamor Njai, said: “We were appointed for a period of seven years and my current term will end in 2025.”
Reminded about his comments in a Standard interview that his term will end this April, Njai said: “That was a mistake. I was appointed in April 2016 as chairman for a period of seven years.
Asked whether he is aware that that term has expired since 7 April, Njai argued: “No. It is renewable. It is renewable.”
Asked whether it was renewed, Chairman Njai tersely said: “Call me later.”