By Tabora Bojang
The Minister of the Interior, Yankuba Sonko has admitted to lawmakers probing allegations of police failure to stop animal theft in Wuli East that there was inaction on the side of the police to bring down organised criminals.
The committee has been petitioned by the Wuli East Animal Protection Association to investigate cattle rustling which continues to gain ground in the region.
The petitioners alleged that a businessman from Sara Bugu is the chief suspect orchestrating the organised criminal activity despite the police having knowledge of his activities.
Minister Sonko, whose ministry has supervisory role over the police, said he agreed with the petitioners that the police were inactive against the criminals engaged in the activity because the police recognised some of the alleged criminals.
Sonko who once served as the IGP continued: “It’s nearly a year since he requested the police to investigate allegations of cattle theft following a receipt of a petition by chief Ebrima Jawara of Wuli whose petition implicated several police officers in URR but the police are yet to report back. I want to believe there is definitely an inaction on the side of the police because they could have easily coped with the situation and taken the necessary actions. Probably we will link the inaction to their acquaintance even with the criminals around that area.”
He said even though the police high command acted on the ministry’s recommendation by instituting changes in the URR police command, the menace still continues.
“The whole set up should have been changed and replaced with new officers who would at least have a neutral approach to the situation but that was not done.”
Asked if his ministry does not have powers to take further actions against the police for not adhering to its instructions, Sonko said the ministry has powers to petition IGP on policy matters but the issue at hand was not a policy matter but an operational one. The lawmakers also submitted to the minister that the principal suspect continues to operate in the area even after his operational license was revoked by the Gambia Livestock Marketing Agency, GLMA.
The minister added that his ministry was not aware of such revocations because the ministry was not in the picture.
“So we could not effectively urge the IGP to carry out because we were never copied.”
Minister Sonko was further informed that GLMA has corresponded with the police high command in the region about its decision but the police would not attempt to arrest the chief suspect due to his connections.
He said the police would be at fault if the revocation was communicated, saying, they have no ground to allow that person to operate.
Asked if his ministry has plans to increase police capacity in the URR to tackle criminals from Senegal and other parts of the country who are engaged in rampant cattle theft, Sonko replied: “Since 2017 there has been no recruitment and this has definitely affected us. We have quite a number of officers who left the police either in a form of retirement, death or went through the back way. So the strength that we used to have in 2016 has dropped drastically. Of course, we could increase the patrols but not the coverage.”