By Alagie Manneh
Lawyer Lamin J Darbo has said the recent appointment of executive coordinators or regional governors for Banjul and KM is unconstitutional.
Last week, the permanent secretary at the lands ministry confirmed the appointments of one Bakary Singhatey of Dippa Kunda, and Ebrima Jawo, as executive coordinators for Kanifing Municipality and Banjul, respectively.
In his argument, Barrister Darbo said the appointments are blatant disregard for constitutionalism and that they were intended to “displace the constitutional regime” of democratic governance at local levels.
“In sections 193, and 194 of the Constitution, the Governor has no role to play in local authority affairs other than as a meddling presidential interloper,” lawyer J Darbo wrote in an exclusive legal opinion for The Standard. “Other than acting as the partisan mouthpiece of the President, Governors, and Executive Coordinators are not vested with any lawful authority as far as the local government system is concerned.”
He further noted: “With all the magnificence of his office there are things a President cannot do and that includes appointments intended to displace the constitutional regime of democratic governance at the local authority level. There is a duality of separation between the branches at the national level, and in the context herein, between the Executive arm of the national government, and the local authority system in the domain of democratic governance. The President is not vested with any lawful authority to demolish the structural foundation of the Constitution in that separating power is at the heart of Gambia’s constitutional system. On the law, the President cannot employ his Governors, and Executive Coordinators, and deploy them in the elected local authority system to nullify its democratic foundation.”
Darbo said the doctrine and actuality of separation precluded the president from creating public offices calculated to undermine the operations of independent and democratically elected councils. He added that local authorities are constitutionally insulated from any usurpation of their functions by presidential incursions into their terrain. “Presidential conduct within the contours of the Executive domain may be permissible in particular circumstances but transgressing the constitutional demarcations of separated power as in the case of Governors, and Executive Coordinators in relation to local authorities will always be unlawful,” he opined.
Lawyer J Darbo urged the Gambian leader to “take a long view of his mandate as the tenant-in-chief of Number 1 Marina, to come to terms with his mortality, and the transiency of his office”.
“Let him survey the majesty of the presidency and reflect on the purpose for which he was sent to the nation’s house. The monuments we will remember and celebrate him for are not going to be the physical structures he left behind but the unseen symmetric beauty of governance under law,” he said.
He advised the president to rid the local authorities of the governors and executive coordinators, describing them as “nothing but unwanted distractions”.