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Saturday, October 16, 2021

MINISTER DENIES ORDERING POLICE TO KMC

By Omar Bah & Aisha Tamba

The minister of local government, Musa Drammeh has told The Standard he did not order the Police Intervention Unit to the headquarters of the Kanifing Municipal Council.

Yesterday morning, more than a dozen PIU officers invaded the KMC reportedly on the orders to escort and facilitate the entry of suspended CEO Sainabou Martin Sonko. The presence of the police caused agitation and widespread condemnation among members of the staff of the municipality, the civil society and political leaders.

The police later withdrew amid strong resistance from KMC councilors and staff who expressed support to the decision by the council to suspend the CEO until investigations into her alleged financial misconduct are completed.

Asked to comment on widespread allegations that he ordered the police to the KMC premises, Minister Drammeh said. ”I did not speak to anybody from the office and did not order police to anywhere. How can I order police and not the Minister of Interior? I think the best thing is to ask the police. I understand they went there as preventative measure and they have right to that. They don’t need anybody’s permission to carry out a preventive move.”

Meanwhile, last night, the police issued a statement on the matter which reads: “The Inspector General of Police wishes to clarify unequivocally his office has not deployed its personnel to the Kanifing Municipal Council for any special mission, let alone to forcefully install the CEO as insinuated by certain individuals.

However, on Monday 9th August 2021, a section of the Police Intervention Unit was on normal routine patrols when they got credible intelligence that there is a situation at the KMC which has potential to degenerate into a conflict. As a proactive strategy in line with intelligence led policing, surveillance and monitoring was conducted to de-escalate the situation.

The public is assured that the GPF is cognisant of its constitutional mandate embedded in the 1997 constitution of the republic of The Gambia. It will uphold same in all its operations while ensuring that democratic and peaceful means of dispute resolution is adhered to in accordance with relevant laws of the land”.

With the presence of the police, scores of KMC staff stood in front of the Council’s compound and shouted ‘our money’.

But Mrs Martin Sonko said the protesting staffers are not members of the staff welfare and they are not contributing to the welfare.

The tension at the council started after its CEO Sainabou Sonko was suspended after it emerged she allegedly illegally took a D12 million loan on behalf of council staffers. The decision to suspend Mrs Sonko and the council finance director was reached at a council meeting of elected representatives led by Mayor Bensouda.

But a few days later, the Ministry of Local Government in a letter addressed to Mayor Bensouda, said the action of the council to suspend Mrs Martin Sonko was illegal and ordered for her to be allowed back.

However, when Mrs Sonko returned to the council last week she was barred from entering the premises by the KMC security officers.

Yesterday, the suspended CEO returned to the council accompanied by scores of PIU officers who were there to forcefully return her to work. A brief brawl ensued between the Police Intervention Unit personnel and agents of the KMC police.

Scores of KMC staff stood in front of the KMC compound and shouted ‘our money’.

But Mrs Martin Sonko said the protesting staffers are not members of the staff welfare and they are not contributing to the welfare.

GFA

Meanwhile, the Gambia For All party has warned that the escalating corruption saga at the KMC is tarnishing the country’s international reputation.

“Both parties involved are reminded that the issue of official corruption is the number one concern of the majority of Gambians. It has gotten so serious that it is beginning to tarnish the country’s international reputation, and thereby affecting our relations with key development partners,” GFA said in a statement.

Mai Fatty

The Gambia Moral Congress leader, Mai Fatty said he supports KM Mayor Talib Ahmed Bensouda’s stance in the council corruption saga.

The former Interior Minister, who was there to show solidarity, urged the ministry to allow fair investigations to proceed.

“I would crave the indulgence of the officers impugned to stay away until the investigations are fully completed. That is what will serve the interest of The Gambia, that is what will serve the interest of KMC. All of us public officials including the mayor and I commend the mayor’s fight against corruption. And I support his stance to fight against official corruption,” he said.

Youth councilor

Meanwhile, the KM youth councilor Kemo Bojang has announced that he has proposed for the Council to sue CEO Sainabou Martin Sonko and local government minister Musa Drammeh for interference.

“I have moved a motion in our emergency general council sitting for the CEO to be sued for trespass after trying to enter council 3 times even after suspension and also the minister be sued for costing the KMC and Gambia millions after disrupting a whole day’s work,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

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