Private local gov’t amendment bill awaits second reading

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By Tabora Bojang

The National Assembly yesterday failed to secure a quorum to allow a private bill, the local government amendment bill, tabled by minority leader Alagie S Darboe to go to a second reading.

The bill is seeking to enhance the independence of area councils by taking away the powers of the president to dissolve councils 90 days before elections as well as scrap the rule requiring mayors and chairpersons to seek clearance from the Minister of Local Government.

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NAM Darboe’s private members bill which underwent its first reading Monday, seeks to replace that rule so that a member of the council who intends to travel out of the Gambia shall only notify the minister in writing.

Last year, Banjul Mayor Rohey Malick denounced this provision and called it a ‘Jammeh era executive order’ at a town hall meeting in Banjul where she narrated how she missed a proposed travel to Liberia because her request to the ministry for clearance was not acknowledged.

Mayor Lowe has since voiced her desire to fight its legality in court, with former Local Government Minister Musa Drammeh challenging her to do so if she desires threatening that government will get the Attorney General to represent them in court.

The minority leader’s bill also intends to amend provisions in Section 9 of the Local Government Act 2002, which states that a “Local Government Council shall stand dissolved ninety days before a Local Government election,” upon which the president shall appoint for each council an interim management team to run councils until after elections.

NAM Darboe want to substitute this principal act with “A Local Government Council shall stand dissolved on the day preceding the first meeting of the council after a local government election”.

This provision was challenged by KM Mayor Talib Bensouda and 55 chairmen and councilors at the Supreme Court with the apex court ruling that councils will no longer be dissolved three months before elections and that the president cannot appoint interim management to oversee councils. However Hon Darboe wants it completely taken out from the Act.