PROBE INTO STADIUM CHAOS REPORT OUT

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Press statement The Investigative Panel set up by the Executive Committee of The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) to look into the causes of the overcrowding of the Independence Stadium in Gambia’s 1-1 home draw with Algeria on 8th September, 2018, last week presented its report to the leadership of the Federation at Football House. The overcrowding happened during an African Cup of Nations qualifier and could have resulted to the loss of lives and property and repercussions that could have had detrimental effect on Gambian football but a national disaster was averted. In view of the immense importance attached to this incident, and because of the GFF’s commitment, primarily to the safety of the footballing community and to the infrastructure, the Executive Committee on 17th September, 2018, in accordance with Article 59 of the 2013 Constitution, instituted an Independent Investigative Panel to look into the circumstances leading to the said incident. The membership of the panel included the following: Lawyer Omar Fafa M’Bai – Chairman; Police Commissioner Paa Amady Jallow – Vice Chairman; Capt. (Rtd) Ebrima B. Cambi – Member; Colonel Essa Tamba – Member; and Kebba Masaneh Ceesay – Member. However, Mr. M’Bai later recused himself on personal grounds and the vice chairman automatically stepped in to lead the panel. The leadership of the Federation had committed itself to sharing the findings with the public and after the several sittings by the panel, where people of diverse backgrounds were invited to testify before it; at the end of the exercise it found the following: There were insufficient on duty security personnel on the grounds for this match as highlighted by the many witnesses interviewed by the panel. The General Duty (GD) Unit was allocated one hundred and twenty (120) men to cover the entire stadium for this particular match, which included some plain cloth officers. In the same vein, the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) were allocated with Ninety five (95) personnel, 16 of which were assigned as stewards inside the stadium, and 32 were placed on standby as the Quick Reaction Force (QRF), also stationed inside the Stadium. The total number of uniformed personnel was two hundred and eight (208.) all ranks inclusive. There was no Central Command and Control Centre which lead to virtually no communications between the two commanders of the two Police Units (GD and PIU) and therefore did not coordinate. There was also lack of effective communication between the commanders from the General Duty and the PIU on the deployment of their personnel. Unfortunately, there was no deployment of personnel at the external perimeter fence of the Stadium. All the uniform personnel were deployed inside the main ball of the Stadium, which made it easy for people to scale the perimeter fence into the Stadium. Several people interviewed, confirmed that they saw security officers receiving money from the people to gain access into the Stadium. Some members of the Organising Committee were receiving tickets at various gates to go and resell them outside. This was confirmed by the ticket sellers. Some people who already gained access inside the Stadium were throwing their tickets to others in order for them to enter inside the pavilions. It’s also confirmed that some off duty Security Officers entered the Stadium with their warrant cards and were accompanied by their friends and family members who also accessed the Stadium without paying. The Panel also found out that the allegations of the EMC overprinting tickets were false and instead the number of tickets printed was below the current capacity of the Stadium as confirmed by the Stadium Management and the DBC, which were both visited. Official documents from both the DBC and EMC actually confirmed this and the Panel was satisfied that there were no overprinting of tickets. (See attached documents for ease of reference). There was no evidence, whatsoever, to suggest that tickets were duplicated or reprinted by any group or individual. The ticket sellers were complacent in their duty by allowing people who claimed to be members of the Organising Committee to receive tickets from them without been cut who later went to sell them outside. The Panel also found out that there was conflict of interest between the EMC and the OC. The latter, were conspicuously found to be reselling tickets that were already sold and collected from people. The Panel found out that the National Guard of The Gambia Armed Forces intervened to beef up the security and control the situation. However, they came at the last minute when the problem was already ongoing. This is due to the fact that they were not requested earlier as it used to be. The Panel also found out that the personnel deployed at the Stadium were from different security entities, thus making command and control extremely difficult given their level of training. There was total chaos inside the Stadium and people went to the extent of climbing the floodlights, which could’ve had devastating consequences in the event of an electrical malfunction. (See attached pictures for ease of Reference). People went to the extent of sitting on the tarmac up to around the dressing rooms, which scared the Algerian players and thus their initial refusal to play the match. (See attached pictures for ease of Reference). That there is no detention center at the Stadium for arrested or suspected criminals. The following Recommendations were also made: 1. A complete engineering re-assessment and structural redesign (including security railings and marked numbers seats) be carried out on the Stadium to ascertain its structural reliability for the safety of Spectators during national and international Matches, since there is no immediate plans for the construction of a new Stadium. 2. The serious security lapses at the Stadium should never happen again because it could’ve resulted to a national disaster. It must also be noted that matches that are considered as high security risk should not be compromised in terms of security. Such situation must not be allowed to happen anymore. 3. All Stadium security duties, during football matches, should be exclusively for the Police and the Republican National Guard, who have limited police powers. 4. The role of the Police officers in the matches must be limited to ensuring security for the people and should not be involved in any other activity, such as ticket sales and aiding people to enter the Stadium. 5. All off duty officers must not be allowed to enter the Stadium without buying valid tickets even if they come with warrant cards. 6. In the future, the National Republican Guard must be involved in Stadium duties but must also be deployed at the outside perimeter fence of the Stadium, whilst the Police Intervention Unit be in the internal cordon and the Police General Duty inside the main ball. 7. That the Stadium security must increase their strength, be trained and used as stewards during national and international matches to ease the burden on the Police serving as stewards. 8. The Stadium security’s role should not only be limited to always opening and closing gates. 9. The EMC be solely responsible for the organisational aspects of national and international matches and can co-opt as they go along rather than having the EMC and OC both acting in the same capacity. 10. There should be absolutely no parking of vehicles inside the front gate of the Stadium. This is important given the fact that it might cause some obstructions during emergency situations. 11. Ticket sellers and cutters must be properly screened to establish that they are of exemplary character, with no obligation to members of the EMC. For the sake of national balance, they could be selected from across the country. 12. All tickets should be of machine readable with back codes to avoid any tampering. 13. The Stadium should be fitted with security surveillance cameras in a bid to help identify potential criminals and criminal activities within and outside the Stadium. 14. The Stadium be equipped with a detention facility in a bid to help process suspected criminals. In receiving the report, the President of the GFF, Mr. Lamin Kaba Bajo, thanked the members for doing an independent and completely what he described as a rigorous task, but necessary. He assured them that all the recommendations would be implemented to the latter. GFF]]>