By Omar Bah
Respected Gambian civic society organisation Right 2 Know Coalition-Gambia, has accused the government of being complicit in the controversy surrounding the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairman’s tenure.
Following calls for him to step down after the expiry of his current term early this month, the IEC chairman Alieu Momar Njai told The Standard last week his term will actually end in 2025 instead of 2023 as he himself claimed in August 2020.
In a statement shared with The Standard, R2K said: “It is now crystal clear that the Barrow administration, including the attorney general and minister of justice are also complicit in this gross abuse of office, and are constitutional delinquents, a practice that has now become common and systemic in the Adama Barrow era.
The same acts of impunity and arbitrariness, practiced by Jammeh- hollowing out our institutions, particularly one as sacred as the IEC- is now in full deployment.”
The IEC chairman’s tenure, R2K argued, is over and he should either step down or be shown the door, as prescribed by the constitution.
“He is in fact illegally occupying that seat as chairperson and he cannot preside over the local government elections in his illegal capacity. And if he does, then this will grossly undermine the credibility of the institution of the election regulator and will further create lingering doubts in the minds of the public and the electorate, on the credibility of the process of the April 2023 Local Government Elections currently underway. We implore all stakeholders to resist this imposition by the Barrow administration and by extension Mr Njai himself. It sets a terrible and dangerous precedent, whereby serial violators of the constitution are allowed to continue with their machinations of abuse of office, attendant law breaking, continuous undermining of the culture of sound democratic practice and good governance while sabotaging our fragile institutions. Jammeh did it for decades. And Barrow should not be allowed to continue with this dictatorial and corrupt strategy. It’s bad for democracy and a threat to peace and stability,” the group said.
“We have irrefutable evidence that Mr Njai was first appointed in 2006, as a commissioner. He resigned in 2007, and went into politics, as acting Mayor of KMC. He was reappointed in 2011, and it is unclear whether that appointment was even legal, hence it may have violated section 42 (5) (c) which states that a person shall not be qualify for appointment as a member of the commission if he or she is, or has at any time during such a period of two years been, the holder of any office in any organisation that sponsors, or otherwise supports, or has at any time sponsored or otherwise supported, a candidate for election as a member of the National Assembly or of any local government authority or he or she has identified himself or herself with any such organisation,” R2K added.
The group said in 2007, Mr Njai left that post ‘under a cloud and stood trial for alleged embezzlement of funds amounting to four-million-dalasi, property of Gambia Boy Scouts Association, of which he was the Chief Scout Commissioner.
“It is unclear whether the case was dropped. But true to form, he was reappointed in 2011 and rose to the apex of the Commission as Chairperson on 7 April 2016. However, the tenure system cannot be seen in the number of years alone, but the fact that the tenure system speaks to two terms, which starts from the first appointment in 2006. Had he stayed on, that term would have lapsed in 2013. His second stint at the IEC was a second tenure, which commenced in 2011, and should have lapsed in 2018. We raised the matter at the material time in 2018. We were ignored. However, in August 2020, Mr Njai revealed to the nation that his tenure would now end in 2023. A few days ago, Mr Njai made a proclamation that his term will now apparently end in 2025. It is unclear what sparked this gross miscalculation of dates and numbers,” R2K concluded.