By Binta A Bah
The high court in Banjul on Friday ruled that the Independent Electoral Commission was right to dismiss the nomination papers of Momodou Sabally, the UDP aspirant for the Busumbala constituency seat in the 9th April National Assembly elections.
Although the court dismissed his appeal, it denied the commission’s request for him to pay legal costs.
Sabally went to the court and asked it to quash the decision of the electoral commission in rejecting his nomination and also prayed to the court to compel the commission to accept his nomination papers.
The IEC said it rejected Mr Sabally’s papers on the grounds that a commission of inquiry made adverse findings against him and asked for him to be banned from holding public office, which recommendation the government accepted in the subsequently released white paper.
In a 40-minute ruling, Justice FA Achibonga stated that he agreed with the decision of the IEC in rejecting Sabally’s nomination and that it was in accordance with the law.
He said the court was satisfied that Sabally is “incompetent” to hold public office after a specific finding against him by a commission of inquiry which banned him from holding public office by reason of defrauding the state.
“The court held that the commission of inquiry did not only make address of findings against the applicant as to make him incompetent to hold public office, the commission actually banned him from being appointed as a director in any state-owned enterprise in The Gambia,” he ruled, adding that there is no evidence to show that the findings of the inquiry against Sabally have been set aside.
“The application [therefore] lacks merits and is therefore dismissed,” he said.
After the ruling was delivered, the IEC lawyer Fatou Jawo, informed the court that the electoral commission was asking for a cost from Sabally.
This was challenged by Sabally’s lawyer Abdoulie Fatty who contended that his client was simply exercising his constitutional rights and awarding cost in this case will stop others from filing such applications.
“This application is not malicious by any means. Any aspiring candidate whose candidature has been rejected by the IEC should have the full confidence to file applications before the courts,” he said.
The judge agreed and said “to award cost in this nature will only discourage the public to be full participants in the democratic process”.