By Tabora Bojang
As the sixth legislature holds its maiden sitting yesterday, tension rose between opposition and incumbent lawmakers over nomination of Seedy Njie as chairman of the defense and security committee of the National Assembly.
It came after the Assembly selection committee chaired by the Speaker, Fabakary Tombong Jatta laid its report on the selection of NAMs to serve in the various committees of the National Assembly for the next 5 years.
The committee recommended among others the nomination of Seedy Njie to serve as the chairperson of the defense and security committee mandated to perform legislative oversight on the Gambia’s security apparatuses.
Njie was among the 5 members nominated by President Adama Barrow in the parliament.
However, his nomination to lead the security committee was met with disdain by the opposition, many of whom recommended independent NAM Muhammed Kanteh of Busumbala, a former police superintendent to chair the committee.
UDP Latrikunda NAM, Yahya Sanyang charged that Mr. Njie has no background in security to lead such a complex committee, saying “you cannot appoint somebody who is himself a security threat to the country to serve as the defense committee chairperson.
“Seedy Njie is a security threat; he should not serve as chairman of this important committee,” Sanyang claimed.
Bakau NAM Assan Touray also opposed Mr. Njie’s nomination calling it ‘misplaced.’
Kombo East NAM Abdou Sowe accused the selection committee of ‘bias.’
He said the members slotted themselves into the highly prioritized committees consisting mainly of re-elected NAMs instead of new lawmakers.
“I am advising them [the committee] to get back to the drawing board and consider these selections and ensure the proper people are put into the committees,” Sowe added.
Tallinding NAM Musa Badjie, charged that a defense committee of the legislature should not be manned by persons who are going to be controlled and micromanaged, adding that he does not believe in Seedy’s ability to effectively scrutinize the operations of security institutions under a fragile domestic security.
Kombo South NAM and former Majority Leader, Kebba K Barrow also contested the nomination, saying experience should be considered in selecting persons to lead committees.
Busumbala NAM, Muhammed Kanteh said the selection was not guided by sincerity, rules and regulations of the Standing Orders.
Mr. Kanteh said his 15 years experience as security personnel and knowledge in law has put him in pole position to best serve as chairman of the security and defense committee.
“There are methodologies that guide the selection process including gender, political pluralism and background, so we should be mindful not to do anything that lacks sincerity and flout the very rules that we have put in place as the legislature. How do we hold others to account and do our oversight well if we flout the rules ourselves? If that is not the case, I know there is bias. So I advise the committee to go back and look at the selections and make them in line with the laws they have stipulated,” he added.
However, Nominated NAM, Kebba Lang Fofana said Seedy Njie has served his country with ‘distinction’ and that his lack of background in security cannot be used as a yardstick to determine his capacity and sincerity to serve as the defense committee chairman.
“I believe Seedy Njie has the experience and the expertise to serve as the chairman of the committee as he was in parliament before and that will be better than having someone with a security background but no experience in parliamentary matters,” Fofana submitted.
Alagie Mbow of Upper Saloum, who is re-elected under NRP, said he has no problems with Seedy Njie leading the defense and security committee, adding that the emphasis should be on the composition of the committee and not who heads it.
“The effectiveness of any committee does not rest on the chairperson. It behooves on all members. It is about team work. You must understand the work of the committee before claiming who is fit or not fit to be in the committees,” Mbow stated.
Similar contributions were made by Bundung APRC NAM Sulayman Jammeh and NPP’s Birom Sowe of Niamina West, respectively.
The Speaker told the NAMs to keep the spirit of togetherness, saying “the chairman is among the committee members and he is not above any other member. It is a team effort.”
The report was later considered in a controversial move that angered several opposition NAMs who wanted it to proceed to voting.
The Speaker adjourned the session in a sine die but without debate, which saw exchanges between him and Banjul South NAM Fatoumatta Njai.