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Silence on happenings in LG Commission of Inquiry no longer an option

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By Mamadi Njie

Remaining silent over the happenings in the Local Government Commission of Inquiry is no more an option any patriotic citizen should consider.

The country has come to a point where all patriotic citizens ought to speak up in order to put duty bearers on their toes.

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To remain quiet and choosing not to speak about the current state of affairs, means being complicit in the ongoing state capture, and this tantamount to the sacrifice of our collective future on the altar of instant gratification.

There is so much mismanagement of the country’s resources under the current local government administration and that we obviously cannot afford the option of remaining silent.

Despite being the most resourced local administration in Gambia’s history, this administration has wasted all the unprecedented revenues that have accrued to them totaling hundreds of millions of Dalasi mainly through profligacy and corruption.

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The revelations coming from the Local Government Commission of Inquiry supposes the local economy continues to wallow in the doldrums, with all economic indicators nose-diving while the Central Government looks on helplessly.

The three functions of an inquiry, to investigate, to educate and to inform, are of benefit to Gambian society. To these benefits should be added the benefits deriving from recommendations for change designed to prevent a recurrence in the future of the errors or faults being investigated. Such recommendations, coming from an independent and impartial source, free from political bias, will not only assist the Gambia government in taking remedial action but will tend to restore public confidence in the local governance process being reviewed.

The Local Government Commission of Inquiry must ensure that the right interventions are put in place, existing rules and regulations are followed and enforced, and negligent leaders are made accountable to their actions and inactions.

Those who have been assigned responsibilities must justify the trust reposed in them; they must prove that they are up to their assigned mandate and removed when they fail.

Is it not time for us to start holding our leaders accountable to their offices? Is it not time for us to hold our President, Ministers, National Assembly Members, Mayors, Council Chairpersons, Municipal/District Chief Executives and other duty-bearers accountable to their offices?

Once the President of the Republic starts relieving duty-bearers of their responsibilities for want of action or negligence, his government shall be making progress.

Astonishing disclosures from the Commission of Inquiry such as the Finance Director of Basse Area Council Mr Lamin Suso depositing over Six Million Dalasi to his personal bank account; Mansakonko Area Council purchasing 655 bags of rice at a cost of Four Million, Twenty-Five Thousand, Seven Hundred and fifty Dalasi (D4,025,750) from supplier Nemasu Enterprise, which means that each bag of rice costs a little over D6,000; Three Million dalasi to dig a borehole; purchase of 500 bags of rice at 13 million Dalasi and the Thirteen Million Dalasi saga and many more shocking discoveries.

No wonder Banjul Mayor Rohey Malick Lowe failed miserably in her bid to have the commission dissolved by the High Court. Mayor’s attempt was to cover the facts being revealed by the ongoing commission of inquiry.

Now the High Court of The Gambia has made a good judgement, giving the Local Government Commission of Inquiry a clean bill of health to carry on its mandate as opposed by the Mayor of Banjul Rohey Malick Lowe.

In a landmark judgment, Justice Francis Achibonga dismissed the Mayor’s claims for lack of merit. “It will be unfair to the commissioners to suggest they are so fickle minded so as to be swayed by mere statements made by the first respondent just because he is the Attorney General. As already stated, I do not see how the press release by the 1st respondent as per Exhibit RML 10 (press release) is prejudicial to the applicant’s right to fair hearing, “declared Justice Achibonga.

He further noted that “by virtue of their previous positions, they are competent to be members of the commission and indeed it is a requirement of the law that at least, one of such person be appointed a member. Section 201 (2) provides as follows:

“Where a commission of inquiry consist of more than two members, at least one commissioner shall be a person who has special qualification or knowledge in the field of the matter under investigation.

“Thus the 2nd and 4th respondent being former mayor and councilor respectively of a city council, they are deemed to have knowledge of the workings of city councils and their inclusion as members of the commission is in my view mandatory as persons with special qualification, at least in respect of the inclusion of one of them but that does not preclude the president from appointing more than one such person with the requisite knowledge in the field of the matter under investigation.

“I am therefore satisfied that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the 2nd and 4th respondents are competent to be appointed as members of the commission and I so hold”, added Justice Achibonga.

Which Commissioners were taken to court?

Samba Faal, a former minister of Youth, Sports and Religious Affairs (2002-2006); former Ambassador of the Gambia in Senegal (2013-2014); Town Clerk (CEO) Banjul City Council (1989-1995) and twice Mayor of Banjul (1995-2002; 2008-2013) is an erudite scholar, a prolific writer, an experienced journalist, and an astute political scientist and governance professional.

The Banjul born completed his primary and secondary education in The Gambia before proceeding to Europe and the United States of America for his tertiary education. He obtained Diploma (honors) in Journalism and Mass Communication at the School of Journalism and TV- Frilsham, Berkshire, UK (1980). Faal obtained BA in Journalism and BA Political Science – honors (1986) at the Roosevelt University, Chicago in the United States of America and MA Political Science – honors (1988) at the same university. He also attended Hesbjerg Peace Research College in Denmark where he studied peace and conflict resolution. Faal was awarded a doctorate degree in Governance for his scholarly works and contributions towards good governance.

Faal is the author of an outstanding thesis on comparative politics and political theory entitled “Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings and the Politics of Populism in Ghana.” He is also author of the following books “At the Crossroad” and “Political World Union 1968-1982 – A Documentary Appraisal” together with Johan MLF Keijser esq. He also authored “I Have Seen” (an autobiography soon to be published). During the 2016 political impasse, he wrote an analytical scholarly work “Constitutional Coup d’etat in The Gambia”.

He also served as the editor of the student newspaper of the Roosevelt University and a contributing writer to many newspapers, in America, Asia and Europe, including the Chicago Defender which is ranked one of the oldest black newspapers in America. He served as editor of major community newspapers in America and journals of international repute. He worked with the Movement for Political World Union in The Hague, the Netherlands as Office Manager and Editor of the organization’s bi-monthly newsletter Political World Union. He represented the organization at numerous confabs around the world.

Faal taught courses in political theory and comparative politics at his alma mater, Roosevelt University. He is currently a lecturer at the University of The Gambia and a consultant on governance.

Faal served as an expert in the formulation and validation of the Local Government Act of 2002, the Finance and Audit Act of 2004, the Financial Manual and Memorandum and the Local Government Service Commission Scheme. He also served as consultant for the Gambia Local Government Authorities (GALGA) through the United Cites and Local Government of Africa (UCLG Africa) and prepared the document “Integration of Gambia Local Authorities in the European Cooperation Programming Process, 2021-2027. He is a founding member of the UCLG and served as member of the Executive Council for Africa. He also served as President of World Conference of Mayors (2001) and founding member and President/Chairman of the Gambia Association of Local Government Authorities.

He was awarded National Insignia of MRG in 2012. Faal has attended several international conferences and has also served as resource person in most of them.

Honourable Alhagie Sillah was born in Banjul and currently serves as a commissioner at the Local Government Commission of Inquiry (LGCI).

Sillah, is a former member of Parliament for 10 years and head of delegation to the ACP EU Parliament from 2012-2017. He also served as Chairman of the parliamentary committee of Youth, Sports and Tourism. He also served as Secretary to the Parliamentary committee on Public Accounts and Public enterprise for 10 years. He also served as a director of planning and development at Banjul City Council.

The 68-year-old is a sportsman who began his football career from primary and secondary school competitions from 1967 to 1972. Coach, as he is fondly called by many people, played in the second division league for Ifangbondi from 1975 to 1977 before his move to Bleasant, in the second division league from 1977 to 1979. Sillah also played for Wallidan Football Club in the first division league from 1979 to 1980. He also played for other zonal and regional leagues.

During his academic career, Coach Sillah attended a Diploma course in High Level Coaching organised by FIFA International Academy at the National Institute for Sports in Lagos, Nigeria in 1985. He also attended the Olympics Solidarity High Level Coaching course in 1990.  He also attended FUTURO Level 3 Coaching course organised by FIFA in 1993. He obtained a CAF B license instructor’s course in Cameroon in 2015. In 2019, he attended the Coach Educators Training Program organised by FIFA in Institute JAMBARR, SENEGAL. He also did an online coach educators course with his mentor, Mr. Sereme in South Africa. He participated in an online coach educator program organised by FIFA with resource persons like Giovanni and team in the month of June 2021.

Sillah pursued a short-term training program in remote sensing of natural resources at the University of South Dakota, also attended a short-term course in Economics at the Land Institute for policy studies and training in Taiwan in 2005. Sillah also attended short-term training courses in Public Finance Management at the Ghana Institute for Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), and England in 2010.

During his coaching career, Sillah was the coach of Roots Football Club in the second division from 1983 to1985 winning the second division league and gaining promotion to the first division from 1985 to 1990. Sillah was also the coach of Real de Banjul (first division) from 1992 to 1996. He moved to Wallidan Football Club (first Division) and was the coach from 1996 to 1998. He was also the coach of Gamtel Football Club (first Division) from 2003 to 2007.

For the national side, Sillah was Deputy National Coach in 1986 and became the Head Coach Senior National Team in 1991. He also served as the Head Coach Under 23 in 1993. He was re-appointed Head Coach Senior National Team in 1994 and 1995. He was later re-appointed the Head Coach Senior National Team 1997 to 1998. He was appointed Head Coach of the Under 20 National Team from 1999 to 2001. He was part of the coaching staff of the Under 17 from 1999 to 2001. He was part of the coaching staff for Zone 2 championship in Mali 2002. In short  Worked as National Coach from the Senior National Team and various categories of the National Team between 1986 and 2001.

On his achievements, Sillah won the second division in 1985 with Roots Football Club and won division one for Real de Banjul for the 1993/94 season. Coach also won the FA Cup with Wallidan 1996/97 and was the supercup winner in 1998. On other achievements, he coached the Banjul city team that won the Regional Champions in 1991, 1992, 1995 and 1996. He also won the Youth Week with Banjul North in 1994.

Sillah was appointed by FIFA to head The Gambia Football Federation as Chairman of the Normalisation Committee 2014 following the suspension of The Gambia Football Federation due to age cheating. His task was to restructure the Federation and organise a presidential election, which was successfully done within the time frame stipulated by FIFA.

Sillah is part of the Team that have been conducting D license coaching courses and other basic courses. He is one of the Resource persons that conducted the CAF C license in the Gambia. Sillah conducted the first ever CAF B License Coaching Course in The Gambia  He is one of the Resource persons that conducted the Coach Educators Training Program at the Technical Training Centre in 2020 in The Gambia.

Oreme E Joiner was born and educated in Banjul before proceeding to the United States of America and the United Kingdom for higher education. Mr. Joiner worked at the Trust Bank Limited up to the time of his retirement as General Manager. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation and Commissioner of the Local Government Commission of Inquiry.

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