Gambia’s Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle said the West African nation’s Supreme Court will reconvene by January 10, after more than a year of its last sitting to hear a petition filed by the country’s defeated President Yahya Jammeh asking for fresh polls, whiles refuting reports that no justices have been appointed to the court.
The announcement came few days after members of the Gambia Bar Association demanded Mr. Fagbenele, a Nigerian, to resign from his post due to misconduct and abuse of office.
The bar association and the Gambia’s incoming government said there was no Supreme Court after the firing of two other justices from the court by Mr. Jammeh. Jammeh had refused to constitute the court and ignored repeated requests from law practitioners to appoint new judges.
But Fagbenele now says the panel of judges had been appointed since July from Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
“…it would be against the principles of natural justice for the outgoing President to appoint Supreme Court Judges to hear a Petition filed by him or on his behalf. That would be tantamount to one being a Judge in his own cause considering that the outgoing President has already pre-empted the outcome of Court process by declaring the election result as a nullity,” said Sheriff Tambadou, President of the Gambia Bar Association.
Jammeh has filed his petition challenging the outcome of the polls after the 10 days allowed by the constitution.
In September, President Yahya Jammeh appointed six new judges to special criminal courts across the country. The justices were to serve in anti-narcotics, children, consumer protection, industrial tribunal, rent tribunal and cadi courts in Brikama, Banjul, Kanifing, Bundung, and Sibanor.
In October, he sworn in four justices to the Appeals Court: Oluremi Ademola Adegoke, Orifowomo Akinwale Odunwale, Abiodun Jacob Dada and Amina Saho-Ceesay.
The Gambia’s electoral chief Alieu Njai insists that the results are correct and would not change. Armed soldiers continue to occupy the electoral commission’s office and the UN warned them to vacate and not to tamper with sensitive electoral materials.
Njie said he can proof every vote cast. Ballot boxes remain sealed at the electoral commission office for 30 days after elections for a recount if requested.
The Gambia’s Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle was seen supporting Mr. Jammeh during the campaign and distributing campaign materials for the outgoing president. Members of the bar association are holding him liable for interfering with the work of judges and forcing them to dismiss cases that are against the state.
President Yahya Jammeh lost the country’s December 1 polls to a political novice and businessman Adama Barrow. Jammeh initially conceded defeat on state television after 22 years in power, but a week later, reversed his position, denouncing the election results and demanding a new vote.
Barrow, 51, is backed by a group of seven opposition parties and rose to become the opposition presidential hopeful after the mass arrest and jailing of the members of The Gambia’s largest opposition UDP party, including its leader Ousainou Darboe.
Last week, ECOWAS said Jammeh must step down when his term runs out and vowed “to take all necessary action to enforce the results” of the poll, without spelling out what those measures might be. The sub-regional bloc is being supported by the international community, including the UN Security Council.
(Reporting and Writing by Sainey MK Mareneh; Additional Reporting from Aljazeera; Contribution and Editing by Sam Phatey)