The Nigerian Justices appointed to the Supreme Court made personal decisions to boycott to sitting over President Yahya Jammeh’s election petition and are refused to travel to Banjul.
The boycott came after the independence of the Gambia’s judiciary faced continuous questions and the judges chose their career and reputation over ‘aiding a tyrant to steal the victory.’
The boycott started when Justice Habeeb A.O Abiru rejected his appointment and scheduled a meeting with the other new justices to share his view and urged them to do the same. They included former Chief Justice of The Gambia, Justice Paul Agim.
The Gambia found itself in a political standoff after its demoralized President Yahya Jammeh refused to hand over power. He fled the country to Equatorial Guinea when regional forces were deployed to oust him.
Nigeria’s Chief Justice also wrote to her Gambian colleague to stick to the regularly calendar for the allocation of judges, which would be either in May or November, after Jammeh ignored repeated calls to have the Supreme Court constituted for more than a year.
Jammeh had called Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to help him facilitate the quick arrival of the judges. The recording and broadcasting of the call without Mrs. Sirleaf’s permission sparked anger.
The independence of the Gambia’s judiciary has always been questioned, with Jammeh arresting and firing judges who rule against the state.
At least three judges fled the country ahead of the elections and Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle fled after Jammeh’s unceremonious exit.
President Adama Barrow is said to have selected former Gambian Justice Minister and UN Prosecutor Hassan B. Jallow as the next Chief Justice, a choice that many Gambians are welcoming.
President Barrow and new Attorney General Aboubacarr Tambadou all pledged to work towards judicial independence, stressing its importance to Gambia’s new found democracy.
Although many Gambians have called for the new government not to use foreign judges, Barrow said his government may invite some on technical basis if needed.
Foreign judges under Jammeh were contracted and did his bidding his court. Many Gambians accuse them of being mercenaries for the former regime.