By Mamadou Dem
The Chief Justice of The Gambia, Emmanuel O Fagbenle, on Wednesday, 21 December, 2016 in his chambers presided over a petition filed by the ruling party, Alliance for Patriotic Re-Orientation and Construction (APRC) against the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
The petition is challenging the outcome of the December 2 Presidential Elections which declared the opposition coalition as the winner.
When the case was called for mention, Barrister Edward Gomez announced his representation for the petitioner Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction (APRC) while Saffie Sankareh, Solicitor General and Legal Secretary and K- Tah Kimbeng appeared for the 2nd respondent (Attorney General). However, the 1st respondent, Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) weren’t in court.
The clerk of the court confirmed to the Chief Justice that the IEC weren’t served with the petition. Consequently, the Chief Justice ordered for the IEC to be served without objection from both parties and subsequently, the matter was adjourned till 10 January, 2016 for further mention and hearing respectively.
The remarks of the President of the Gambia Bar Association that there are only two supreme court judges while the court requires five judges to preside over the petition generated much discussion on the matter by the public. The Chief Justice had something to say about it.
According to Justice Fagbenle, the Judiciary had appointed judges from Nigeria and Sierra Leone respectively since July 2016 and they are now waiting for the Judicial Service Commissions (JSC) of the said countries to release them to The Gambian Judiciary; adding that it was already time for Presidential elections in The Gambia that’s why they couldn’t bring the judges but they’ve already notified them to come. As a single judge, “I can sit over interlocutory matters,” said Justice Fagbenle.
Justice Fagbenle further said that the judicial system of The Gambia has a structure and for the past years they’ve been securing judges from the sub-region, namely Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan amongst others. He said Ghana one time intimated to the Gambian judiciary that they can’t release judges to The Gambia due to “shortage of personnel.”
Regarding subsequent proceedings he said that after all parties have filed their briefs of argument the matter would be further mentioned again.