By Awa B. Bah
At the sitting of the second day of the Fifth Ordinary Session of the 2019 Legislative year on Tuesday June 11th, the National Assembly Member for Serrekunda Halifa Sallah, posed a question to the Minister of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs Musa Drammeh, for the names of those ‘Seyfolu’ and ‘Alkalos’ who have been removed from their positions and those who were appointed, since President Adama Barrow assumed office, and to also give the reasons for their removal.
In response to the National Assembly Member’s question, the Minister gave a list of people who were removed but was not able to give a full explanation of the reasons for their removal or retirement. The Minister gave a list of the following people as the ‘Seyfolu’ who were removed from their offices: former Seyfo Mam Demba Jallow of Sami District was replaced by Moro Jawla; former Seyfo Alhagie Sait Gaye of Sabah Sanjal district was replaced by Malick Boye; former Seyfo Ebou Colley of Foni Bondali district was replaced by Omar Colley, who in turn was replaced by Bakary Badjie who inturn was eventually replaced by Ebou Colley; former Seyfo Alhagie Modou Ceesay of Upper Saloum District was replaced by Demba Sey; former Seyfo Alhagie Baboucarr Camara of Jimara District was replaced by Kanimang Sanneh; former Seyfo Alhagie Bassirou Lorry Bah of Sandu District was replaced by Alhagie Junu Bah; former Seyfo Bassirou Jarju of Kombo East District was replaced by Bakary Sanyang and former Seyfo Sheriff Ajai Janneh of Kombo South District, was replaced by Lamin Darboe.
The Minister asserted that the removal and retirement of Chiefs was to uphold public interest and proper public administration.
He further informed members that Mamud Faye, the former Alkalo of Old Yundum was replaced by Burr Jassey, submitting that this was done in the public’s interest and for proper public administration. He said Nuha Kujabi, the Alkalo of Faraba Banta was also replaced by Omar Kujabi. This he said was done in fulfillment of a recommendation by the Faraba Banta Commission of Enquiry.
In a supplementary question, Sallah further asked the minister to indicate who among the people he mentioned was removed as a result of retirement and to inform the Assembly whether there is a statutory retirement age for Chiefs in the country. However the Minister declined to comment on the issue of the retirement of Chiefs because, as he said, he did not understand the question put forward by the Member for Serrekunda. He said those who were retired were Alhagie Sait Gaye of Sabah Sanjal and Ebou Colley of Foni Bondali. While acknowledging that according to Section 130 of the Local Government Act 2002, there is no statutory age limit stated he argued that there is a clause within the Act which provides for retirement salary and benefits for a Chief. This, he said, shall be determined by the Minister.
Halifa put it to the Minister that since there is no statutory retirement age limit for a Chief in The Gambia, the Minister should indicate whether there is a policy governing the retirement of Chiefs in the Gambia.
The Minister in response said in some instances, retirement is a lesser punishment in trying to remove someone from office; that it is a more honorable decision that is extended to some ‘Seyfolu’. He said some of the retirements of the Chiefs tantamount to a dismissal and that it should be noted that this is a formal decision developed at the Ministry.
The Member for Serrekunda further said the Local Government Act must have stated the basis of punishing a Chief and that the Constitution further provided how authorities assess who should be punished. He said that the Minister should explain why Section 200 (1) (b) establishes the provision for a Commission of Enquiry to examine the conduct of any district ‘Seyfo’. This he said will enable the establishment of whether a Seyfo should be removed from office on the basis of Section 136 of the Local Government Act which deals with the issue of the removal of officers by the president and states the grounds that the president should rely on to be able to remove a Chief or Alkalo.
The minister in his response to the issues raised by Deputies said what he understands from the Constitution may constitute a Commission of Enquiry. This he said is not mandatory but based on discussion, adding that at the time of removing these Chiefs, the decision was to rely on Section 136 of the Local Government Act of 2002.
The Minister did promise to go back and make detailed findings.