The criminal trial involving thirty former government officials Monday failed to progress before acting Principal Magistrate Kebba Baldeh at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court.
The case has been set for hearing since the inception of the original charge filed on 13th July, 2016 but could not proceed after the police prosecutor Inspector Sanyang applied for an adjournment on the grounds that the case file has been sent to the Attorney General’s Chamber for fiat and consent to prosecute the case and they are yet to receive the file.
The accused persons are: Abdoulie Jallow, Aussainou Jobarteh, Dr Cherno Omar Barry, Abdoulie KM Jallow, Abdoulie Jallow, Lamin Camara, Lamin Sanneh, Tijan Jeng, Jerreh Sanyang, Malang Jammeh, Momodou Lamin Jammeh, Lamin Sisey, Masaikou M. Marong, John Belford, Yaya Drammeh, Ebrima Sanneh, Sambou Nget, Kebba Faal, Nfamara Dampha, Lamin Mai Touray, Lamin Juwara, Saikou Sidibeh, Siaka Saidyleigh, Momodou C Joof, Alieu Jammeh, Abdoulie M Cham, Morro Krubally, Kantong Jallow, Buba Sanyang and Kebba S. Touray. They were indicted of neglecting their duties as minister, permanent secretaries, deputy permanent secretaries, directors, chief drivers and drivers, of their various government ministries and departments to engage the services of a qualified mechanics/engineers to assess and diagnose the conditions of vehicles under their purview, thus leading to wrong identification of vehicles for auction, between the year 2014 and 2016 in Banjul and diverse places.
They are also accused of abusing their offices by identifying government vehicles for auction knowing that they have no expertise or knowledge to do that leading to their identification of wrong vehicles for auction.
Prosecutor Sanyang appealed to the court for an adjournment of the matter, stating that their intention was not to cause any delay but to proceed with the case.
His application was however opposed by Defence Lawyer E Sanneh for some of the accused persons, arguing that the case was adjourned since 25th September 2016. He said there was unreasonable delay of the case in the last adjourned date.
He submitted that at the last adjournment date, the prosecution had promised to proceed with the matter and now they are asking for an adjournment, saying Section 24 (1)(b) of the Constitution has accorded his clients the right for their matter to be heard at a reasonable time .
Sanneh further submitted that the amended charges were filed on 30th August, 2016 and the original charge was filed on 13th July, 2016. This, he said has been 3 months since his clients have been dragged to court.
Lawyer Sanneh further argued that Section 24 (1) (b) of the Constitution has been violated by the state, saying the accused persons were senior civil servants who have families and hold a high degree of respect in their communities.
The defence lawyer then submitted that in view of the state’s conduct in the case, they are applying for the matter to be stroke out completely if the state fails to proceed with the matter at the next adjourned date.
Y Senghore, defence counsel for the 25th accused person and holding brief for Counsel OMM Njie, said the reason advanced by the prosecution that they were waiting for the consent of the Attorney General was the same reason given at the last adjourned date.
She argued that any further request for an adjournment is not the proper basis for the law and that anything further would be a breach of the accused persons’ constitutional right for fair hearing.
Y Senghore therefore opposed the application for an adjournment, saying if the court has to grant the prosecution’s application it would ask for it to be on condition that if the prosecution fails to proceed on the next adjourned date the matter would be stroke out.
In response, Prosecutor Sanyang said it was because of Section 90 of the Criminal Procedure Code that the prosecution sent the file to the AG Chamber and that they believed they could not proceed without the consent of the AG. He urged the court to grant his application without imposing condition.
In his ruling, the presiding magistrate said he had just inherited the file and urged the prosecution to proceed on the next date.
The case is adjourned to 18th October 2016 at 2pm for hearing.
by Lama S Jallow