The state prosecutor in the criminal trial involving Sirra Wally Ndow-Njai, Gambia’s former Minister of Petroleum and 9 other former senior government officials had demanded for time from the Banjul High Court Vacation Judge to file the bill of indictment in the case.
When the matter came up yesterday, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) S H Barkun informed Justice E O Ottaba that the bill of indictment was not filed before the court because the case file was yet to be forwarded to his office.
He said they have made series of efforts to get the case file but from the information they gathered, they understand that investigations into the matter has just been completed. He therefore applied for an adjournment to enable him file a bill of indictment.
In reaction to DPP’s application, Ida Drammeh, defence counsel for the 1st, 4th and 6th accused persons (Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Edrissa Mass Jobe and Momodou Taal) opposed the application and urged the court to refuse it and discharge her clients.
She revealed that her clients were taken to the Banjul Magistrates’ Court on the 22nd June 2016 as they were previously arrested and detained at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). She said the prosecution filed a charge at the said Magistrates’ Court under Economic Crimes Specified Offences Act and an indefinite order for remand was made.
She said on 12th July 2016, fresh charges were filed again at the same Magistrates’ Court with 5 counts and another order for indefinite remand was made and the charges were later transferred to the High Court.
Counsel Drammeh further queried that even though the 1st accused person is seriously sick; she is left in remand due to that indefinite order of remand. She said for the DPP to say that the bill of indictment has not been filed is a serious thing because the case that is called has a number of counts charged.
Lawyer Drammeh cited Section 9 of the Economic Crimes Act, saying that it cannot be right in any Constitution for a person to be detained and after 3 months the prosecution to come to court at say they are yet to file a bill of indictment.
She submitted that for 3 months not even a single document or evidence was brought in the matter. She consequently asked for the charges to be struck out because the court should be seen to serve justice to both the prosecution and the accused persons.
Lawyer L S Camara, defence counsel for the 2nd, 3rd and 7th accused persons (Momodou OS Badjie, Fafa Sanyang and Seedy Kanyi) said he was not objecting to the application but outlined that the court should draw a timeline for the prosecution to file the bill of indictment now that the investigation is completed. All other defence counsels for the rest of the accused persons has maintained the same position and submission of lawyer L S Camara.
The court however granted the DPP’s application and adjourned the matter to 22nd September 2016 for mention.
Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Momodou OS Badjie, former Managing Director of Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC); Fafa Sanyang, former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum; Edrissa Mass Jobe, a businessman; Muntaga Momodou Sallah, former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum; Momodou Taal; Seedy Kanyi; Noah Touray, former Secretary to Cabinet; Louise Moses Mendy and Cherno Marena, a former Solicitor General and Legal Secretary were arraigned before a Banjul Magistrates’ Court after they were jointly and severally charged with offences ranging from economic crime, conspiracy to commit a felony and neglect of official duties.
The case was later transferred to the High Court where they are now being tried.
by Fatou Sowe