The vacation judge at the High Court in Banjul has turned down the second bail application filed by Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Gambia’s former Minister of Petroleum, who is battling a single count charge of economic crime alongside others on the grounds of lack of merit, substance and flat abuse of court process.
Justice Ogar Edward Eneji’s decision was contained in a ruling he delivered on the bail application which Sira Wally filed through her defence counsel Ida Drammeh assisted by Marry Samba, urging the court to grant bail to the applicant on grounds of her ill-health, long detention and abuse of her constitutional right to presumption on innocence until proven guilty.
Delivering the ruling, the judge said the applicant filed an originating summons dated 1st August 2016 and it was served on the respondent state counsel who, he said had also replied to the application opposing bail as applied by the applicant.
The vacation judge said the applicant made reference to various sections of the constitution and decided cases such as Section 19 and 24 of The Gambian Constitution, Section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code and Section 8 of the Economic Crimes (Specified Offences Act).
The applicant cited ill-health and urgency of the case and applied for the matter to be treated during the summer vacation. The application also cited lack of any substantive charge against the accused person at the High Court as the accused was charged at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court, which was later transferred to the High Court.
The applicant urged the court to grant bail to the accused person pending trial as she has been in custody for long, saying that is contrary to her right to liberty.
The respondent state counsel however objected for the accused to be granted bail saying once she is granted bail, she is likely to interfere with the case as she is aware of the nature and seriousness of the charge against her. The respondent also maintained that investigations are still on going and the accused may jump bail if granted to her.
Justice Ogar said granting bail is at the discretion of the court and it is left to the applicant to give substantive evidence on why bail should be granted failure of which the court cannot grant it.
The judge said the applicant’s current application and the previous one dismissed by justice Otaba are the same with no difference that should warrant the court to grant bail to the accused person.
According to him, the only difference in the first and second application is the number of paragraphs but there is no change of circumstances to show that the accused should be granted bail.
He said that there is only one High Court of The Gambia despite the fact that the court sits at diverse places in the country. He said the High Court lacks the jurisdiction to review its own decision and it cannot also sit on its own appeal cases.
He said the only alternative for the applicant is to either appeal against the decision of the High Court or apply for judicial review of the decision but duplication and repetition of the same application before the same court is an abuse of the court process and waste of time.
The judge then gave an order for the prison officers to give adequate medical treatment to the accused person while in custody at the Mile 2 Central Prison. He also ordered that the prison officers keep the accused in a well ventilated cell to enhance her health status and she must be taken for regular medical check up at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital.
by Sanna Jawara