By Emmanuel Nkea
Good Morning Gambia
I acknowledge receipt of your response to my First Letter, and more particularly the request by many of you, for me to explain the personal reasons for my resignation from the Judiciary in February, 2014, and whether or not there had been interferences with my work as a Judge. I have heeded to that request and will do so now in the passages that follows.
First, I must quickly state that there have been inaccurate and misleading information published by online media houses against me. I have been the subject of media attacks that sought to question my personal integrity, with specific reference to my tenure on the Gambian Bench. But those who know me well would verify that I would not act in those ways suggested. It is true that in my capacities as Principal Magistrate and Judge of the Special Criminal Court, I handled a surfeit of politically sensitive cases including but not limited to treason, sedition, and Abuse of Office.
There were frequent and numerous politically motivated arrests, and it was highly possible that a person is arrested on purely political grounds, but brought to court on a completely unrelated reason. The search for an offence came after the arrest. But in the dispensation of justice, the Court is limited to the facts before it, and cannot decline jurisdiction only because the initial arrest was predicated on something else.
I affirm that upon appointment to the Gambia Bench, I took the judicial oath of office “…to administer justice according to law, to all manner of people without fear or favor, affection or ill-will…” I had to dispense justice according to law, and not according to my wishes and biases.
I would like to believe that I lived every word of that oath to the best of my ability. I confirm that my job at the Special Criminal Court was a very tough one. It coincided with the crest of political repression in Gambia. The repressive political climate had supplanted objectivity with suspicion. Most criminal processes instituted by the state were understood by many Gambians to have been intended to satisfy the parochial interest of President Jammeh, and to punish his perceived or real opponents. This situation was aggravated by the high levels of judicial indiscretion especially with regards to bail, and the general anti-Nigerian sentiment at the judiciary. As a result, the courts were readily seen as adjuncts to the executive. In the circumstance, many found it difficult to detach the judiciary from the executive.
Faced with the uncertainties of a repressive system, some Gambians made scathing criticisms against me. I believe that many of these criticisms were motivated by a sincere desire to tyranny and to protect the Gambian people from oppression. But I also believe that all too often they reached conclusions based on suspicion; that all too often they trimmed facts and evidence to fit political predispositions. So we must be honest with ourselves. I know that there have been honest disagreements, but we also know that sometimes the disagreements have been dishonest and even derisive.
While it is common that some may have had different judgments, intelligent and honest people would still arrive at the same judgments with me. My judgments were never final. They were opened to review by two superior appellate courts; the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. I do not claim judicial infallibility. But a look at the track record, would confirm that I was not acquiescent to the pressure of executive influence.
I have no apologies whatsoever, because my thoughts, actions and omissions reflected my best judgments at the time. I therefore take personal and full responsibility over all my judicial decisions. I was never influenced in anyway whatsoever and by whomsoever. Perhaps, it is important to note that sometimes we even had open scuffles with very influential security operatives in resistance to the pressure of influence. My resistance to pressure of influence placed me on a collision path with some influential power brokers in the Gambia.
One of such persons was Chief Justice Emmanuel Agim. He was such an erudite legal mind, but he carried with him a cunning administrative demeanor, and a knack for judicial politics. On more than two occasions he sought to give me oral instructions on cases that were pending determination before me. I resisted his instructions to discharge and acquit his long time friend Bun Sanneh, who was convicted, based largely on his own evidence of confession. I again resisted his instructions not to convict some three Nigerians who were standing trial in my Court for the murder of a Briton in Kololi – two of them (Michel Ifunaya and Stanley Agbaeze) were convicted and sentenced to death, while the third was acquitted.
I also refused to implement his instructions to immediately release Sidiq Asemota – a Nigerian court reporter working with the Daily Observer Newspaper at the time. In collusion with the Director of Public Prosecutions, he had falsely published that I had ordered the some convicts to pay fines that were much lesser to the sums of money that they admittedly embezzled from the state. As a result of the above, Chief Justice Agim showed open animosity against me, and enlisted the sympathy and support of the Nigerian legal fraternity in the Gambia to blackmail me into a conflict with the state.
During the trial of Abdoulie Njie and Alieu Lowe – charged with concealment of treason, over the 2006 coup, it emerged even from the court papers that Abdoulie Njie had immediately reported the matter to Captain Serign Modou Njie (Comm. State Guard) once he learned of the coup plot. I drew the attention of the DPP to this in open court and requested him to advice himself. B.S Touray was counsel for both accused persons. Two days later, I received an anonymous letter in a sealed envelope in my office. The letter amongst other things stated that the acquittal of Abdoulie Njie would expose Captain Serign Modou Njie (Comm. State Guard) to the wrath of the President, and threatened me with an unpleasant incident if I did. I understood this to be a conspiracy between the DPP and the NIA operatives. I acquitted Abdoulie Njie.
During the trial of Ortanse Colley, Kasum Sowe, and Demba Baldeh, it emerged that some three senior NIA operatives had tricked these three Gambians take some five Nigerian micro-finance fraudsters on bail. They actually facilitated the escape of these Nigerians, and then turned around and requested these Gambia sureties to estreat the bond. Senior A.A.B Gaye was counsel for these three Gambians. When I issued an order for the appearance of these top NIA operatives in Court, Mr. Yankuba Badjie came to my office to say that I should permit these NIA operatives to swear to affidavits. I insisted to him that I did not see how they will not respect a court order, but that if they did not show up as required, I would proceed to dismiss the case. They did not show up. The case was dismissed!
During the trial of Justice Wowo in 2013, Mr. Yankuba Badjie of the NIA and equally a trusted friend and ally of Chief Justice Agim confronted me and sought to persuade me that the state did not have an interest in the case. He was interested in the acquittal of Justice Wowo. I was repulsively surprised and told him that I do not determine cases based on instructions. He left in anger. On a separate note, Mr. Alhagie Morre (Edrissa Jobe) of the then NDEA also confronted me on the same lines. My reaction was the same. He too left in anger. Obviously I was now stepping on the toes of some influential security officers. There was overt animosity against me from them. I wish to emphasize that I still heard and determined this case, based solely on the facts before the Court. My judgment is there for all to see.
Shortly after the encounters with Messrs Yankuba Bangie and Alhagie Morre, I was a target of a sustained campaign of intimidation and blackmail through the phone and the electronic media. This campaign falsely alleged or insinuated, inter-alia, that I had forged my qualifications as a Practicing Lawyer from the Sierra Leone Law School; that I had a secret meeting with Lawyer Ousainou Darboe to compromise the trial of the Treasurer of the UDP Amadou Sanneh; and that I had assisted accused persons like Benedict Jammeh and Fatou Camara to escape from The Gambia. My brothers and sisters in Europe and the USA also received anonymous calls, and threats. At one instance, my family at home in Cameroon was falsely alerted by anonymous calls that I had been arrested in the Gambia for peddling drugs. I then became apprehensive of the possibility of these people planting drugs in my residence just to get at me. This campaign of calumny was a calculated scheme to enlist official-state contempt against my person. Considering the earlier interventions of Messrs Yankuba Bangie and Alhagie Morre, and knowing how powerful they had become, I developed a deep sense of fear in me, and I thought that the best option was for me to peacefully bow out.
Now, I wish to state for the records that, I am a fully home-grown Cameroonian trained lawyer, duly called to the Cameroon Bar. Cameroon runs a hybrid and rigorous system for entry into legal practice. There are two professional examinations jointly organized by the Bar Association and the Ministry of Justice. An aspirant to the legal profession is required to write the Bar Entry Exams for Pupil Advocates. A successful candidate is admitted as a Pupil Advocate with rights of audience in all courts; albeit under the guidance of the Pupil Master. After a mandatory training period of two years, Pupil Advocates qualify to sit to a Bar Final. The successful candidates are directly enrolled as Advocates and Solicitors of the Supreme Court of Cameroon. I should stress that this is the path I took. I graduated with an LL.B (Law) Degree from the University of Buea, Cameroon in 1997. I sat to the Bar Entry Exams for Pupil Advocates in 1999. I emerged as the national laureate of that session, and went to excel in the Bar Final Exams in 2001.
In 2009 I successfully pursued postgraduate studies and obtained a Master of Arts Degree from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. I have never ever taken any course of study in Sierra Leone. Records at the Personnel Management Office (PMO), the Ministry of Justice, and the Judiciary will confirm these facts. Perhaps I should add that I have never ever visited Sierra Leone.
Even though I had a decent professional relationship with Ousainou Darboe – a reputable lawyer of impeccable character, I never met or had any private discussions with him on the trial of Amadou Sanneh. While I admit that I had a very good relationship with Benedict Jammeh, and equally maintained an excellent relationship with Fatou Camara, I must however underline that, I did not, could not, and do not know, how and when they fled The Gambia.
During the summer vacation of 2013, I was invited by the Chief Justice to sit over cases of prolonged detention at the remand wing of the Central Prison in Mile II, with a view to decongest the prison of detainees who were under prolonged investigations without trial. I executed this task and issued progressive and final reports to the Chief Justice and the Attorney General. I recall that in these reports, I had noted two case files that were reported by the State Counsel to be missing at the level of the police. The cases were adjourned several times but the cases files were not traced. My best action was to strike out these cases for want of diligent prosecution, and issued an order releasing the accused persons from custody.
I am aware that the Office of the President raised concerns about these two case files, and the Police were required to explain. It later came to my knowledge that these case files were actually sent to the Attorney General Chambers by the police. So the Attorney General Chambers now had to explain. The Attorney General invited me over to her office on the issue, where she informed me categorically that, in her reply to State House, she was going to protect the State Counsel. Not having seen the content of the letter from the Office of The President on this issue, and not having also been given the opportunity to make a written representation on the issue, I became apprehensive, and developed the feeling that the reply of the Attorney General to the Office of the President would contain incorrect adverse statements against me. This heightened my fears!
On the 5th of February, 2015, I received words from a trusted confidant at the Office of the President that Chief Justice Mabel Agyemang had been dismissed, and that I was being considered for the position of Chief Justice. My heart dropped. The cruel fight leading to the removal of Chief Justice Agyemang had been orchestrated by the NIA. There was intense judicial politics of calumny. It was often messy. The NIA leadership at the time was under the strong influence of the Nigerian legal fraternity. They wanted their own to be there at all costs. Shortly after that call, I left my office and went home. Soon thereafter, I received another unexpected call from the Attorney General in person. She said she had information that my child was not well and wanted to find out how he was doing.
This was extraordinary as she would not have normally done so. She requested me to meet her in her office the next morning for an urgent important official issue. I accepted. But after serious meditation, I reached the strong conclusion that I had to resign. And I did. My resignation was therefore compelled in part, by my failing health, but more importantly by a systematic and well orchestrated and unchecked plot of intimidation, threats and a campaign of calumny against me by some security officers.
On the 13th of February, 2014, I received a letter from the Judicial Service Commission through the Judicial Secretary – John Belford. He acknowledged receipt and accepted my resignation while thanking me for my valuable services to the Judiciary.
Before I left Gambia, the viber application on my phone had been configured to my GAMCEL simcard number. On the 23 February, 2014, I received a surprise message on viber from the number +2203332296. I did not know the owner of the number. But the person was trying to be friendly, asking me about my plans. It was Chief Justice Agim on viber. I abandoned the conversation. A job opportunity in Swaziland that month was thwarted by a Nigerian female Judge out there. So, on the 5th of June, 2014, my attention was drawn to a publication in the Point Newspaper with the byline “Justice Emmanuel Nkea “Wanted””.
The reporter contacted the judiciary, but the judicial secretary said that was news to him. The reporter also contacted the office of the Inspector General of Police but they could not provide any information. Significantly, no reasons were given why I was said to be wanted. My conclusions were that Messrs Yankuba Bangie, Alhagie Morr and their Nigeria cohorts had deliberate planted that information to undermine my chances of seeking alternative employment elsewhere.
I must sincerely thank God that I am happily resettled into my own private law practice at home.
I will talk to you again soon.
Enjoy the rest of your day.