The Judiciary of The Gambia is reported to have been hit by lack of Judges and Magistrates, a problem that caused the continuous adjournment of several cases including those of people who are still kept in remand at the country’s notorious and ill-maintained Mile 2 Prison. A source indicated that for almost four months, the superior courts have not been sitting regularly and the reasons advance was because the judiciary was in summer vacation. However, since the vacation officially ended at the end of September, there has not been much cases heard at the high court as there are currently only two Judges at the criminal division of the high court, Justice Martin U Okoi and Muhammed Dan Azumi Balarabe.
The problem is aggravated by the decision of two prominent Nigerian Judges not to renew their contracts with government at the end of their terms. Justice Emmanuel Amadi and Justice Joseph Ikpala had since left the country after a farewell ceremony was organized for them on the 6th of October, 2015. The current Chief Justice of The Gambia Emmanuel Fagbenle, again another Nigerian national was quoted to have said in his farewell speech to the former judges that “they would have loved to keep both Amadi and Ikpala, as they upheld the law and were also competent”.
One unhidden fact is that the Gambia judiciary is a typical mockery of principles of justice including fairness and independence. Since the advent of dictator Yaya Jammeh’s government, Gambian judiciary have seen a serious interference by the Executive in the business of the dispensation of justice. The President has enormous unchecked powers to unceremoniously sack even the Chief Justice.
An action seen by many as a means to wield power and ensure every judge or chief justice dances to the tune of the President instead of dispensing justice. The last Chief Justice to serve The Gambia, Pakistani born Ali Chowan in an interview after his return to Pakistan following his disagreement with Gambia government confirmed huge interference of the tyrannical President in the dispensation of Justice, which resulted to him quitting as he “could not work in such an environment”.
FatuRadio has confirmed that many qualified Gambians have refused to take up appointment as Judges due to the lack of job security and the huge interference of the President and his executive in the cases considered “political”.
A similar situation is reported in the Lower Courts which are also currently experiencing lack of Magistrates as many young magistrates have resigned and taken up appointments with private sectors such as Banks and other corporate institutions.
Meanwhile, sources have informed FatuRadio that Chief Justice Fagbenle has travelled out of Gambia in search of Judges and Magistrates. The fear is however, most of the people he will be bringing will be machinery dispenser of justice who are only interested in what they pocket and how long they stay in those positions as a result of satisfying the wishes of Jammeh’s government to use the courts to punish Gambians who are perceived as enemies or threat to the government.