Gambia: Judge Reaffirms IEC’s Decision On Sabally
Justice Francis Achibonga of the Banjul High Court on Friday held that the Independent Electoral Commission(IEC) was right in rejecting Momodou Sabally’s nomination as a candidate for the April 2022 National Assembly elections.
Momodou Sabally, a former Secretary General and Head of Civil Service in The Gambia was alledged by the Janneh Commission for aiding and abetting former President Yahya Jammeh in his financial transactions.
Sabally is the aspirant for the United Democratic Party for Busumbala Constituency. His nomination for the seat was rejected by the returning officer for Brikama Administrative area. The decision of the returning officer was upheld by the Electoral Commission when Sabally appealed.
The ex-SG resorted to court for a redress with the claim that the decision was wrong. He submitted that the returning officer misapplied section 90 subsection 1 (e) of the Constitution, which was the base for his rejection. He asked the high court to give an order directing the IEC to accept his nomination.
In his ruling, Justice Achibonga dismissed Sabally’s application as he labelle ‘without merit.’
The judge took time to explain the grounds set out in section 90 of the Constitution. He said a person is not qualified to contest as a candidate for the National Assembly elections if a Commission of Inquiry finds the person to have acquired assets unlawfully, defrauded the State, misused his or her office, abused his or her office, or willfully acted in a way prejudicial to the public interest.
The judge said there was a Commission of Inquiry set up under law to investigate the financial dealings and connected matters of former President Yahya Jammeh and his close associates. He said the Commission did its work and came up with its findings and recommendations. He added the Report of the Commission containing the findings and recommendations were submitted to the President and published in line with the requirement of the law. He pointed out that specific findings were made against Momodou Sabally.
The judge brought up two transactions in which Sabally made cash withdrawals of over one million dollars from the National Youth Development Fund and International Gateway Account. He said cash of that magnitude is an asset to the State. He opined such act was detrimental to the State and it was a conduct prejudicial to the public interest.
The judge said the returning officer rightly relied on this provision of the Constitution in rejecting Sabally’s nomination.
He dismissed Sabally’s arguments, saying there were findings made against him by the Commission of Inquiry. He said the Commission of Inquiry recommended Sabally to be banned from holding public office and holding office of director for any State Owned Enterprise.
Justice Achibonga held that Sabally is incompetent to contest for the National Assembly seat since he has been banned from public office for 10 years.
The judge held that the electoral body acted within its powers in rejecting Sabally’s nomination.