Emmanuel Oluwasegun Fagbenle, Chief Justice of The Gambia and President of the Supreme Court of The Gambia, Tuesday adjourned the Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction (APRC) party petition case to 16th January, 2017 for hearing.
In yesterday’s sitting, Chief Justice Fagbenle informed the court that he has received notices that Nigerian and Sierra Leonean Supreme Court judges are familiar with Gambia’s Supreme Court sittings in only the months of May and November.
He said if the case has to be adjourned, it should be scheduled in the months of May or November unless if ECOWAS intervenes and provides some judges. He said even if there is substitution on the application for services to be effected, the petition could only be heard if the Supreme Court constitutes a panel of five or seven judges as required by law.
Justice Fagbenle made the declaration in his chamber while presiding as a single judge in the APRC’s three election petitions case filed three separate petitioners; namely Bala Garba Juhumpa, the APRC campaign manager; Alhaji Yahya AJJ Jammeh, the APRC party leader and Yankuba Colley, the APRC National Mobiliser challenging the outcome of the December 1st 2016 presidential election results.
When the cases were called in three different suit numbers for mention and for hearing, Saffie Sankareh, the solicitor general and legal secretary announced her representation of the attorney general while Lawyer Edward A Gomez with Lawyer Ibrahim Jallow appeared for the petitioners.
When the court clerk read the particulars of the petitions, the court observed that the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) returning officer and Adama Barrow, who are the respondents, were not present. The clerk however revealed that they were unable to serve the respondents.
The petitioners’ attorney, Edward A Gomez, equally revealed that he was reliably informed by one Mr Gibba, a process server, who swore in the form of an affidavit, that he (Gibba) went to the premises of the IEC but couldn’t find anyone he can deliver the process to. He thus requested for the court’s indulgence for him to file the necessary papers to substitute the service, adding that he would file fresh summons.
In the second petition that was filed by President Jammeh, Lawyer Gomez disclosed that they intended to file an application seeking for an order for substitution of service.
The Chief Justice in his ruling said the sub-regional judges have said that they are not familiar with Gambia’s Supreme Court sitting in January. He said the judges said they are only familiar with the court’s sittings in the months of May and November respectively despite the fact that they were appointed since August 2016 by the Government of The Gambia.
The trial judge said in view of the application by the petitioner to file an application for substitution of service and to ensure services on the other parties, the case is coming up for the first time and there is no proof that services were served on the concerned parties. He said given that he has received notice from Nigeria and Sierra Leone that the judges cannot make it for January session, it is clear that the petition can only be heard before a panel of Supreme Court judges.
He welcomed the ECOWAS mediation process, saying any alternative resolution for the settlement of the dispute is welcome.
The Chief Justice said Ecowas mediation team can assist Gambia to resolve issues even before the court, adding that Gambia is known for peace and has contributed towards peace keeping. “Every contribution is important and every sacrifice is paramount,” the CJ said and urged Gambian elders to never get tired to mediate the issues and resolve it peacefully.
by Lama S Jallow