The action of the Nigerian chief justice influenced the decision of the Gambian Supreme Court not to entertain the suit by President Yahya Jammeh seeking go
annul the result of an election he lost, PREMIUM TIMES has found.
The Gambian Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned the hearing of the petition filed by country’s ruling party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, and Mr. Jammeh, challenging the election results.
The major reason given by the Supreme Court was that it could not constitute the constitutionally required quorum.
When the case came up for hearing on Tuesday, the court, which required five judges before it can adjudicate on matters brought before it, had only one judge – the country’s Chief Judge, Emmanuel Fagbenle, a Nigerian.
Mr. Fagbenle said Tuesday’s sitting was for “housekeeping purposes.”
He announced that the court could not constitute the required quorum to hear the petition because Nigeria and Sierra Leone have declined the Gambian request to send judges to adjudicate on the petition.
The Gambia relies on judges and other judicial officials from other West African countries to help fill its draught of top officials in its judiciary.
Mr. Fagbenle said the country has made a request for judges from Nigeria and Sierra Leone since last August, but the countries’ judicial authorities said they could not send judges outside the usual May and November judicial sessions as they did not anticipate the reschedule January session.
PREMIUM TIMES investigation in Nigeria confirmed that the office of the Chief Justice did receive the Gambian request last year.
However, it was a reply sent last Thursday by Nigeria’s Acting Chief Justice, Walter Onnoghen, that virtually ruled out any possibility of forming a quorum in the Gambian Supreme Court before the expected January 19 handing over date.
“You will recall that justices are usually scheduled to sit in your Supreme Court in the month of May and November,” the letter dated January 5, 2017 by Mr. Onnoghen to Mr. Fagbenle reads.
“Based on the long established understanding our court sitting schedule is usually drawn up with the consideration of this assignment. In view of the above, I regret to inform you that the reschedule dates for the sitting session of your Supreme Court is unfavourable to us as it will greatly affect our schedule and case management. I therefore urge you to adhere to the earlier schedule of May and November each year to avoid inconveniences to both judiciaries. “ Mr Onnoghen added in the letter seen by PREMIUM TIMES.