By Buba Gagigo
President Adama Barrow says the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) didn’t follow the due process in the suspension of KMC CEO Sainabou Martin and colleagues.
“We wanted to do this a long time ago (set up a commission) but we are tolerant and democratic, and we respect the law. If you remember, there was a problem at KMC, and the head of the council made allegations of corruption against a group of individuals. He said the corruption issue should be addressed and said a lot of other things. They held a council meeting and came up with a resolution to suspend the people accused of corruption. But is that the right procedure? You just pick on one person and sack the person? If that is the right procedure or way of doing things, I would have sacked a lot of people by now. But that’s not the right way,” President Adama Barrow said during an interview with Star TV.
The president went on to say that the Ministry of Local Government and Lands caution the head of the council (Mayor Bensouda), that he doesn’t have the power to suspend the employees he suspended and asked him to allow them to return to work and let the Local Government Service Commission that is entrusted with the power to appoint and dismiss those employees do their work.
“He said he will not do it. He knew the government will step in and exercise its power to reinstate the suspended employees, so he went to court to block the lady from resuming work. We accepted the court’s order blocking the resumption of the lady to work. But, since he alleged corruption took place, we decided to set up a Ministerial Commission to look into the allegations. When we set up the ministerial commission, they went to court and blocked it as well, reducing the powers of the ministerial commissions along the way using the law,” the president said.
President Barrow said that it was at this juncture that he sought advice from the Ministry of Justice to look into what avenues the law may avail them to use in this case;
“For over two years, the lady did not work. We challenged them in court and the court said they cannot decide whether the lady can work and that the court cannot force the council to do the remedy we sought of it. That was the judgment rendered. People were saying then that president Barrow should reinstate the lady back to work. But we always follow the law. I sought advice, and the minister of Justice told me the judgment did further say you cannot reinstate the lady, and it is the service commission that can write and tell them to reinstate her. We can use state machinery, but it has no use for us, we see to it that we are not fighting with them because all of us are working for the same Gambia. I don’t even know the lady, I don’t have any personal relationship with her, she doesn’t know me and I have never seen her. I only saw her during this problem,” he said.
President Barrow lamented that when the Service Commission wrote to the Deputy CEO at KMC to ask them to reinstate the suspended employees, they used a delaying tactic by asking the service commission to write to the Mayor instead;
“To delay the issue, they wrote back and said the service commission should have written to the mayor instead of the deputy CEO. The Service Commission told him, you (deputy CEO) are the right person to write to because you are the highest administrative authority in the municipality, not Talib. At this point, we knew it was time for the government to step in. We went to the premise, opened the office door, and got the lady in.
“They voted on a new resolution that they will not work with the lady and won’t give her files. We still have that lingering problem. We wrote to him to ask them to give her access to the files, but still, the files are not going to her. They refused to give her access to the files. They told him (Deputy CEO) to make ways to reinstate the lady, but they refused to give her office. Using power is not good, if it is power alone, I am more powerful than anyone in this country right now and that is by the grace of God. The constitution gave that power to me, but I don’t like abusing power and everyone knows that about me,” he said.
He said that was part of the reasons for setting up a presidential commission with high court powers to look into the conduct of all area councils in the country.
“The lady is at KMC now, but we decided that to get to the bottom of these issues, we will set up a presidential commission that has high court powers. All of them will answer to that commission, including the lady, to clear themselves. The commission is not set up just for KMC, It is not pre-planned to target Kanifing, but instead will look into the conduct of all councils around the country. We are all talking about the issue of corruption, and we want to fight corruption, and even my opposition rivals said they are fighting corruption, they even staged a protest last week against corruption. I am confident with a commission set up to look into issues of corruption, we can all support that.” the president stated.