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High Court Dismisses Sabally’s Case

IEC chairman, Momodou Sabally, and AG & Minister of Justice

By Buba Gagigo

High Court Judge, Justice Francis Achibonga dismissed Momodou Sabally’s case against the Independent Electoral Commission and the Attorney General  & Minister of Justice.

Delivering the judgement on Friday, Justice Achibonga ruled that the application lacked ‘merit’. 

Sabally’s application was a challenge against the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) decision for rejecting his nominations.

On behalf of the commission on 10th March 2022, the Returning Officer for Brikama Administrative Area rejected Sabally’s nomination based on Section 90(1)(e) of the 1997 Constitution, and Sabally asked the court to set aside the decision and give an order directing the IEC to accept his nomination.

The Judge cited the basis of Sabally’s rejection by the commission, and dismissed Sabally’s argument that both the Returning Officer and the IEC misapplied Section 90 (1) (e).

He further explained that the grounds set out in section 90 of the Constitution are that 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, misuse or abuse his or her office, or willfully acted in a way prejudicial to the public interest. 

Justice Achibonga continued that the Returning Officer rightly relied on the said provision of the Constitution in rejecting Sabally’s nomination. 

He added that 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 closed associates; which did its work and came up with its findings and recommendations submitted to the President and published in line with the requirement of the law with specific findings against Momodou Sabally.

The Judge pointed out two transactions in which Sabally made cash withdrawal of over one million Dollar from the National Youth Development Fund and International Gateway Account. 

He said a cash of that magnitude is an asset to the State and such an act was detrimental to the State and it was a conduct prejudicial to the public interest.

Achibonga said there were findings made against Sabally by the Commission of Inquiry, which recommended for him to be banned from holding public office or become a Director of any State Owned Enterprise.  

The Judge held that the Commission acted within its powers in rejecting Sabally’s nomination.

He said section 39 subsection 2 of the Elections Act stipulates that each nominee for the National Assembly elections must satisfy the requirements of sections 89 and 90 of the Constitution.

Justice Achibonga held that Sabally is not qualified to contest for the National Assembly seat since he has been banned from public office for ten years.

Meanwhile, after losing the case, Sabally issued a statement and vowed to continue to ‘fight the injustice and targeted discrimination against’ him.

“The judge has decided and that is his decision.

“My fight for justice continues unabated!

“I will continue to fight the injustice and targeted discrimination against me by all legal means necessary.

“As far as that war is concerned, it has not even started yet. And I know that eventually I will win, Inshaa Allah.

“Thanking my family and supporters across the political divide for the overwhelming show of solidarity and support.

“I am bolder today than ever; what Martin Luther King Jr. said is solid truth: ‘We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice’.

“It shall be well Inshaa Allah (God willing). We rely on Allah who has taught us thus: But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you (Surah Baqarah, 216),” he said in a statement after the ruling.

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