By Ramatoulie Jawo
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Public Petition on Monday, March 27th, 2023, tabled its report on the petition from the Wuli East Animal Protection Association.
The Report was a table by Hon. Suwaibou Touray, the chairperson of the committee.
While presenting the report before the Members of the National Assembly, Hon. Touray said the executive members of the Animal Protection Association, accompanied by members of the Wuli East Development Association, and officials of the Cattle Farmers’ Association among others appeared before the Committee on the 4th of February 2021 and made submissions.
Hon. Touray said the Committee traveled to the Wuli on the 1st of June 2021 and conducted public hearings in Boro Kanda Kasse, Foday Kunda, Maka Masireh, Sare Ngai, and Basse respectively.
“Upon returning to the Assembly building, the Committee heard from other witnesses ranging from police commissioners, a former Governor, the Inspector General of Police, and the Minister of Interior,” He said.
The chairperson stated that the petitioners complained of the serious issue of cattle rustling in the region which the police are failing to prevent or prosecute.
Hon. Touray added that the police usually raised very negative reservations about coming to their aid whenever they are called upon.
He said among things the Police complaint fuel issues, and failure to investigate and prosecute offenders or release accused persons before even prosecuting them.
Hon.Touray said the security of the livestock in the region is seriously hampered by the inactive role of the police in the region.
Hon. Touray said what is more worrying, is that a good number of those rustlers are from Senegal, crossing the borders and the police are inactive.
“As a result, an agreement was signed by associations from the two countries around the region. Since the signing of this agreement, 11 animal rustlers were arrested; 6 in Senegal by the Senegalese securities and 5 by the Gambian securities in the region. Senegal, according to the petitioners, has been very cooperative but securities in the Gambia have been very unsupportive, mainly failing to prosecute arrested individuals and frustrating the community thereof.
“This is reflected in the fact that out of those five arrested in the Gambia, only one is prosecuted. The Minister of Interior was written to who promised to take steps to address the matter by replacing the police commissioners and other officials. However, even though this has been implemented, the problem is even escalating,” he said.
Hon. Touray who is also the NAM for Wuli East said a series of complaints and discussions with the IGP and other police institutions have also been made by the petitioners but to no avail.
“A promise was made by the Minister of Interior to train the community on Community Policing, which is still not forthcoming. It was also revealed by one of the witnesses that the police inaction could seriously lead to violence Several reports were sent to the police to investigate thefts that have been reported, only for personnel on duty to be tasked with the investigation, instead asking the community to take responsibilities in not only securing their livestock but also protection of their lives,” he told the members.
Hon. Touray stated that the petitioners further requested that the release of detained individuals within seventy-two hours be removed because it makes it difficult for a thorough investigation to be done on thefts.
The chairperson said the committee have a hearing with Mr. Amadou Gagigo who was adversely mentioned in the petition.
“A native of Sare Gubu, Wuli East, this witness was adversely mentioned in the petition as well as oral testimonies from all public hearings organized by the Committee on the matters. However, to allow natural justice to prevail, the Committee avails him the opportunity to respond to allegations made against him. He submitted as follows that he is a businessman by trade (buying and reselling livestock, horses, and donkeys). He was licensed by the GLMA to operate both as a butcher and trader.
“However, his license was withdrawn in 2020, after a series of complaints lodged against him. Presently, he operates using the 2018 GLMA license. He denied receiving ransom from any individual to help in the search for lost animals. But when asked to respond to allegations that the Chief of the district offered him ransom to locate his missing animals, Mr. Gagigo confirmed that he indeed once helped the chief to recover his lost animals, found with one Hammeh in Sare-Jami,” he said.
Hon. Touray said Mr. Gagigo informed the Committee of several interceptions he made to rescue animals from rustlers voluntarily.
Hon. Touray said Mr. Gagigo confirmed to the Committee that he will continue to operate in the business, even though his license has been revoked.
Hon. Touray said Mr. Gagigo however, agreed that operating as an animal trader without a license is a violation of the law.
Hon. Touray said Mr. Gagigo insisted that he re-applied for a license but was never granted it.
“He went on to inform the Committee that he slaughtered some goats during the Ramadan of 2021 for business purposes and also a bull some months earlier. It was put to him that both the petitioners and other witnesses who met earlier informed the Committee that he (Mr. Gajigo) has befriended and bribed officers in kind, including the CID officer at Sare Ngai. Mr. Gajigo confirmed that he normally gives a portion of meat he was selling to officers on patrol, but not intended to be an inducement,” he said.
The Chairperson also told the members that they had heard at the Sare Ngai police station.
“As the only Police Station in Wuli, and adversely mentioned in previous testimonies, the Committee visited the station and received testimonies from officers, including the CID officer Mandafa Camara, who was adversely mentioned by the petitioners and other witnesses. The team was received by ASP Ebrima Krubally, the officer in charge of the station.
“They submitted that the most common case reported to the station is animal theft. Once such a case is reported, according to the Officer in charge, the suspects shall then be apprehended, and an investigation mounted on the case for prosecution at the Basse Magistrate Court,” he said.
The committee further recommends That the Basse Police Division and Sare Ngai Police Station institute an effective community policing network that shall involve the Animal Protection Association, Chief, Alkalolus, and other traditional leaders.
Provision of patrol vehicles for the Police Station and the Paramilitary in the area to ensure close tracking of animal rustlers, and effect swift arrests.