By Landing Ceesay
Mr. Oreme E. Joiner, one of the Commissioners on the Commission of Inquiry into the Conduct of Local Councils, has told the court that he has never been a member of the ruling National People’s Party (NPP).
In March 2023, Mayor Rohey Malick Lowe of the Banjul City Council (BCC) filed a civil lawsuit at the High Court of the Gambia in Banjul against Attorney General Dawda A. Jallow, Commissioners Samba Faal, Oreme E. Joiner, and Alhagie Sillah.
Mayor Lowe is seeking a declaration from the High Court that the appointment of the three commissioners, who she alleges are members or sympathizers of the ruling NPP and the then ruling APRC, violates her right to a fair hearing.
Under cross-examination by Mayor Lowe’s Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy before Justice Archibonga of the High Court of the Gambia, Mr. Oreme E. Joiner denied ever being a member of the NPP.
Mr. Joiner confirmed that he is one of the Commissioners appointed by the President to look into the activities of all Local Government Councils and connected matters. He also told the court that he had sworn in an affidavit in response to an originating summon filed by Mayor Rohey Malick Lowe.
“In Paragraph 5 of your affidavit in opposition, you said the commission is given the mandate to look into the activities of the councils from 2018 to date,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy asked.
Mr. Oreme E. Joiner responded positive.
“You will agree with me that, that part of your affidavit is incorrect,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy asked.
Mr. Oreme E. Joiner insisted that his statement was correct.
“In fact, Mr. Joiner, the mandate of the Commission is from the period May 2018 to January 2023 not to date,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy told Oreme E. Joiner.
“The letter I got from the Minister stated that the mandate of the Commission is from May 2018 to 2023,” Mr. Joiner said.
Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy served Mr. Oreme E. Joiner with the originating summons and the documents attached to it. Mr. Joiner acknowledged that the documents were related to him, but he denied the contents of the documents.
“Mr. Joiner, it is correct that exhibits RML 7 contains facts relating to you as well as your photographs,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy asked.
“The photograph is mine, but the write-up accompanying the photograph is not true. All these documents are talking about me. But I have a serious disagreement with the statements made there by certain individuals,” Mr. Joiner told the court.
“What are your disagreements,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy asked.
“I am not a member of the NPP Banjul Executive,” Mr. Oreme E. Joiner told the court.
“Mr. Joiner were you at any time a co-opted member of a regional executive committee for the NPP in Banjul,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy asked again.
“Not that I am aware of,” Mr. Oreme E. Joiner responded.
Oreme E. Joiner, denied to been one of the first people to join the NPP after its establishment, confirmed that he knows Baboucarr Gaye, an executive member of the NPP Banjul Committee.
“In January 2021, Mr. Gaye publicly confirmed that you were a member of his party NPP even though you were not a committee at the time,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy told Mr. Joiner.
“I am not a member of the NPP. Mr. Gaye did say so, but is not correct. I have never been a card-carrying member of the NPP, whether National or Regional level,” Mr. Joiner responded.
In his affidavit in opposition, Mr. Joiner described himself as a private gentleman after his retirement.
“When you say you are a private gentleman, did you mean to say that you never held or appointed to any public office since retirement,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy asked.
“I have been appointed to public office,” Mr. Joiner responded.
Mr. Joiner told the court that it is correct he was appointed in 2021 as the Vice Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) by the President, which was later revoked.
“In fact, your appointment was short-lived because of the outcry by the public due to your membership in the NPP,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy told Mr. Joiner.
“I am not aware of the circumstances that made my appointment short-lived,” Mr Joiner told the court.
However, Mr. Joiner told the court he was aware of the public outcry but denied knowing what the outcry was all about.
“And in fact, the outcry was that your appointment violated Section 42 5 C of the Constitution due to your previous membership of the NPP,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy told Mr. Joiner.
“I am not aware of that,” Mr. Joiner responded.
Mr. Joiner further told the court that when his appointment was revoked by the President, he did not make any attempt to ask why it was revoked.
“I am putting it to you that you didn’t because you already knew the truthful outcry by the public, that’s why you didn’t enquire,” Counsel R.Y. Mendy.
“No, I didn’t enquire because that is not my being,” Mr. Joiner responded.
Mr. Joiner testified to the court that he is acquainted with Mr. Ebrima G. Sankareh, the Gambian government’s spokesperson. He stated that he knows Mr. Sankareh as the official voice of the Gambian government.
Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy presented the press release issued by the Gambia government on January 5, 2021, revoking Mr. Joiner’s appointment as IEC Vice Chairman. Mr. Joiner identified the document and read the first paragraph, which stated the reasons for his appointment being revoked by the President.
In the document, Ebrima G. Sankareh stated that “In the wake of emerging evidence that contradicts the appointment of Mr. Oreme Joiner as IEC Deputy Chairperson, His Excellency President Adama Barrow, regrets rescinding Mr. Joiner’s appointment effective immediately.”
“It is correct that such emerging evidence that contradicts your appointment as Deputy Chairperson of IEC was your previous membership of the NPP,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy asked.
“I am not aware of that,” Mr. Oreme Joiner responded.
“I am putting it to you that you are fully aware of that emerging evidence as a member of the NPP,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy put it to Mr. Joiner.
“No, I was not a member of the NPP,” Mr. Joiner insisted again.
Mr. Joiner told the court that subsequent to the revocation of his appointment as Deputy Chairman of the IEC, he was appointed by the President as Chairman, of the Board of Directors of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) which is a public Corporation.
Mr. Joiner further confirmed to the court he is still the Chairman of the Board of Directors at SSHFC.
“Mr. Joiner, where did you sign the affidavit in opposition,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy asked.
“I signed it at Djembe Beach Hotel,” Mr. Oreme E. Joiner responded.
“Djembe Beach Hotel is located in Kololi, is that correct,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy asked again.
Mr. Oreme E. Joiner responded in the positive.
Mr. Joiner told the court that his affidavit in opposition was brought to him by a clerk of court, and he signed in the presence of the said clerk.
“Let’s leave the issue of the affidavit during the address. Because there is no affidavit in opposition before me. The one before me is signed by one Modou Lamin Manneh,” Justice Archibonga told Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy.
“Apart from you and the said clerk who was present,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy asked.
“No one was there,” Mr. Joiner responded.
“I am putting to you the evidence you gave about membership in NPP before this honourable court has been very much untruthful,” Counsel Rachel Y. Mendy told Mr. Joiner.
Justice Archibonga then adjourned the case to the 17th of July 2023 for the adoption of the briefs that would be filed by both parties.