Saturday, August 3, 2013

The return of Wowo

The return of Justice Wowo (as some might say) to the scene of the crime, has been froth with intrigues characteristic of The Gambia under Yaya Jammeh.  Theories abound about why he would return even to be appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Skepticism led to speculation and wonderment because it was only six months ago that the Hon. Justice was dismissed, arrested, charged and in the custody of the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA).  He was subsequently released.  He returned not to Nigeria but to the United States.  His charge was giving false information to a Public Servant. 

His sudden and unannounced return to Banjul after his unceremonious and humiliating treatment in the hands of Yaya Jammeh fed the rumor and speculation mill.  It so happened that few days before his return, the Hon. Minister of Justice, Lamin Jobarteh and Pa Harry Jammeh, Solicitor General were dismissed and charged with conspiracy to defeat justice, abuse of office, official corruption, destroying evidence and neglect of official duty leading to speculation that Justice Wowo was asked by Jammeh to return and testify against his Justice Minister and Solicitor General.  The two had not been in good terms and may have had a hand in Wowo's initial troubles with Jammeh.  Whatever the case, Wowo was expected to be true to his reputation as a mercenary judge who will do the bidding for the repressive regime that he served well until he fell out of grace.

The announcement by the Office of the President that the Justice was appointed Chief Justice caught many by surprise.  The man who was thought to be the State's principal witness against Jorbateh and Pa Harry Jammeh has become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court thus sending chills down the collective spines of members of both the Bench and the Bar because he got along with neither.  No sooner that he took his Oath of office than a YouTube audio tape of purported voices of Wowo, the ex-Minister of Justice Jorbateh surfaced.  The meeting which took place at the Justice Minister's private residence was purported attended by Justice Wowo when both held their respective posts of Justice Minister and Justice of the Appeals Court. Their conversation was taped and posted in the internet site for the world to hear them demanding bribe in exchange for favorable judgment by Justice Wowo.  

The timing of the release of the tape brought more speculations, and its released caused the immediate termination of the short-lived services of a disgraced Chief Justice.  Yaya Jammeh immediately appointed the Ghanaian-born Justice Mabel Yamoa Agyemeng as the new Chief Justice which drew immediate warnings to Jammeh from the Ghanaian authorities and the general public not to mess with their compatriot.  The concern of the Editor-in-Chief of one of Ghana's leading newspaper is that "The Gambian's President is a crazy guy" with no "scruples" and who will try as much as possible to interfere with the administration of justice."  His parting advise to The Gambia's new Chief Justice Agyemeng is that she will be dealing with a disaster of a President whose human rights record is appalling, and therefore she must be tough. At least, the world has finally taken notice of Yaya Jammeh. 

The YouTube audio tape also drew the immediate attention of the Nigerian Bar Association and the Government of Nigeria.  The audio tape has achieved success where human rights activists have failed despite numerous attempts to draw the attention of the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to their compatriots’ mercenary-like activities on the Gambian Bench.   Both the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Nigerian Bar Association have promised to conduct their own independent investigations into the affair, and to take disciplinary action against Justice Wowo should the charges leveled against him are substantiated. While we welcome this new development, we hope that the Nigerian government will take it a step further by looking into the broader issue of the use of independently-recruited Nigerians by Yaya Jammeh into the judiciary to do his bidding. We can now say with some degree of confidence that we, the dissident Gambian communities across the globe, are finally getting somewhere with both Nigeria and Ghana governments now taking notice of the disastrous human rights abuses perpetrated by Jammeh on Gambians for almost 20 years.