Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Word of advice to Gambia's umpteenth Chief Justice

Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle
We refer to Gambia's newly-minted Chief Justice, Emmanuel Fagbenle, as the 'other Emmanuel' because of the notorious Justice Emmanuel Nkea who had to run for his life when he crossed the line of Gambia's absolute ruler, and has since been declared a fugitive from the law.

The two Emmanuels, among other judges - all foreign - belong in a class of 'judges' referred as 'mercenary judges' personally recruited and handsomely remunerated by the Gambian dictator to carry out his instructions from the bench.  

Like the legislature, the judiciary has been subsumed by the Executive, to become a potent instrument of repression.  Judgments are handed down from State House in Banjul or the dictator's village residence of Kanilai.

Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle is not new to the Gambian judicial scene.  He has acted in many capacities in the Justice Ministry and has briefly acted in February 2014 as Chief Justice during the recent judicial games of musical chairs.  At the time, we promised to continue to monitor his professional behavior, as we have of other judges, with a few to naming and shaming them, and as a way of alerting prospective employers.       

The Gambia has had four Chief Justices in three years.  The last before Fagbenle, Pakistan-born Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan resigned and was expelled from The Gambia by the Gambian dictator only last month for freeing, on appeal, a Rear Admiral accused of attempting to overthrow the dictatorship.  When he was appointed Chief Justice to succeed the Ghanaian-born Mabel Agyemang who also had to run for her life, Justice Chowhan was also warned about the treacherous road he was about to travel.  We also advised that he should stay out of local politics when he wrote a letter congratulating the Gambian dictator following the foiled coup d'etat last December which Jammeh mistook as a signal of the Pakistani-born legal luminary that he was willing to play ball.  It didn't take long before he too was expelled for refusal to play ball with a notorious dictator. 

Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle having come up the ranks of a judiciary that is politicized, he knows very well what he's up against.  He got this far because he did was he was told to do as a member of the prosecution team and on the bench.  He is not the first Nigerian Chief Justice.  Justice Wowo, another Nigerian had the dubious honor of being the first Chief Justice to have been sentenced to a prison term.  As far as we can tell, he's still at Mile II prisons serving a 2-year sentence for misuse of office.