22 youths, 12 of whom are Gambians and 10 non nationals, were on Monday arraigned before the presiding magistrate, Mr Kijera of the Bundung Magistrates' Court. The 22 youths were charged on two counts: Nuisance and unlawful entry or residence in The Gambia.
The accused were Abdoulie Jatta, Lamin Fadera, Abdou Manka, Buba Darboe, Momodou Bah, Alagie Ousman Drammeh, Momodou Saidou Barry, Yankuba Trawally, Modou Ndom, Ndogal Sowe, Abdoulie Camara, Ebrima Manjang, Moses Uchewuako, Emmanuel Arhyel, Simon Agbu, Sulayman Jallow, Mamadou Essa Sey, Ebrima Jallow, Amadou Jallow, Bubacarr Isa, Mamadou Salieu Jallow and Amadou Bah.
The statement of offence states: common nuisance contrary to section 160 of the Criminal Code cap 10; Vol III Laws of the Gambia 2009. The 10 non-Gambians were charged mainly on count two which is entry or residing unlawfully in the country contrary to section 12 of the Immigration Act.
The particulars of offence for that is: You did on the 21st day of November, 2012 at Bakoteh dumping site and diverse places in the Kanifing Municipality, Republic of the Gambia, loiter and conduct yourselves in manners that caused inconvenience to the public and thereby committed an offence.
The particulars of offence on count two states: Moses Uchewuako, Emmanuel Arhyel, Simon Agbu Sulayman Jallow, Amadou Jallow Babucarr Isa, Mamadou Salieu Jallow and Amadou Bah on the 21st day of November, 2012, at Bakoteh dump site and diverse places in the Kanifing Municipality, Republic of the Gambia, you were found to be residing in the Republic of the Gambia without being in possession of any document to ascertain your lawful entry and residing here in the Gambia; after knowing or having reasons to know that your residing in the Gambia must be made known to the Government of the Gambia through the Gambia Immigration Department of which you failed to do and thereby committed an offence.
All the Accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The prosecution called their first witness, Mr Alieu Sowe who told the court that he is lives at Ebo Town; that he is a chief inspector attached to Manjai Police Station.
Cadet ASP Buba Bah representing the Inspector General of Police asked the witness if he recognised the accused persons in the dock; the witness replied in positive. The Prosecutor asked if he could recall on the 21 day of November and the witness Alieu Sowe said yes.
The prosecutor Cadet Babu Bah asked him to tell the court what happened on that day and the witness explained that it happened on 19th of November when he received information from a member of Staff Corporal Malick Jobe who resides in Manjai Kunda and also not far from the Kotu Quarry who he said told him that the neighbours of Manjai complained to him that some people are disturbing them at the Quarry. After receiving this information he said they conducted an investigation and some stolen materials were found at the quarry. He said irrespective of those stolen items, one of the accused persons was arrested and charged.
The presiding magistrate, Mr Kijera asked the witness for the name of that accused person; the witness mentioned Momodou Salieu Jallow the 22nd accused person. The witness continued to inform the court that among the accused, three were already in the wanted list of the police who were also arrested on the following day. "I informed my colleague O/C Mbye of the Serrekunda Police Station for reinforcement and means of transportation and after that Wednesday 21 November, two trucks were given. I myself led officers to the quarry and the rest were arrested", said the witness.
The prosecutor, Cadet Buba Bah asked the witness what the accused persons were doing when they arrested them.
Witness Alieu Sowe said they found them somewhere picking old metals (Ferai) while some were lying down relaxing and others loitering.
The court asked whether the accused spent the night at the place they were arrested. The witness said some non-Gambians would stay there till late at night but the Gambians would come and go back in the evening.
"After the arrest we informed the Immigration Department who checked the non-Gambians to ensure they have their documents. The Gambians were taken to Manjai and non-Gambians were taken to Kotu Police Station", said Mr. Alieu Sowe, the 1st Prosecution witness.
The prosecutor asked whether any of the accused who are non Gambians have a document to prove their stay in the Gambia; but the witness said no.
The first accused Abdoulie Jatta was asked if he had any question for the witness and he asked the witness why he was arrested.
The witness said he arrested him because where they found them, is not a working place and they did not give them convincing reason for their being there.
Abdoulie Jatta told the witness that he only went there to pick scrap metals and to sell them; that he was not disturbing anyone; but the witness said he wouldn't know. He further informed the witness that he has been doing this job for some time and that nobody ever told him that he was disturbing them. The witness maintained that his staff told him that the residents in Manjai complained to him.
The Magistrate asked whether it is the residents who complained or just one person, "because one person cannot complain if you are talking of nuisance."
The witness said he was told that these people burn tyres and the noise is hazardous to the residents; that they make too much noise too.
The first defendant Abdoulie Jatta put it to the witness that they did not do any burning; that it is the KMC officers who did the burning; that all they do is only to pick the scrap metals and that was all.
The second accused Lamin Fadera asked the witness that when they came to arrest them what did they find them doing? The witness said they were picking scrap metals.
Lamin Fadera the second accused put it to the witness that when they arrested them they took them and packed them in cells for seven days without telling them what they had allegedly committed; the witness acknowledged and said "Yes, you were cautioned, charged and detained."
The second accused Fadera put it to him that: "You yourself told us that we are not criminals, that we are detained because there was break in that happened at one Bank around Africell, so that was why we were arrested. We only came to know the charges when we came here in court, insisted Fadera." The witness maintained 'No' for an answer.
"I want you to tell me or show me if there is any notice displayed at the quarry that said nobody should enter and pick metals", put in the 2nd accused.
"I am a resident of Manjai Kunda. I was born there until now. My compound was just opposite the quarry, everyday I go in and out at anytime I like nobody ever said that is against the law", he further said. The witness simply said yes, I would not know that.
The second accused put it to him that the KMC workers come and burn tyres to clear the area; that they who are living there should be the ones to complain against that as they are the ones being disturbed, insisted Fadera.
The third accused Abdou Manka asked why they were just put in cell without telling them anything and that the cell is even small for two people but they decided to just pack all the 19 people in one cell, noting that his foot is still hurting.
The magistrate interjected and reminded the accused persons accused could only ask questions; that the time will come when he can narrate their side of the story or he can sue the police for unlawful detention and the 3rd accused said that was all for him.
The fourth accused Buba Darboe put it to the witness that it is the KMC workers who burn the garbage they drop at the location but the witness insisted that it's the accused themselves who burn the rubbish so that they would have the metals.
The fifth accused Mamadou Bah asked the witness whether he found him at the quarry or on the street or at his workshop? The witness said the arrests were conducted at the quarry, so all those who are arrested were found there.
The fifth accused Mamadou Bah said the quarry has four gates and he was going out, he met with him and told him that he was sent but the witness said he must join those arrested. He asked the witness if he could call any witness to prove that he was found at the quarry. The witness said, "Yes, the police officers who were there during the arrests." The fifth accused added that he also has a witness who can prove to this court that he was working there.
The accused went further and asked why they were denied bail but the witness explained that: "When you were arrested I did all I could do and handed over the matter to my seniors. I myself tried so that you can be bailed but above that I have nothing to answer."
At this junction the prosecutor applied for an adjournment and the case was adjourned till 12 December 2012.
All the accused persons were granted bail but 8 of them were unable to fulfil the condition of bail.