4 April 2014

Gambia: Ex-WAAPP Coordinator's Trial Resumes

The criminal trial involving the state against Sheikh Tijan Sosseh, the former coordinator of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Project (WAAPP), on Wednesday resumed at the Special Criminal Court, presided over by Justice Emmanuel Amadi.

When the case was mentioned for hearing, the director of public prosecution (DPP) S H Barkun informed the court that the state counsel M B Agiah, who is handling the matter had informed him (DPP) that he was handicapped and as there was no vehicle to pick him up from his house to the office he could not make it to the court at the slated time for the case.

The DPP applied for the case to be stood down but the lead defense counsel for the accused person stressed that it was out of disrespect to the court that the DPP would come to the court and make an application for a stand down for the court to wait for a counsel, who is in his house waiting for a vehicle to take him to work and that it was better for the case to be adjourned.

At that juncture, the DPP reversed his initial application and applied for an adjournment instead of a stand down, but the presiding judge outlined that he would not grant the application for an adjournment because the case had been dragging since July 2013 and that none of the prosecution witnesses has ever testified in the case. He stressed that it was either the actual prosecutor came to court in 20 minutes or the DPP himself would proceed but he would not adjourn the case.

Justice Amadi maintained that the prosecution must proceed with the case or he would send back the case file to the Chief Justice, because he cannot be part of this kind of proceeding, stating that the state counsel ought to have been in court and even without a vehicle, he should have boarded a taxi to make it to court and not to allow the court's time being wasted.

The presiding judge however stood down the matter for 20 minutes. After the court resumed sitting, state counsel M B Agiah was in court and he informed the court that he was not prepared to proceed with the case, because the witness whom he notified to come to court was at the Justice Ministry in the morning while he (Agiah) was not in the office, adding that the witness was no more available for Wednesday and asked for a date in other for him to bring in a witness.

The judge stated that he was not happy with the way the prosecution is wasting time in prosecuting the case and even threatened that the prosecutor should go to the judiciary accountant and pay an amount of D2000 for wasting the court's time.

At that point, the defence counsel applied for the case to proceed inside chambers on the grounds of code of conduct, but the judge responded that the public needed to know everything that happens in the case, as it is not a hide and seek game by any party. He however adjourned the case to the 19th May 2014 for hearing, but frankly expressed total dissatisfaction over how the case is being handled.

It would be recalled that the accused person was charged with criminal offences; ranging from omitting or failure to fully apply the Euro 5.3M agricultural grant from the World Bank, an omission which is detrimental to the Gambian economy and the welfare of the people of The Gambia, contrary to Section 5(f) of the Economic Crimes (specified offences) Act cap 13:07, Volume 3 Laws of The Gambia.

On count two, the accused is charged with neglect of official duties contrary to Section 113 of the Criminal Code, Cap 10;01 Volume 3, Laws of The Gambia. While on count three, the accused is charged with intentionally or recklessly causing loss to a public body, contrary to Section 5 (b) of the Economic Crime (specified offence) Act cap 13;07, volume 3, Laws of The Gambia.

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