Buhari, Mahama, others to mediate in Gambia poll crisis


President Muhammadu Buhari will be among West African leaders that will travel to Gambia on Tuesday (today) to prevail on President Yahya Jammeh to accept defeat in the presidential election and ensure peaceful transition of power to the President-elect, Adama Barrow.

The Sierra Leonean President, Ernest Koroma, John Mahama of Ghana, who also recently lost in the presidential election and the Chairman, Economic Community of West African States, are part of the delegation that will be led to Gambia by the Liberian President, Ellen Sirleaf.

The show of unity by regional leaders came as diplomats said the United Nations Security Council would meet behind closed doors later to discuss Jammeh’s refusal to hand over power, Reuters reports.

“Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will travel to Gambia on Tuesday (today) as part of a high-level delegation trying to get Yahya Jammeh to accept his defeat in this month’s election,” Reuters quoted a Nigerian government source as saying.

“These heads of state will ask him to leave power,” the Senegalese foreign minister said in a statement, calling the trip “a last chance mission for Jammeh.”

Jammeh had conceded defeat shortly after Barrow was declared winner of the December 1 presidential election only for him to make a U-turn on Friday, insisting to hold onto power.

The election, which had appeared to end Jammeh’s authoritarian 22-year rule, was widely seen as a chance to end repression in a country seen by many as a police state.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, had in a statement on Sunday, urged Jammeh, and his supporters to respect the outcome of the election and shun violence.

Meanwhile, the Gambian Bar Association has raised the alarm that Jammeh was plotting to use Nigerian lawyers to perpetuate himself in office after losing the presidential election last week.

The association stated that Jammeh was planning to bring to Gambia judicial officers from Nigeria to thwart the will of the Gambian electorates.

The GBA in a statement published by Sahara Reporters on Monday, also said it had no confidence in the Gambian Chief Justice, Emmanuel Fagbenle, a Nigerian, noting that he would take steps to extend the illegal regime of Jammeh.

The lawyers alleged that Fagbenle was at the forefront of plan to undermine the will of Gambians, stating that he was quite close to Jammeh who had ruled Gambia for 22 years.

The GBA explained that there had been no session of the Supreme Court of The Gambia for almost two years, in contravention of the law, noting that the only Fagbenle was the only judge appointed to sit on the Supreme Court.

The lawyers said, “Whenever there is an intention to constitute a Supreme Court, he (Fagbenle) and the Attorney General would pick qualified lawyers or judges from commonwealth countries who would visit The Gambia for a two-week duration and are appointed by the President for that purpose to dispose of cases.

“It is clear that Jammeh did not expect to lose the election and did not deem it fit to have a sitting permanent Supreme Court. This has inured to his benefit for the last two years during which several cases have sat unheard by a Supreme Court. Case in point is the appeal by the United Democratic Party against the conviction of its party leaders.”

Insisting that Fagbenle is unfit for the constitutional role of Chief Justice, the bar stated that he would take steps to extend the illegal regime of Jammeh.

It pointed out that none of the seven judges of the high court he singlehandedly picked from Nigeria, had ever sat in a judicial capacity since their appointment in 2016.

It named the judges as Justice Agboola, Justice A.N.C. Ikoro, Justice Uduma, Justice E.E. Ogar, Justice E.O. Dada, Justice Sulaiman, and Justice E.O. Otaba.

The GBA said, “These persons have never been judges or sat in a judicial capacity; They were imported and appointed and have demonstrated in several high profile judgments that they will not take any steps contrary to the will of the President.”

“It is, therefore, a vital priority for the Government of Nigeria and all Bar Associations to condemn the actions and capacity of all judges of foreign nationality currently sitting in The Gambia and call for their immediate repatriation to prevent them from undermining the will of the Gambian people,” the lawyers added.

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