Nkea, ex-high court judge of The Gambia, said there were attempts made by
Yankuba Badjie, the embattled former director general of the National
Intelligence Agency (NIA), to influence his judgments.
“My resistance created a hostile environment that led to my surprise resignation and departure from The Gambia,” Mr Nkea said, in this exclusive interview with journalist, Sanna Camara.
Journalist Camara asked the judged about his job at Special Prosecutions Unit of The Gambia; threats against him resulting in fleeing The Gambia; jailing of journalists and perceived opponents of Yahya Jammeh, among other things.
The questions and answers follow:
Sanna: Mr. Nkea, I am looking into the circumstances surrounding the work of the Special Prosecutions Unit, created at the Ministry of Justice, where you served as a judge. Would you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Nkea: Yes, you can go ahead.
How much were you paid as the judge besides your salary?
Nothing more than my ordinary salary… And when I was allocated an official residence my salary was slashed to remove the housing allowance attached thereto.
So you did not receive $8,000 as judge of special court?
That has never been my salary. My salary was about 56,000 dalasi and when the housing allowance was taken off, I ended up with about 40,000 dalasi or so...
My sources say you received benefits of $8,000/month and a tinted black Pajero?
That’s absolutely false... perhaps you would like to verify even from the judiciary that I drove in my personal car - a Peugeot 607 for over a year because the judiciary did not allocate a workable car to me. It was later in time that I was assigned a faulty Pajero Jeep which could not be used by any other judge. I used it for less than three months and it became completely un-serviceable.
As for the extra pay... there was none... excerpt for a project organised by, I think Prison Fellowship International, for the de-congestion of the prisons... I and all the system counsels, including Barrister Sagarr, who worked on the project, were paid for that work by the project. But it was not $8,000 or anything close to that.
How much was that pay?
I can’t remember exactly how much, but it was about £1,000 ... you can verify from Barrister Sagarr.
Did you receive any directive, either directly or through a third party, to decide on cases brought to you by prosecutors?
No directives from anybody were given to me... I take full responsibility for all my decisions... no directives whatsoever...but there were attempts by the then DPP and Yankuba Badjie to influence my decisions... My resistance created a hostile environment that led to my surprise resignation and departure from The Gambia.
Please elaborate on these attempts to influence your decisions?
If you read my first letter to Gambians, these issues were clearly stated therein. If you have not read my three letters, I can forward them to you. Or visit my page on LinkedIn, you will find them there.
(For the benefit of the readers, an excerpt from one of the letters sent to Justice Nkea to an online outlet read thus)
…those who know me well would verify that I would not act in those ways suggested. It is true that in my capacities as Principal Magistrate and Judge of the Special Criminal Court, I handled a surfeit of politically sensitive cases, including but not limited to treason, sedition, and abuse of office.
There were frequent and numerous politically-motivated arrests and it was highly possible that a person is arrested on purely political grounds, but brought to court on a completely unrelated reason. The search for an offence came after the arrest. But in the dispensation of justice, the Court is limited to the facts before it, and cannot decline jurisdiction only because the initial arrest was predicated on something else.
I affirm that upon appointment to the Gambia Bench, I took the judicial oath of office “…to administer justice, according to law, to all manner of people without fear or favour, affection or ill-will…” I had to dispense justice, according to law, and not according to my wishes and biases.
Who is Barrister Jahateh?
She is a female human rights lawyer in The Gambia. She worked on the Prison Fellowship International project for a fee. And I was paid extra, because I had to forgo my summer vacation to work on the project.
Sources say only specific cases were brought to your court for decision. Most were convicted because a Special Prosecution Unit was established to prepare cases against perceived opponents or persons of interest?
The special division of the criminal court did not start with me... it began with Justice Moses Richards Johnson and later Justice Ikpala Joseph and I was the third Judge to sit in that court. The idea behind that special division as I knew it was to fast-track serious offences.
What constitutes “serious offences?”
Serious offences: murder, rape, treason, sedition, economic crimes, infanticide, etc.
You sent at least three journalists to prison. Was there any reason for this attitude towards the journalists? A life imprisonment for Dr. Scattred Janneh for T-shirt distribution….? etc.
Scattered Janneh was found guilty and convicted as charged for treason... I gave him the sentence required by the Gambian law.
I think my court was most accessible to journalists than any other court. No quarrel with them at all.
Sidiq Asemota, Abdul Hamid Adiamoh, Lamin Njie were all sent to prison for contempt?
Asemota misrepresented the facts of a particular case in a way that suggested that I was reckless.... some foreigners were arrested for bypassing the Gamcel Gateway and making a particular high amount in the process... they pleaded guilty and as I was going to pass the sentence, the DPP started pleading that I should impose a lesser amount than the actual loss as fines for them to pay... the economic crimes law requires the full payment as fines... the DPP decided to amend the charge to reflect a lesser amount for which the convicts were ordered to pay...
But Asemota reported that the criminals pleaded guilty on the high amount and I asked them to pay a lesser sum... he was not even in court and I later understood he acted on the instructions of the DPP. I ordered for his arrest, because it is contempt to misrepresent a court judgment.
I was not responsible for the arrest of Adiamoh. In the case of Lamin Njie, he inaccurately published a court ruling even before it was delivered... And that is contempt.
Alhagie Jobe.... Daily Observer editor?
Alhagie Jobe was held in preventive custody... he would have been killed if released on bail... he knows this very well...
Who would have killed him?
Verify this from him and he would open up to you. I don’t want to embarrass him by revealing details that he might not want to be public.
Ok. I Understand. Have you ever met or spoken with Jammeh about your work?
Not at all.... I met him about three times during my swearing in as a Judge; during the submission of the report of my Commission of Inquiry; and during the swearing in of Chief Justice Agyemang. I never met him privately. I never met him officially or otherwise about my work.
Well. Thanks for taking your time and talking to me.
Thank-you for creating time to find out the truth. God bless you.