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ADG not qualified to operate as NGO, witness tells court

May 7, 2010, 10:52 AM | Article By: Bakary Samateh

Momodou Badjie, a Programme Officer at the NGO Affairs Agency under the Ministry of the Interior in Banjul, last Friday told the Banjul Magistrates' Court that Africa Democracy and Good Governance (ADG) is not qualified to be operating as an NGO.

Mr. Badjie was testifying for the prosecution in the ongoing trial involving Edwin Nebolisa Nwakaeme, the Director of Programmes for ADG.

Nwakaeme was alleged to have given false information to the Office of the President, when he stated that the ADG is a non-governmental organisation, which he knew or had no reason to believe to be true.

Responding to a question posed by the Police Prosecutor Chief Inspector Badjie, who asked whether ADG is a registered NGO in The Gambia, the witness told the court that "the ADG is not qualified to be an NGO, because it does not meet any of the criteria set for forming an NGO in the country."

According to Mr. Badjie, there are 12 criteria set for forming an NGO in The Gambia.

He said among the criteria are:  The organisation must have a certificate of incorporation from the Registrar General at the Ministry of Justice, as a charitable organisation; it must have an account in any of the banks in The Gambia, with nothing less than two signatories to the said account; it should not be a political entity in its operations, and the organisation should have a Memorandum of Understanding with a line government Department or Ministry.

He added that the organisation must have a Board of Directors with nothing less then seven (7) members, and that the organisation must have a constitution, spelling out its aims and objectives.

It should be accountable to both donors and the beneficiaries, as well as to report annually to the NGO Affairs Agency on its ongoing activities, Mr. Badjie further noted.

He told the court that, in his capacity as Programme Officer at the NGO Affairs Agency, sometime in the month of January 2010, he wrote to the Secretary-General regarding the status of the ADG. The said letter was tendered in court as an exhibit.

When asked under cross-examination, how long he has been working at the NGO Affairs Agency, by defence counsel Hagum Gaye, the witness Mr. Badjie replied "for two years."

Further asked whether the 12 criteria are an Act of Parliament, he said "this was a policy adopted by the government since 1981 and in 1996."

At that juncture, the defence counsel applied to the court for the witness to produce the copy of the policy at the next adjournment date, and subsequently the case was adjourned for the witness to produce the said copy of the policy.

When the case resumed on Wednesday, the witness produced the copy of the policy, and told the court that Section 10(2) of the policy is among the 12 criteria mentioned at the last hearing.

The defence counsel asked him about the remaining 11 criteria. In reply, the witness informed the court that the remaining 11 criteria are in an attachment to 1991 Policy Document and the 1996 Decree 81.

Defence council also asked the witness to differentiate between a charitable organisation and an NGO. In reply, Mr. Badjie said, in The Gambia, there is a difference between charitable organisation and an NGO, as stimulated by Degree 81.

He added that a non-governmental organisation is an organisation, which is recognised to operate as an NGO in the country by the NGO Affairs Agency, which is the only government authorised agency for issuing clearance to carry out activities as an NGO.

 He told the court that a charitable organisation is an organisation, which is given charity status by the Attorney- General’s Chambers and the issued certificate only qualifies it to operate as a charitable organisation not as an NGO.

Defence counsel Hagum Gaye further asked Mr. Badjie to tell the court how he found out that the ADG is not an NGO.

The witness replied that he contacted the police, and they showed him the certificate, which revealed that ADG is a charitable organisation. Further asked why he decided to contact the police, instead of the AG’s Chambers, Mr. Badjie said he contacted the police because the NGO Affairs Agency is directly operating under the Ministry of the Interior.

Magistrate Hilary U Abeke adjourned the case to May 12th 2010 for continuation of the hearing.