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Former Immigration DG ends defence testimony

Jul 2, 2014, 9:29 AM | Article By: Bakary samateh

Buba Sagnia, former director-general of the Gambia Immigration Department (GID), charged with abuse of office and negligence of official duties, yesterday ended his defence testimony at the Banjul magistrates’ court, before principal magistrate Hillary Abeke.

Mr Sagnia told the court that he was director-general up to the time he was arrested and sacked in 2013. He worked for the GID for 35 years, and had risen through the ranks up to the rank of director-general, where he served for three years and ten months.

“My duties and responsibilities were to command, control, guide and direct the affairs of the Gambia Immigration Department,” he further told the court.

He derived his powers from the Immigration Act and service manual.

At that point, his lawyer, Edward Signhateh, asked him to explain the chain of command, and to also tell the court to whom he was directly answerable as director-general of the GID

“My chain of command was the Ministry of the Interior and I’m directly answerable to the Minister of the Interior,” he told the court.

Apart from the Interior minister, the director-general was not answerable to any other person or any other sister agency; only to the ministry of Interior, added the defence witness.

Sagnia said he was charged with abuse of office, that he acted in excess of my powers and issued an entry clearance to a Syrian and Lebanese national without forwarding same to the National Intelligence Agency.

“I totally disagree. I acted according to my powers as the Director General of Immigration vested in me by the Immigration Act, and especially the Immigration Manual,” he said.

With regards to count two about neglecting official duties, the accused person said: “I disagree. I acted according to my powers as stated in the Immigration Manual, Article 9.10, which states that entry clearance is referred to the Director of Immigration, and not to any other agency.”

He said in October 2013, he issued entry clearance for Lebanese and Syrian nationals, and explained the circumstances surrounding the issuing of the entry clearance papers.

As director-general of the GID, the Immigration Manual page 46 gives him the right or powers to issue entry clearance, if the applicant has done all his/her documentation before reaching the office of the director-general.

Normally, if the applicant is from a recognized company and bearing the company letterhead, and also if the applicant was a responsible person in the company, in this case who is the logistics manager of the company BIMEX.

The entry clearance visa is mainly for an applicant who could not get the visa issued from his/her country of origin; then the visa could be issued to him or her upon arrival in The Gambia, at any point of entry.

A visa is an impression or an endorsement on the passport indicating that the holder is allowed to enter and stay for a specific period of time.

“I am not aware of any list of countries, whose nationals have to undergo screening before issuing entry clearance to them,” he said.

The witness added that “red zone countries” had been mentioned by a prosecution witness. However, he never knew of restrictions on nationals from “red zone countries”, but instead was aware of such on nationals from behind the “iron curtain”.

The case was at that stage adjourned to 9 July 2014, for cross-examination.