Building The New Gambia: A Minster of Interior Should Be Appointed

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It is seven days today since Pres. Barrow relieved Mai Ahmad Fatty from his portfolio of Minister of Interior and assigned the Minister of Justice Tambedou to oversee that ministry. It is necessary to point out that the president must appoint a new minister for Interior so that the Minister of Justice is stopped from overseeing the Ministry of Interior. By the functions of the Minister of Justice as the Attorney General, he cannot be assigned to oversee another ministry if we go by the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

Section 72 sub-section 2 states that the Attorney General is the principal legal adviser to the Gambia Government. The Gambia Government comprises the Executive Cabinet headed by the President together with the Vice President and Ministers. Hence the Attorney General is their adviser. In light of this, one cannot therefore ask the adviser to take the position of the executioner of the advice that the adviser is supposed to give.

An attorney general is a quality assurance tool to ensure that the decisions and actions by the Executive are in line with the Constitution and the rule of law. In other words, each and every minster as well as the president is expected to seek the advice of the Attorney General for any decision or action they take in the course of their functions. Hence if we make the Attorney General to oversee a ministry it means therefore we are effectively asking the Attorney General to advise himself in the executions of the functions of the Minister of Interior. This will weaken the act and process of decision-making and dilute the quality assurance function of the Minister of Justice.

I therefore think that Barrow must not have asked the Minister of Justice to oversee any ministry. Rather he should have assigned another minister to oversee Interior Ministry or allow the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior to step in as overseer of the ministry. The best decision in the first place would have been to appoint a new Minister altogether, immediately. It is already one week and there is still no Minister of Interior.

The continuing overseeing of the Ministry of Interior by the Attorney General is therefore a risk for the Government because it means the Justice Minister will have to take decisions in the context of the Interior Ministry when he, the Minister of Justice is in fact supposed to be the one to provide advice to the Minister of Interior. This scenario therefore effectively undermines the role of the Minister of Justice as well as weakens decision-making. The Minister of Justice should be the first call and the last port for every minister to seek legal guidance. But where the Justice Minister himself decides in the place of another minister, it therefore makes the Minister of Justice both a decision maker and an adviser to another ministry. This is risky for the country.

I therefore urge Pres. Barrow to immediately normalize the situation in over to avert a potential crisis by appointing a new Minster for Interior or re-assign the ministry to any other minister but not to the Minister of Justice. When in doubt ministers are expected to get legal guidance from the Justice Minister hence the Justice Minster cannot oversee another ministry.

God Bless The Gambia

Madi Jobarteh

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