The arbitrary arrest of the NIA Legal Adviser Bubacarr Badgie apparently on the orders of the Director General of the NIA Ousman Sowe on Friday June 9 is a very serious abuse of office that must be severely challenged. Mr. Badgie has written a petition to Pres. Adama Barrow on May 22 highlighting numerous acts of abuse of power, professional misconduct, concealment of information and undermining of national security within the NIA. He said on many occasions he had provided advice and caution to the Director General but who in response only subjected him to severe marginalization, threats and abuse. The NIA is under the Office of the President hence the President is the responsible authority for the Agency. Thus Badgie took the right decision to adequately and urgently inform and advice the President on the state of affairs at the NIA that undermine the effective functioning of the agency and the overall security of the Gambia.
Therefore Badgie has demonstrated utmost respect and recognition of the President as the chief solution of all issues in the Gambia. By writing to the President, it means this is the last resort for Badgie since his professional and legal advice were being ignored and then punished for that. To show that he is not lying or harbouring malicious intentions, Badgie also copied the Director General NIA himself and the Inspector General of Police as well as the Gambia Bar Association. What Badgie did is also in line with the Constitution under Section 25(f), which is the freedom to petition the Executive. Therefore Badgie acted within his constitutional rights to write this petition.
Hence what we expected was for the President of the Republic to have acted urgently on this petition, which was submitted since May 22. Thus it is utterly concerning that since then no visible action took place until 15 days later when Badgie was practically kidnapped from his family. Even if Badgie had misconducted himself, one would expect the necessary internal disciplinary measures of the agency to apply but not to arrest him. This arrest therefore is nothing other than an attempt to silence a man who has only fulfilled his duty as required by his job description. Anyone who ignores or suppresses this petition must be held responsible for abuse of power. Badgie must be released and a full investigation of the NIA takes off.
The ball is now in the court of Pres. Adama Barrow. NIA is under the Office of the President, which means the President is responsible for the management and operations of the agency. Hence if a staff of that agency writes to the President, then the President has no choice but to act on that communication. Mr. President, we are waiting!
Our Constitution states in Section 19 that no one must be detained beyond 72 hours, yet Mr. Badgie has been under police custody since June 9. Section 17 places an obligation on the President as the chief human rights protector in the Gambia to defend the rights of all Gambians. Therefore the President has a duty to ensure that Badgie’s constitutional rights are protected in full. Our verdict on 1 December 2016 was not just for a Regime Change, rather we decided for a System Change! Therefore to continue with that Yaya Jammeh modus operandi is not what we expect today.
Therefore, the President must take leadership on this petition to ensure that the NIA is clean and law-abiding. We cannot allow a public officer to write a petition about his or her institution only to have the head of that institution arrest that petitioner. Badgie has therefore placed a fundamental test in the hands of Barrow to show whether he will stand for the integrity, professionalism and accountable management of the NIA or will Barrow fail in his responsibility.
Secondly the National Assembly must take up this matter immediately. The Select Committee on Defence and Security must summon the Director General of the NIA and the Inspector General of Police as well as Bubacarr Badgie himself and any other relevant officer to testify on this matter. Badgie raised critical issues of misconduct, corruption and favoritism as well as tampering of evidence at the NIA. These are serious issues that must be addressed. Thus the National Assembly must assume its functions as per sections 77 and 102 to review Badgie’s petition and all issues regarding the agency.
It was good that Badgie made the smart move to copy the Gambia Bar Association. By doing that it means Badgie suspected that his security could be in danger and that there is also a possibility for the Government to misinform or try to bury the matter. Hence by copying the Bar, Badgie is saving himself but more importantly he is making sure that the matter will not be buried because the foremost legal association in the country is aware of the matter. This means that the Gambia Bar Association is now faced with a huge responsibility to ensure that Badgie is free and save. If the Bar fails to stand up for Badgie, it means therefore the Bar will be condoning abuse of office within the NIA and the Gambia as a whole.
All citizens must applaud Bubacarr Badgie for this professional and determined effort. This is what is expected from all public servants to expose all and any acts of abuse, corruption and misconduct within our public institutions. This is the only path to ensure good governance and protection of human rights and efficient delivery of public services in the Gambia.
I wish to join Bubacarr Badgie in his call that there is need to audit the entire NIA to ensure it becomes a professional, accountable and efficient agency that respects human rights and protects national security efficiently. I recall making this call at the very beginning of this government that the NIA should have been suspended while it undergoes such assessment. The premises of the agency should have been protected in order not to tamper with evidence. It is sad that these measures were never taken rather we only saw the name of the agency being changed illegally from NIA to SIS.
Let us pressure Chief Servant Adama Barrow to act on this petition because it definitely leads to the heart of the NIA as the foremost oppressive tool of the APRC Dictatorship. The issues there will expose how and why disappearances, tortures, rapes, killings were carried out and by who. All the answers to the carnage of the Yaya Jammeh are in this petition. This petition must be put on the table.
Free Bubacarr Badgie. Investigate the NIA. Follow the Petition!
God Bless The Gambia.
By Madi Jorbarteh