By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has declared his sixth State of Public Emergency (SoPE) since his first one declared on 18th March 2020. The President initially managed to get Parliamentary approval for a 45-day extension to the second SoPE on April 3rd 2020. However, in a turn of events the majority United Democratic Party-controlled National Assembly, currently President Adama Barrow’s biggest opposition voted against the Executive’s request for a further 45 days on 18th May 2020. Since that rejection, the President has announced two twenty-one days SoPE and two seven days SoPE. Bringing the total number of SoPE’s declared up to six.
According to a press release from State House dated 7th July 2020 “in exercise of the powers conferred on him by section 34(6) of the 1997 Constitution, His Excellency, Adama Barrow, President of the Republic of The Gambia has declared a State of Public Emergency in the whole country”. With the power to declare emergency regulations the press release also reminded the public “that the COVID -19 Emergency Regulations issued under the Emergency Powers Act shall continue to apply during the period of the State of Public Emergency”. This raised some eyebrows if the President had the authority to continue to apply regulations.
Budget Re-Appropriation or Supplementary Appropriation Bill?
It was expected that the National Assembly would debate a 45-day extension of the SoPE to be made effective on Wednesday 1st July 2020. According to the National Assembly member for Banjul South, Hon. Touma Njie if NAMs approved the extension it would allow Parliament “to approve and control the regulations and revoke if the need arises rather than the executive again using its executive powers to proclaim”.
According to the outspoken Parliamentarian, “this is not only a health issue since it affects our livelihoods. I have since been requesting for the Finance Ministry for a budget Re-appropriation of the approved budget to no avail. Thus, showing that the Ministry is inept, in the disillusion of reality or against its own government’s development agenda. We all know that we are in extraordinary times requiring extraordinary measures. A SOPE with no proper measures is as good as no SOPE.”
However, in another turn of events the Finance Minister, Hon. Mambury Njie tabled a Supplementary Appropriations Bill (SAP) before Parliamentarians for consideration and approval, today 8th July 2020. Instead of tabling a Re-Appropriation of the 2020 Budget as requested by Parliamentarians, the Finance Minister has decided to table a Supplementary Appropriation Bill totalling over 3 Billion Dalasis.
Is Executive Sidestepping Parliamentary Oversight During SoPE?
Civil Society advocate Madi Jobarteh has highlighted that the Government is evading parliamentary scrutiny during the Covid Period by resorting to seven-day declarations. According to Madi “right now it appears the Executive has decided to lower the standards of our Constitution and therefore undermine good governance by creating a situation where the National Assembly is completely ignored and disempowered. By removing the National Assembly from the process of enacting a state of emergency it means the National Assembly cannot now play any specific oversight over the current state of emergency.”
In a bizarre turn of events, the Executive was expected to table a request for a 45-day extension on the 30th of July 2020. National Assembly members were seated in anticipation, all of a sudden the Speaker of the House announced that “we have received communication from the Office of the President this morning that the Government is no more proceeding with its motion for the extension of the State of Public Emergency.”
Speaking after the announcement Hon. Touma Njie of Banjul South said “I wasn’t expecting this. I respect the rules of law and I was expecting them to bring it to parliament. But they have the right to withdraw it anytime. The state of Public Emergency expires midnight day (30th June 2020). We just have to wait until midnight but I prefer the democratic norms to be followed.”
Hon. Touma Njie “Immigration Policies and Processes Should Be Revisited”
In an exclusive interview with citizen journalist Kexx Sanneh, Hon Touma Njie said that “even at Government level they have not been implementing proper. We should look at immigration processes and policies and see how people have been entering this country. Because 80% of the cases are imported coming from Senegal mostly. Also, we have seen some coming from SN Brussels flights recently. So, all that needs to be revisited.”
The following day, 1st of July 2020, the President’s Office declared a seven-day SoPE.
According to the 1997 Constitution, only the National Assembly can extend a SoPE and the President is the only authority mandated to declare a SoPE. How this is done is dictated by Section 34 of the 1997 Constitution which demands that the SoPE must be declared by the President and Gazetted.
Below is the latest Gazette for the SoPE dated 7th July 2020.