Njundu Drammeh

(JollofNews) – I disagree with Madi Jobarteh that someone or some system is trying to ‘disrespect’ Justice Minister  Baa Abubacarr Tambedou  by usurping his main and chief function. The executive is organic and no one ministry can or should act independent of the other.

Roles and functions have meeting points- not compartmentalised or put in silos. That being the case, collaboration and cooperation, not going solo, should be the norm. How we bring about that collaboration and cooperation will depend on the leadership we have and how ready they are to reach out. The Ministries of Justice and Interior are bedfellows who, by nature of the near similarity in their functions within the criminal justice system, are condemned to work together, willy-nilly…..

Now to your points….. The constitutional amendments of the age of the vice president. The minister of Justice justified its constitutionality on FatuRadio but later publicly apologised for the ‘unconstitutionality’ of the procedure. A retraction. Who is to blame? In other democracies that would have been enough for his resignation. Not that of the minister of the Interior who, when asked about it, refused to apportion blame but instead said he would go by collective responsibility. That is what we expect in a mature democracy: that the cabinet or government as a team take collective responsibility when things go wrong. Individual responsibility is okay if a cabinet minister wants to own up responsibility….. Who presented that amendment to the National Assembly? Hon Mai Fatty, minister of the Interior. On whose behalf? The minister of Justice who was out of the jurisdiction at the day of the tabling of the amendment. So we can safely say that Hon. Fatty was acting on someone’s behalf, was doing someone’s job for him.

Delegated responsibility. The minister of Justice still remains accountable. I would have expected a thorough briefing, from a brilliant lawyer to another brilliant lawyer. Mai presented what was given to him to present. Until, if new evidence come up that Hon. Fatty ‘doctored’ the brief and presented a different bill, I would still hold Hon. Tambedou squarely responsible for this fiasco. If it were not for circumstances, Hon. Tambedou would have presented that bill. Would we have blamed Hon. Fatty for the error of judgement? The buck in this instance stays at the desk of Hon. Tambedou and it is him, not Hon. Fatty, who should face our fury. We are backing the wrong horse.

Our criminal justice system is on a continuum. No one ministry can claim total ownership of it. Each is important and success in prosecution will depend on each doing its part very, very well. A botched investigation may make a poor prosecution and limited chance of succeeding in court. A wrong charge sheet will lead to wrong prosecution. Either could happen. The alleged offender may be wrongfully convicted or an alleged offender may be let off the hook. In both instances, the course of justice of will not be served. Thus, it is in the interest of justice that the Ministries of Justice and Interior work closely together.

Since the success of the Ministry of Justice in prosecution depends greatly on the thoroughness of the investigation by the police, the million dollar question is: at what point in the criminal justice system should the Ministry of Justice get involved? At the very beginning when a case is preferred and investigation has started? When the police have finished their investigation and submit their file to the AG’s Chambers for advice and/or prosecution? Involvement is not about taking direct, active part in the investigation, but giving the necessary legal advice and ensuring the necessary elements which are prerequisite for a highly probable successful prosecution are collected and preserved. It may require collaboration with ‘specialised’ or specialist persons and bodies with stake in the investigation.

Should we accept the claim of the minister of Justice that neither he nor his ministry was in the know regarding the arrest and prosecution of the infamous NIA 9? If the ministry is not involved at all, then who is proceeding with this prosecution? Then it is the police…. Shouldn’t the police be involved in prosecution? As far as I know, the police have a prosecution unit which also proceeds with cases in court. Should the police prosecute the case of the NIA 9? If the competence and capacity and capability are there, why not? I would rather the police and the Ministry of Justice collaborate and prosecute this high profile case together…..

The arrests of the NIA 9 were all over town, on newspapers, the radios etc. What prevented the minister of Justice from bringing such a lapse to the notice of the minister of the Interior? A telephone call could have drawn Hon. Fatty’s attention to this mistake…. A drive to the Ministry of Interior may have sufficed. Particularly knowing that an error in investigation would cost the State such a high profile case, a cause celebre. Even if the investigation and prosecution have started with the Police, under the Ministry of Interior, it is not good enough reason for the minister of Justice to wait and be called upon. There is no turf here to fight over, no territory to claim. Bureaucracy and red-tapism are anathema to effectiveness. It is not about doing things right but rather about doing the right things. And if one Ministry is not doing the right things, what stop prevent another ministry from raising the flag? Calling a press conference is not the way to go. It is definitely not the right thing.

Madi Jobarteh, my dearest friend and greatest sparring partner, argued that the non-involvement of the minister of Justice is an affront to his ‘competency’, that it is a lack of value, a disrespect. I am not sure, if it is an indictment of Hon. Tambedou’s competence. What I have seen in the issue of the NIA 9 is one minister/ministry not reaching out to another because he/it was not involved or invited to be part. What I see is reactivity on the part of one minister/ministry and supersonic proactivity on the part of another minister/ministry. What I see is one minister/ministry waiting for the ‘phone to ring’ and not having the zeal to ‘pick up the phone’ and make that one call…. What I see is lack of ‘connection’, the inability to connect heart to heart. Leadership is doing, not waiting to be acted upon.

If Hon. Tambedou is to resign, and I see no need for that currently, it should be as a result of his own act of omission and not the acts of commission of someone else. First the procedural error on the constitutional amendment which he supported/justified only to regard as unconstitutional (and which was tabled before the National Assembly on his behalf)…. And the latest, his public claim that he is not involved in the investigation and prosecution of the NIA 9 when as Chief Legal Adviser he should have given the legal advice. It is a truism in life that if you do not take up what is yours lawfully, someone, some institution, will take it and run away with it. There are leaders, but there are followers too…..

I know Madi Jobarteh is an intellectual giant and to challenge his mind, may be dangerous for me…. But I dare.

‘When great men jest with saints, it is wit in them/In the less, foul profanation’ Shakespeare

I rest this case….

Njundu Drammeh