Mambanyick Njie yesterday walked home a free man as the magistrates court in Banjul acquitted and discharged him after two years of legal battle.
Mr Njie was in 2012 relieved of his position as permanent secretary, ministry of Youth and Sports, and had since been on trial on a false information charge, which he denied.
The indictment emanated from a petition he sent to the Office of the President, accusing the then Gambia Football Association executive of financial malpractices, seeking to dissolve that body.
In his judgment in a half-packed courtroom yesterday, the trial magistrate, Dawda Jallow, held that the prosecution had failed to provide sufficient proof, as required by law, to convict Mr Njie despite the testimonies of six prosecution witnesses.
Jallow said: “There is no doubt that the accused did give information contained in a letter, which is addressed to the Secretary General, Office of the President. This court takes judicial notice that the secretary general is the head of the civil service and as such a public servant. Issue one is therefore resolved in favour of the prosecution.
“On whether the information given by the accused as contained in the said exhibit is false, I will have to evaluate the entire evidence adduced by both the prosecution and the accused. To begin with, exhibit A is a long letter but from the particulars of offence on the charge sheet, the prosecution is only interested in the allegation of financial malpractice and non-retirement of imprests.”
Jallow however noted that Njie in his defence proved that there had indeed been financial malpractices by the then GFA executive to give credence to his petition and in that regard freed himself from the charge in the trial.
He continued: “The evidence before this court shows that over one million dalasis has been issued out by the executive of the then GFA as personal loans to the staff. And, according to their own auditors, out of 24 recipients of this loan, only application forms could be produced which even bear no repayment periods. The third prosecution witness while being cross-examined also told this court that he did receive the loan, but he never applied for it in writing nor did he orally. Clearly where any system or management allows the issuance of huge sums of money as loans without any clear cut procedures on how to access and repay such loans, such system or management cannot save itself from being regarded as negligent.
“It is not in dispute that the GFA had not held annual general meetings in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively. And it was also in the accused person’s defence that expenditure done during these period were done without authority, the court also agrees with that argument since the forum vested with the legal authority to authorise the budget was not called upon to do so and the prosecution failed to provide the court with any evidence to show that there was any other valid authority for this purpose and therefore resolved the second issue in favour of Mr Njie that the content of his petition letter was not false.
“Finally, the letter that formed the subject of this charge was written by the accused in his official capacity as the permanent secretary Ministry of Youth and Sports and it is his defence also that the content of the letter represents the views of the ministry and not his personal views. Neither the panel of investigators nor the prosecution called anyone from the said ministry to confirm or deny that statement. This court is convinced that unless the prosecution can show clearly that the accused had acted in bad faith, which has not been proven, the law sees his authorship of the letter as merely carrying out his official duty.”
Luntango Suun Gann Gi: A simple but truly principled inspiring judgement from a Gambian judge)