By Lamin Fatty
A trial magistrate in Basse on Tuesday, 7th April convicted eleven traders for selling commodities contrary to the Government’s stipulated price.
The court acquitted and discharged two among the thirteen traders because the police brought a charge that did not exist. The court held that there was no regulation on LANA Juice and therefore, the charge was wrong.
Since the promulgation of the Regulation on essential commodities, the police have prosecuted several traders for selling their goods beyond the prices stated in the Essential Commodities Emergency Power Regulations Act 2020 by President Adama Barrow. The Regulation froze the prices of essential commodities including rice, cooking oil and onion.
The traders were arrested and prosecuted on the 27 of March 2020 for overpricing their goods contrary to Government’s Regulation dated 26 of March 2020 promulgated by the President under powers conferred on him by the Constitution and Emergency Powers Act.
The traders were five Guineans, three Senegalese, three Gambians and two Mauritanians. They are Salifu Fall, Ousuman Demba Bah, Mamadou Yaya Sowe, Alpha Omar Jallow, Mamadou Salieu Jallow, Abdule Sadibu Faal, Saidou Bubakary Sow, Mustapha Samba, Gibbi Sowe, Mamadou Salieu Jallow, Saikou Gumanneh, Omar Sowe and Mbakeh Njie.
Police prosecutor Corporal John Preira informed the court the accused persons were arrested for selling goods contrary to the Regulation.
“It all happened on 27 of March 2020, while the police were on patrol, when some police officers entered in the shops of the accused persons in Gambisara village and asked for the prices of rice, sugar, onion and a gallon of oil. These accused persons were found selling a bag of rice for D1300 instead of D1275, sugar D1550 instead of D1450, onion D600 instead of D500 and 20 litres gallon of oil for D1250 instead of D1200. They were arrested and taken to Basse Police Station and charged”, the police prosecutor told the court.
All the accused persons, including the acquitted persons, pleaded guilty to the charge against them and appealed to the court to tamper justice with mercy. They accepted the evidence adduced by the prosecution.
In his judgment, Magistrate Jabang convicted eleven out of the thirteen accused persons since they pleaded guilty to the offence as charged and as well as, accepted committing the crime.
“Based on accused persons plea of guilt and their further acceptance of the fact and I believe the evidence here are proved, the accused persons are hereby convicted as charged, they are committed to sentence a fine to pay D20,000 or to serve 2 years’ prison term”
Jabang added: “You are supposed to pay a fine of D500,000, because it is small business and is not a company business, in as much as we are trying to enforce the law, we have no intention to kill a business. Asking you to pay beyond your capacity is going to kill your business that is not the interest of the State since Gambia is tax based economy. We want people to continue their business and pay their tax”, Magistrate Jabang added.
He acquitted and discharged Ousman Demba Bah and Abdule Sadibu Faal even though they pleaded guilty.
“These two also pleaded guilty however, this court is sitting to enforce Essential Commodities Emergency Power Regulation 2020. In the schedule to regulate, the essential commodities are listed here and I have gone through it and there is nowhere ‘LANA’ juice is mentioned. There is no regulation on the price of LANA juice in the Gambia; therefore, the accused persons cannot continue to face an offence which does not exit.”
“The charges are hereby struck out and the two accused persons acquitted and discharged. The commodities confiscated from them should be returned to them forthwith”, Magistrate Jabang ordered.