By Lamin Fatty
A dispute over the registration of purported non Gambians at Sare Ngai Village, Wulli West Constituency was finally resolved.
The dispute involved personnel of t he Immigration Department and the IEC and a party agent for the National People’s Party (NPP) in SareNgai, who is alleged to have threatened to slap a registration staff of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) over the alleged registration of non-nationals.
The incident which occurred on Sunday 13th June 2021 in the compound where the IEC staff lodged was confirmed by one IEC Senior Registration Officer (SRO) at SareNgai village.
According to the SRO, something happened in the evening when the IEC staff concerned, closed from duty; that while at his lodge, two immigration officers came from the SareNgai Police Station and wanted to verify the registration of certain individuals who the officers say are foreigners and have been paying for aliens permit to their office for some time. He added that some misunderstanding broke between the Officers and this particular party agent who insisted that the immigration officers do not have the mandate to question or interfere in the IEC’s work. He added that the concerned party agent went to the extent of threatening an IEC staff member of his team with a slap. The SRO said the concerned agent thought that the IEC staff tried to open the Laptop for the officers to verify, which annoyed him.
The SRO said the following morning when they resumed work, some people came to visit the registration center claiming to come from the NPP’s Regional Office and among them, was Omar Sompo Ceesay. He said that this delegation from the NPP’s Regional Office wanted to politicize the issue but were cautioned to be careful with the way they give out national documents to people they do not know.
‘‘Can you imagine a 60 year old man who lives in the Gambia as a citizen without any proper documentation, but is issued with attestation for him to get a voter’s card. This is unimaginable. Nonetheless, we still adhere to IEC’s guidelines,’’ the SRO explained to this reporter.
He asserted that the IEC registration agents are well guided and grounded when it comes to the issuing of voters’ cards, saying they rely on three valid documents for presentation, before any card is issued to anyone. However, the SRO was quick to add that they also take attestations.
This reporter met the said NPP agent Omar Barry for his side of the story. Barry said he never threatened to slap the IEC staff but instead threatened to snap or take a photo of her and expose her on social media.
‘‘I never threatened to slap anybody during the said saga. I only made it clear to them (IEC staff) that nobody has a right to verify issues like this from them. Even if they have that right, it is supposed to be during working hours. This was why I told the Registration Officer that if she touched the computer in order to give information to the Officers, I will snap her and expose her picture on social media,’’ NPP agent Barry said.
In a similar but separate development, Foday Jallow, the Alkalo of Sare Ngai also accused the Police of interfering in the registration process in his community. The Alkalo who is accused of helping non-nationals acquire voters’ cards through the issuance of stamped and signed attestation forms to them, informed this medium on Monday 14th June 2021 that two security officers allegedly visited the registration center to warn him against issuing attestations to non-nationals; that the Officers came to warn him against issuing attestations to non-nationals, after arguing with his son who he assigned to fill the attestation forms in his compound. He said the two security officers came to the registration center where they found one Baru Bah in the queue with an attestation, which they seized; arguing that Bah is among the list of non-nationals who pays aliens permit (residential permit) to them.
‘‘They invited me to the station and said I have been registering non-nationals because they have seen many people in the queue, most of whom pay residential permits to the Office of the Immigration at Sare Ngai Police Station. They even threatened to arrest me when they verify from the IEC officials on the ground and find anybody registered while he or she is among the list of foreigners that they have,” Alkalo Jallow told this reporter.
In a telephone conversation, Enssa Jawara, the Commissioner of Immigration in URR told this reporter that he was informed about the issue. According to Commissioner Jawara, he has already warned all his officers within the Region, to stay away from the registration process.
In the meantime, all eyes are focused on Sare Ngai registration center because it is believed that a high number of non-nationals residing in the village usually participate in Gambia’s registration and elections since independence to date, and this has prevailed during the reign of all former Presidents in particular, Yahya Jammeh.