By Yankuba Jallow
Inspector General of Police Mamour Jobe has called on the Gambia Government to provide special allocation for prisoners’ diet.
IGP Jobe and the Minister of Interior appeared before the National Assembly Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters on Thursday, 5th November 2020 to discuss several issues surrounding the rights of detainees.
In The Gambia, police detainees are provided five dalasis for lunch and the same amount for dinner.
When asked why prisoners are given D5 a day for food, the Minister of Interior Yankuba Sonko said ‘it is what the laws says and it never changed since the colonial era.’
“We all know the cost of living now and we have queried this several times [to the Government], but nothing changed,” Minister Sonko said.
The Minister maintained that every station officer is facing the same problem with respect to prisoners’ diet.
“There should be special allocation for prisoners,” Sonko said.
When quizzed by the member for Sabach Sanjal as to why breakfast is not provided to the detainees, the ex-Inspector General of Police said the laws only provide for two diets for the detainees at the police stations while those detained at Mile 2, Jeshwang and Janjanbureh are provided with breakfast.
Minister Sonko went ahead to state that the law hasn’t been reviewed or amended since the colonial days. Sonko said cooks are hired to be cooking for the inmates and are paid monthly.
“But it is calculated daily and paid at the end of the month,” Minister Sonko said.
Neneh M.C. Cham, a board member of the National Agency for Legal Aid said there should be a conscious effort from the Ministry of Interior to stop this.
“Breakfast needs to be provided,” she said.
Inspector General of Police Mamour Jobe said there are some instances when the budget allocation for meals is insufficient.
“You cannot know how many prisoners you will be having on a daily basis. Obviously, there are times that the budget is exhausted,” IGP Jobe said.
“How do you formulate the budget for prisoners?” asked the member for Sabach Sanjal, Ousman Touray.
Minister Sonko in his response said if there is any then it is maintained at the Ministry of Finance.
“Monthly we send all the diet receipts to the Ministry of Finance for payment to be made,” Sonko said.
IGP Jobe said when he was at the Police Training School, there were times when attempts made to review the law, but it was not very reasonable.
“A proposal was made to adjust the feeding cost to a reasonable amount, but apparently that did not work,” Jobe said.
Jobe said the lack of sufficient budget for diets affects the line budget of the police.
“The payment that the government approves is really not sufficient. Efforts have been made, but nothing has been done,” Jobe said.
The member for Foni Bintang Momodou Camara asked the Minister of Interior to tell whether his office has taken any steps to change the status quo, Sonko replied saying “several attempts have been made. We have been writing to the Ministry of Finance to increase the fees and to provide larger sums for the prisoners.”
“Is there an Act, a statutory Act that maintains the five dalasis for prisoners,” Suwaibou Touray, member for Wuli East inquired.
“It is part of the financial instructions,” Minister Sonko replied.
The members of the Committee put it to the Minister and the IGP that there is no permanent supply of water to the detainees in police cells.
IGP Jobe said all the police stations have water supply. He added that whenever detainees request water, it is the responsibility of the police to fetch water for them.
In supplementary question, Honourable Madi MK Ceesay for Serrekunda West pointed out that the water supply in Tallinding Police Station is undrinkable.
“Even officers go out to get water. When detainees request water, officers dip into their pockets and buy them water. Are you aware of it,” Hon. Ceesay asked.
“I have never received any single complaints, but I will look into that,” IGP Jobe said.
Read Foroyaa on Monday for more details.