By: Kebba AF Touray
The Minister of Justice answered MPs’ questions on whether Yahya Jammeh will enjoy any terminal benefits as a former president. The questions were asked by some National Assembly members, while debating on the Former Presidents Bill at the National Assembly on Thursday.
On Thursday, 2 November 2023, the National Assembly, during the just concluded extraordinary session, passed bills into laws, including the Former Presidents Bill 2023.
Weighing in on the debate, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice Dawda Jallow stated that former President Jammeh could be deemed to be qualified to benefit from the Act that provides retirement benefits for former presidents of The Gambia.
However, he said, “The reality is former President Jammeh is a wanted person in the Gambia. He is recommended to be prosecuted by the TRRC. Government has accepted that President Jammeh needs to be prosecuted.”
Jallow added that he (Ex-President Jammeh) is a former president which cannot be denied, but submitted that the former President is in conflict with the law, saying “And unless that conflict with the law is determined, even if he is entitled to benefit in this legislation, it will not be”.
He stated that this is because if anyone is a suspect of having committed a crime, one has to deal with the issue and clear oneself or risk losing one’s entitled benefits.
This bill seeks to repeal and replace the former Presidents Bill (Office, allowances and other benefits) Act (Act No.16 of 2006).
The bill also proposes an annual pension and office expenses for former Presidents to maintain the dignity of the office of President. The proposed pension scheme and retirement benefits also provides recognition and gratituity for a former President’s service to the Gambia, which does not end with his term of office.
To continue to preserve the dignity of the former president’s family, the bill proposes a monthly allowance equal to twenty-five percent, a quarter of the deceased former president’s pension to be paid to the surviving spouses.
The tabling of the bill by the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Dawda Jallow, has sparked controversy amongst the lawmakers who were divided on the matter, as some of the members supported the bill while others described it as a bad bill that did not require or deserve a certificate of urgency.
The matter to consider the bill under state of urgency was put to vote by the Speaker, Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, with 30 members voting in support of the certificate of urgency, while 17 voted against the bill as it did not deserve certificate of urgency.
When the results were announced by the Speaker, more than a dozen lawmakers who branded the bill as a bad one, walked out of the chamber.
The bill passed all the legislative stages until it was deemed to be passed by the lawmakers.
However, during the debate on the bill, members raised issues, one of them was whether the former President Jammeh is covered in the bill.