By Mamadou Dem
Lawyer Lamin Mboge, on Wednesday, 25th June, 2014 made an application for the Banjul Magistrates’ Court presided over by Principal Magistrate Hillary Abeke to protect and enforce the fundamental rights of his client, Njogu Bah, former Secretary General, Head of the Civil Service and Presidential Affairs Minister, in keeping with Section 17 of the 1997 Constitution.
Defence counsel Mboge further urged the court to make an order for the prison officers escorting the accused, who is facing a single count charge of ‘Abuse of office’, to recognise his right as a trial prisoner and not as a convicted prisoner.
Lawyer Mboge said “with regret, deep sorrow and sympathy to the accused person, I wish to inform this court that the accused person lost his biological father on Friday, 20th June, 2014. I tried to convey the message to him personally but it wasn’t possible because Friday was not a visiting day and the officers in charge of prisons would not allow me to see him and convey the message to him.”
He further told the Court “I wish to report to this court that it’s disrespectful, disorderly manner and inhuman treatment of one of the prison officers who conveyed the accused to this court. This is the first opportunity that the accused person has to meet his family to console and comfort him for the lost of his father.”
Defence counsel Mboge said it is the law of this country under Section 37 of the Prison Act for the maintenance of prisoners from private sources, adding that the accused before the court is standing on a dual capacity, both as a convicted prisoner and a trial prisoner as well.
“Being a convicted prisoner doesn’t deprive him of the right of a trial prisoner. The Constitution under Section 33 requires the equal treatment of all before the law and Section 21 of the same Constitution prohibits inhuman treatment,” argued the counsel.
At that juncture, Mboge said “I’m humbly and sincerely applying to this court under Section 17 of the 1997 Constitution for the protection and enforcement of the fundamental rights of the accused person. I pray to this Court to further order the prison escorting officers to recognise the rights of the accused as trial prisoner and not as a convicted prisoner,” he submitted.
Furthermore, counsel submitted that he is aware that the court does not and should not interfere with the rules and regulations of the prisons, but urged that it should draw a fine line in between the rights and duties of prison officers towards his client.
“I would not allow any officer to treat my client in an inhuman manner,” he said.
Lawyer Mboge therefore craved for the indulgence of the court to grant them an adjournment to enable his client to absorb the pain of the lost of his dear father.
Delivering the ruling on both the application for an adjournment and behaviour of a prison officer towards the accused who is currently serving two years mandatory jail term at the maximum security wing (Mile II), the trial Magistrate urged the prison officers, particularly the escorting officers, to be courteous and friendly in executing their duties as prescribed by law. He added that since the state was absent in court, the application by the defence for an adjournment shall be upheld and the matter was consequently adjourned to July 9 for continuation of hearing.
During the course of the submissions and applications, the defence wanted to disclose to the court what had transpired between the accused and the said prison officer, but because of the instructions given to him (Mboge) by his client, he decided to reserve the explanation of what had happened between the two parties.