By Kebba Jeffang
The National Environment Agency (NEA) has on Tuesday, 21st June, 2015 charged and summoned 15 business owners to the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court. The NEA special task force responsible for implementing the ban on the manufacture, sale and use of plastic bags in the country was engaged in a daylong searching operation on businesses within the Greater Banjul Area.
The task force committee comprising the NEA officials, and police and immigration officers visited supermarkets including the Kairaba Shopping Center, Harry’s Supermarket, Reem Supermarket and Sunu Kerr Supermarket who were all served with summonses. Many big shops were also visited that are situated in the Serekunda market.
Most of the 15 businesses that were served with the summonses claimed that they heard that the ban on plastic bags has been extended and that’s why they are selling and packaging their products for customers. They will be answering to the charge on Tuesday next week.
The summons obtained from the NEA prosecuting officer contains the following information:
STATEMENT OF OFFENCE
Sale and use of plastic bags in the Gambia contrary to Section 4 Subsection (B&C) of the ban on plastic bags order (2015).
PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE
For that you did on or about 21st July, 2015 at Serekunda and surrounding places in the Kanifing Municipality in the Republic of the Gambia, you unlawfully and willfully sale and use plastic bags, a banned product in the Republic of the Gambia, thereby causing an offence.
This therefore requires you to appear at Magistrate Court on Tuesday, 29th July, 2015 at the hour of 9am in the forenoon of the same day to answer to the said complaint and to be further dealt with according to law.
Meanwhile, a document shared with journalists signed by the president has spelt out the offences and penalties as follows;
- A person who contravenes this Order commits an offence and is liable on conviction, in the case of
- A manufacturer or an importer, to term of imprisonment of not less than six months but not more than twelve months or a fine not less than two hundred thousand dalasis but not more than five hundred thousand dalasis or both the fine and imprisonment;
- An individual who sells plastic bags is liable to a fine not less than two thousand dalasis but not more than five thousand dalasis.
- An individual who uses plastic bags is liable to a fine not less than one thousand dalasis but not three thousand dalasis.
- All persons convicted under this Order shall be dispossessed of any available stock either in the form of raw materials or finished bags and those bags shall be taken to the appropriate store established, identified or recommended by the Agency.
However, in a press briefing that preceded the operation, Mr. Momodou Jamma Suwareh, the Deputy Executive Director, dismissed the rumour that the ban has been extended. He said “the ban can only be extended by the President as the Chairman of the Agency but such communication was never done.”
He emphasized that the ban on plastic bags is in the best interest of the environment and all should understand it in that way.
“Today we are sending that signal to the Gambian populace that the ban has not been extended by visiting the supermarkets and big shops to confiscate and summon all the businesses where it is seen. We have a store where we will put all the confiscated nylon bags and we are currently in talks with a company that will recycle them. I can say all the manufacturing companies have complied because many have re-exported their imported products and moved out of the country,” said the NEA official.
He assured that the searching operation will continue at various regions after the ban enforcers are fully equipped with the legal background of the order for accurate implementation.
For the information of the reader, upon request for a copy of an order titled “Ban on Plastic Bags Order” at the GPPC which publishes the Gazette that contains any new law, it indicated that it has not published such order. Furthermore, according to section 24(5) of the constitution, “No person shall be charged with or held to be guilty of a criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not at the time it took place constitute such an offence…”