Justice Joseph Wowo, the Nigerian lawyer, who by dint of hardwork and brilliance, rose to the enviable position of the Chief Justice of The Gambia, until he was pushed out, can now heave a sigh of relief.
Accused of corruption by some Gambians who obviously couldn’t stand a foreigner overseeing the third arm of their government, the ECOWAS Court of Justice, where he took the matter to for adjudication, has not only exonerated him of all the cooked-up allegations, but also awarded $200,000 damages in his favour.
Wowo, it would be recalled, joined The Gambian judiciary in 2000. His uncanny brilliance and divine favour, in 2003, pushed him to the exalted position of the country’s CJ. Being a non-Gambian, new friends and enemies were made in almost equal proportions.
Members of the Gambia Bar Association, expectedly, dominated the latter group. With the arrowheads being Ms Ubna Farage, who was then the President of the Gambia Bar Association and Ms Amie Joof, the Minister of Justice.
The allegations levelled against Justice Wowo were not properly looked into before he was unceremoniously removed from office by the then President Yahaya Jammeh. Alarmed, he contested his removal first via the Security Authority, which later initiated another investigation into the matter. At the end of their investigation, no announcement was made with regards to their findings. And this led to Justice Joseph Wowo calling a press conference to put the records straight.
President Yahaya Jammeh saw Justice Wowo’s action as an affront, and decided that he should be put away for a long time. Hence, the shocking charade of a trial that culminated in his incarceration.
The world cried out against this travesty of justice. Eventually, he was granted State Pardon. But not satisfied with the State Pardon, and in a bid to also clear his name permanently, Justice Wowo approached the ECOWAS Court of Justice, sitting in Abuja, Nigeria, in a Suit – JUSTICE JOSEPH WOWO VS THE GAMBIA and with No: ECW/CCJ/APP/06/18, seeking several reliefs.
After painstakingly listening to both parties, and with Judgment No: ECW/CCJ/JUD/09/19, delivered on February 27, 2019, the three Justices, comprising the Hon. Justice Edward Amaoko Asante (Presiding), Hon. Justice Gberi-Be Quattara (Member) and Hon. Justice Keikura Bangura (Member), held as follows:
a) That Justice Emmanuel Nkea who found Justice Joseph Wowo guilty in The Gambia was undergoing a corruption hearing before the same Justice Joseph Wowo and therefore was biased, which resulted in the violation of his human rights and fair trial.
b) That the procedures for the removal of the Chief Justice of The Gambia as stated in the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia, with respect to a tribunal conducting an independent investigation, sending the outcome to the National Assembly, who will then, by a two-third vote, remove the Chief Justice, were not complied with.
c) That the Hon. Justice Joseph Wowo has been cleared of any stigma and cannot now be described as an ex-convict.
d) Award of nominal damages of the sum of U.S.D $150,000.00 to Justice Joseph Wowo for the violation of his rights to fair hearing and unjust incarceration.
e) Payment of Attorney’s fees of U.S.D. $50,000.00 and other costs to be assessed as a result of the application.