President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia, who is expected to quit office in less than 48 hours, following his defeat at the polls, has declared a 90-day state of emergency.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s newest warship, the NNS Unity, is sailing towards The Gambia ahead of possible military intervention over Jammeh’s refusal to step down when his term expires tomorrow.
The political crisis could degenerate, leading to loss of lives and property as well as the disruption of social and economic activities that may retard the development of the country. It could also precipitate regional instability, thus the interest of West African countries led by Nigeria in The Gambia crisis.
A Nigerian military source told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that the patrol vessel was sailing off the coast of Ghana after leaving Lagos.
The initial aim is to put on a show of force rather than to launch an attack. According to the report, Senegal is preparing ground troops ahead of tomorrow’s deadline.
The Gambia’s tiny army is no match to the regional powers. In recent years, President Jammeh has been promoting his loyalists, including army chief, Ousman Badjie, to ranks beyond their competence. This has further downgraded the country’s military capabilities.
The Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) has said that military intervention would be a last resort to bring an end to the political deadlock in The Gambia.
President Muhammadu Buhari has been leading mediation efforts to persuade Jammeh to hand power to former estate agent, Adama Barrow, who won the December 1 election.
The Gambia’s Supreme Court has declined ruling on President Jammeh’s petition to overturn his election defeat, the report said yesterday.
Jammeh initially conceded defeat to opposition leader Barrow following the poll and later changed his mind, drawing widespread condemnation and the threat of a military intervention by regional neighbours.
The Supreme Court has not sat for over a year. Jammeh has hired judges from Nigeria and Sierra Leone to hear the petitions, but they have failed to arrive in The Gambia.
“It is crystal clear that the justices from Nigeria and Serra Leone are not coming,” the court’s Nigerian Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle said.
The chief justice said the court would be adjourned until the next regular session in either May or November, but added that the petitions could be heard if the judges arrived sooner.
The court’s inability to convene only deepens the political crisis in The Gambia. Allies of Jammeh said there could be no inauguration with petitions still pending before the court.
In the interest of justice, the petition must be heard and determined before the inauguration can take place,” said Edward Gomez, a lawyer for Jammeh’s APRC political party.
Meanwhile, a report by Reuters and News Agency of Nigeria (Reuters/NAN) said The Gambia’s ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Environment have resigned from Jammeh’s government. They all resigned as regional forces prepare to oust the veteran leader unless he steps down by tomorrow.