Justice minister and Attorney General Abubakarr Tambadou

Justice minister Baa Tambadou has been implicated in a diplomatic passport row after government confidential documents were leaked online.

The leaked government documents showed the Justice minister requesting diplomatic passports for his family including his mother, stepmother, and sisters. Gambiana could not independently verify the authenticity of the documents.

However the Justice minister Baa Tambadou in the leaked letter dated June 6, 2019 and addressed to the Secretary General Office of the President requested the diplomatic passports for his family to travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage.

“My mother and stepmother regularly travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj. Given their advance age and current state of physical health travelling on ordinary passports create immense physical and logistical challenges for them especially regarding their movements on arrival and departure at the airport. These challenges could be significantly reduced if they travel on diplomatic passports which entitles them to diplomatic privileges and eases their conditions during the Hajj,” Minister Tambadou wrote.

“On each of their travels to Saudi Arabia, my mother and stepmother are assisted by my two sisters who always accompany them during their movements. My sisters would not however be able to provide the usual assistance to my mother and stepmother if they also do not carry diplomatic passports to facilitate their movements together with them. It is for these reasons that I humbly request the approval of His Excellency for the issuance of diplomatic passports to them.”

The requests were approved by the President’s office and the diplomatic passports issued.

The Justice minister has been accused of ‘improper conduct’ and nepotism by Gambians who took to social media to criticise him.

However Mr Tambadou has responded to the leaked letter and the criticism levelled against him as a “sinister act driven by animosity.

The Justice minister said in a statement on Saturday that:

“I was advised by MOFA that the President can, exceptionally, grant approval for the issuance of diplomatic passports to individuals based on a number of considerations. I followed that advice and formally sought that approval in writing transparently which was granted. I wonder when a mere formal request for an approval for anything has become illegal or undermines anyone’s integrity to warrant a resignation? If there is any fault, and I am not saying there is, that ought to be directed at the approving authority and not the requestor.

“I merely asked for a privilege that I was told could be extended to a sitting cabinet minister’s family, and my request was clear about the reasons. It was the responsibility of those entrusted with such decisions to either approve or disapprove. It was approved. End of story! To now turn it around as if I have done something so wrong as to warrant my resignation from office betrays a more sinister and personal animosity. For what reasons? I have no idea.”

His response came after one Omar Janneh shared the leaked letter on social media. The Justice minister said:

“For Mr Janneh’s further information, my family and I DO NOT need a diplomatic passport to travel around the world. We have been doing so in the past and we will continue to do so after my services with Government ends someday soon inshallah.

“It is disappointing that instead of focusing on the more serious issue of the unlawful sale of passports, we are expending our intellectual energy on a very legitimate request with a legitimate approval from legitimate Government officials.

“It is petty and low and but for the fact that it was sent on a shared platform, I would not have dignified such comments with a response. The fact that I only sought the passports two and a half years after my appointment tells its own story for those who care about the truth.

“Let me assure Mr Janneh and others of one thing, you can dive to the bottom of the ocean to search but you will never find anything that will stain me. I was before, and inshallah, I shall be after!”

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