A prominent Gambian lawyer Badou Conteh, has weighed in on the recent corruption scandal involving a member of the Gambia Bar Association Lawyer Mam Amie Jobe, who was accused by her client Salimatou Ngum, of allegedly pocketing her one million dalasis, which Mrs. Ngum wanted to use to buy a holiday property in the tiny West African nation of the Gambia. Mr. Conteh’s name came up during the interview we had with Ms. Ngum, on our Thursday’s Civic Education Program show. Mr. Conteh was identified as one of the lawyers Ms. Ngum had approached for help to recover her money from lawyer Jobe. Lawyer Conteh briefly assisted Mrs. Ngum on pro-bono basis, before the matter landed in police nets.
Reacting to the story on Friday, Lawyer Conteh expressed shock about what he read on the pages of the Freedom Newspaper and heard on the radio—in regards to Salimatou’s claims of being allegedly duped by Lawyer Mai Amie Jobe. Mr. Conteh was taken aback by Ms. Ngum’s revelations on air.
“I was introduced to the complainant Salimatou Ngum by one of my relatives residing in the UK, Suwaibou. I decided to come to her aid for free of charge. I represented her on pro-bono basis. I have lived in the West. I studied law in the UK. I know what immigrants normally go through to raise money for themselves and their families. They worked for long hours under a cold weather. I experienced it firsthand while studying in the UK. Hence, when I heard about her case, I decided to help her. During my conversations with Lawyer Amie Jobe, I encouraged her to settle the matter amicably—given the bad publicity and potential dent the case could cause to her career. At some point, Amie told me that the matter was settled. I met with her in court in Bundung, and when I asked her about Salimatou’s case, she told me that it has been settled. I was shocked to read on your paper that the complainant is still pursuing her for her money,” said lawyer Conteh.
Mr. Conteh, who has been practicing law in the Gambia for the past seventeen years, with a clean bill of legal practice record, said he felt embarrassed by the conduct of some of the new lawyers, who recently joined the legal profession.
“Law is a noble profession. We should not allow the reputation of our profession to be soiled by some lawyers, who wanted to get rich quick without observing ethical values. There has been growing number of people joining our profession lately. I do not even know some of them by name. There is nothing wrong with having many lawyers, but my bone of contention is: earning a decent living is better than one engaging in gross misconduct or ethical violations that might cause disrepute to our profession. This is not a profession in which people should expect to get rich quickly like that. We owe it to our clients and our profession to be honest in our dealings with litigants relying on us for the pursuance of justice,” Mr. Conteh remarked.
Mr. Conteh said lawyers confronted with having issues with their clients should sought to settle such disputes amicably than exposing their dirty laundries in the public space. He commended doyen lawyers such Antouman Gaye, Fafa Mbai, and others for being instrumental in providing counselling and guidance to their colleagues experiencing issues with their clients.
“Lately, we have seen lawyers being accused by their clients of abdication of duties. Each time, a lawyer is accused of misconduct, I felt bad. I have personally bailed out some lawyers by settling monies they took from their clients. This is becoming too much. It has reached a point that I am getting tired. People worked very hard for their money. I expect my colleagues to uphold the ethics of the profession by resisting any form of abdication of duty or corruption. Such stories will only scare investors. For people to have confidence in the judiciary, lawyers must live within their means and avoid messing with clients’ money or properties,” he warned.
Mr. Conteh said President Adama Barrow, a former Real Estate Developer is a role model, when it comes to honest dealings with clients. He said no one has so far come on record to point accusing fingers against Barrow for messing with his money.
“We are now living in democracy. People are free in this country. Imagine if Barrow was a shady Real Estate Developer, or was in the business of pocketing people’s monies, by now someone would have contacted Freedom or call the radios to complain. Since he ascended to the presidency, no one has complained against him for taking his or her money. Therefore, members of the Bar too should also live a modest, honest and upright life,” he stated.
Lawyer Badou Conteh is a former banker. He said he always ensures that his clients are happy at any given encounter with them than hurting them. He said many banks and rich people have retained him as their lawyer—thanks to his dedication to duty and honest legal practice.
“People believe in us; that’s why they hire us as lawyers. If someone entrusts his or her money, or property to you, as a Lawyer, always consult with your client before acting otherwise. That’s why at my chambers, I stressed the need for lawyers working there to be ethical in their dealings with clients. My integrity means a lot to me. Your reputation is your passport. Never compromise it for anything. Take for example, the Freedom Newspaper and Freedom Radio, people listen to you because they believe in you, even though occasionally you might err in your reporting. But each time that happens, you will promptly correct it. Lawyers too are not immune from making mistakes, but it should not be habitual,” Lawyer Conteh said.
Mr. Conteh used the interview to advise Gambians to be sincere in their criticism of others. He said the press is an important pillar of national development, but he warns against smear campaign.
“If Mai Fatty, or Ousainou Darboe does something, you should report it. But I am not okay with people with hidden agendas to spread unfounded stories against men of good moral character and standing in society,” he said.
Mr. Conteh also talked about the issue of land administration in the Gambia. He said local government leaders such as Alkalos, and Chiefs have complicated the problem. For example, he said there are instances in which one property would be sold to seven different people; hence creating land disputes in the courts. Mr. Conteh said peoples’ properties have been demolished in the past because such individuals bought lands in areas designated as state land.
Lawyer Conteh called on his colleagues to continue representing their clients with high degree of honesty, and ethical values. He said the Gambia Legal Council is empowered by law to investigate and punish lawyers engage in misconduct and other ethical violations.
Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai