THE EYEWITNESS (PART1)

The atrocities were unbecoming and the demand to curb the situation was at an all-time high. At the summit of the horror show in town lay burglary and armed robbery. Cases of heinous engagements had been lighting up social media, televisions and newspapers. Fear had gripped and crippled almost the entire populace.
I had been approached by the State Intelligence Security chief to spearhead the mission to pursue and bring perpetrators to justice.

“Ismaila Njie, the current situation of the state’s security set up is on the brink of a meltdown. There are lots of security debacles in the country. Being a young man at the peak of your career, intelligent and endowed with the expertise to marshal lapses and restore malfunctions to order, I am hereby in collaboration with the office of the Inspector General of Police, appealing to you to render your services to our dear motherland, The Gambia in an effort to restrain the current criminal unfolding.”

I knew what was being asked of me from Ousman Jobe, the state’s intelligence security chief was an almighty task.

“Mr Jobe, the current deplorable happenings in town, I must say, are quite unfortunate and require a lot of patience, attention and expertise to put an end to. This is a question of patriotism because it is a highly risky job to do; but, I hate to see my nation being plunged in the current state of affairs. I would therefore do my utmost best to see to it that these regrettable incidents become a thing of the past.”

My response was a well decorated piece of good news that whistled hard in Mr Jobe’s ears. “Everything you need would be in place for you as you would wish it to be Mr Njie. Do you need a team or how do you intend going about it?”
“Well, I need no team for now as I have told you this requires attention and expertise before resorting to actions. All I’ll need is a pair of FNS’-9 Compact pistols and a pair of night vision goggles.”
“You think that is enough to trace and challenge modern day criminals? They are often heavily armed and deadly. I guess you will most definitely need a backup!”
“Don’t worry Mr Jobe, I will contact you if the need for anything arises. I forgot to mention the need for a security badge for my partner. I will email you his details. And one more thing; no interruptions. Let me do this my way, okay?”

I had tasked myself with a huge and perilous responsibility. I approached James Coker, a friend who had studied Conflict Resolution from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. He had further been a spy for the Russian government in the UK.
“James,” I said.
“Yes, buddy was sup?”
“I need your services. I am in a serious business.”
“What’s that about?” He cautioned.
“The state’s intelligence security chief approached me last week regarding the current high rate of criminality in town. I had a chat with him and he dearly lays all his hopes on me in an attempt to safeguard his position. I had since then given it a hell of a thought and if there is anyone person I’ll need services from is you.”
“What do we do about it? What is it that he needs Njie?”
“He needs my services in deescalating the current state of nature in the country which to succeed means having you in active play. I want you to team up with me.”
“Njies,that’s a hell of a task mien! But if we are committed to ending this misery, we can do it in a twinkle.” I smiled and hugged James.
“Deal bro!”
“Why not? Let’s do it for mamma land!” Coker had spent half of his life in the UK and had since on his return to The Gambia opened a martial arts school where he continues to engage himself.

I woke up next morning and had my morning jog. I had not trained for a while but could still manage to run for five miles. Upon my return home, I headed to the shower, got myself cleaned and aimed for my wardrobe to dress up in my fancied US National Football team Jersey, but my mind cautioned me. Your nation kickstarts its World Cup qualifiers against Ghana today at the stadium. It would be better to dress in your national colours. I gave it a second thought and explored for my Gambian jersey. At the back of it was a number ten (10) boldly written the name of Njogu Demba. Designed in front of the shirt was a mixture of the nation’s colour; at the far left of the bottom top corner was a design of a scorpion. I got my black and red sport shoes on and I dialed James’s number to see how he planned to kick it off.
“James, how far? I want to go to the stadium and have a survey.”
“Njies, Njies was the name widely used by close friends to address me. “I think that’s a good idea, you can proceed with your mission to the stadium whilst I engage some victims of reported cases.” James exclaimed.

I disembarked to watch The Gambia play. Along the way my eyes began exploring for cases of theft at Westfield where the hassle for vehicles to the stadium was quite chaotic. My main target was just to have a glimpse of the degree these criminals were at. Could their conducts be as professional as to those that have of recent robbed what could amount to millions of Dalasis? I had my wallet provoking at the back of my almost throne apart back pocket. I cautiously tried entering a vehicle signaling for the stadium. While with one foot in; I felt the weight on my trouser. I decided to give it a few seconds to examine who could it be but shockingly, the deficient movement of this young man caught me a succumbed figure. I turned and stared at him with my dark sun glasses only to feel him shivering. I yelled at him. “Retrieve it and get the f*** out of here!” He obediently reached for his pocket and returned my belongings. From this, I could almost certainly tell that the burglars and armed robbers shaking the nation’s top men were not in any way among these amateur criminals nor was there any recruit of theirs in active play.
I almost gave up my mission to the stadium, but I proceeded to enjoy the game which we handsomely lost. On my return from the stadium I contacted Coker. “Hello James; anything to report on?”
“Yes Njies, CCTV footage from one Kebba Taal of Brusubi has it that a tall man of great physic had lurched through his window and threatened to kill his family if he didn’t give him the money he earlier withdrew from GT Bank. I can’t recognize him. He was in a mask. I have tried checking thoroughly but nothing I could find helpful.”
“Was he alone James?”
“No, he was with a partner who waited outside in a vehicle, but it had no number plate.”
“Anything from your stadium mission?”
“Nothing helpful. Just a helpless kid tried to pickpocket me. I tell you James, those amateurs can’t cause any nuisance in town.”
“Alright, what’s the next step?”
“Let’s try and mount a search operation at the Brikama Forest and uncompleted storey-buildings next thing tomorrow.

PART 2
Assault at first light had turned everything on my head. A lurching despair became one with a pain. I was hurt to the core when I read a newspaper headline from The Standard Newspaper bemoaning an armed robbery case. Twilight was imminent, I called James to get going on our set mission. “James, can we keep going?”
“Just a minute buddy, almost there.”

I had heard criminals of top standard use the Brikama Forest as an escape route and I could remember apprehending a suspect during my time with The Gambia Police Force. There were security checkpoints at almost every two kilometres. I identified myself to the officer in charge of operations. “I am Isamaila Njie, a former police detective and this is my colleague James Coker, a peace resolution expert and a well-trained security personnel.” I was never going to reveal his espionage trails.
“We are on a mission to address the recent cases of crimes in town. We are undercover agents for the state’s intelligence security department and we would like to plead for your full cooperation.” James nodded.

James and I proceeded with our journey through the thick forest. From afar was a popping smolder that we could hardly tell its source. We humbly explored with patience for any traces. Whilst at a great walking pace, James straddled. “Njies, look, it seems there is light over there.” He pointed. I peeped but hardly could see anything. “We can roll over there and see.” I proposed. Who could be that person at this time of the night? What could he or she be doing with fire in the forest at this time? I thought to myself.

Fire was lighted up, but there was no trace of a living soul that could have lighted up this fire. My eyes explored through the gloom. I turned left but was flanged by back room strangers. On my right was James and behind me was where our vehicle was parked. James had just as always been quite vigilant and had spotted a paper which he picked up, glanced and saw a picture of a man at the back page.
“Njies look, examine this thoroughly. Does this picture tell you anything?” I picked the paper from him, had a look but all I knew was that it contained a man’s picture. It looked like a paper from a magazine. “I can’t decipher what is written in it, but I think we can still trace it. We must not take anything for granted.” We waited for almost the whole night before we began heading home. To our dismay, we found our tires loose. “Demit!! Who could have done this?” James bemoaned. There were no signs of footsteps. “This is unfathomable James. Whoever these people are they are here. Where ever here is they are here!!!” Knack redness was beginning to reign over us but we were committed to unleashing the bulldog that marred our nation of late.

Back at home we began identifying our suspect. We searched through the Police data for victims of such atrocities. The picture in our possession was hardly identifiable to any of our proposed victims. Suddenly, whilst in a public vehicle at Tallinding we met a lady who identified the man in picture after James had caught her persistently sneaking a look at him. “He looks cute innit young lady?” I provoked a question.
“Yes, he does. I was going to ask him out the last time I met him if not for my value as a woman.” Excitement took over me but would not display it. “You mean you met this man before?” “Yes, he stopped me once couple of months ago asking for the direction of Tallinding Koloban. He was neatly dressed just as in the picture.” She had given us a tip of the iceberg. We headed straight to Koloban during the early hours of the night in an attempt to identify our suspect.

He was widely recognized by many young stars within the vicinity. His name according to the syndicate we asked was Sniper and often came to see his lady Haddy Mbye. The information we received served as a glimpse of hope. “And where does this Haddy Mbye lives?” James interrogated the syndicate that surprisingly volunteered to give us the information we needed. It seemed they hated seeing the man around. I used the opportunity to further the interrogation.
“What time does he comes around? Does he drive when coming?”
“He comes around randomly; mostly during the early part of the night. We have never seen him with a vehicle. He walks when coming but we can assure you that he’s rich. The jewelry he wears and the shoes he puts on can’t be afforded by a Gambian semi-boss.” The syndicate told us.

We tried reaching out Haddy Mbye. Our sources had it that she had left for Senegambia. “Let’s go Njies.”
“To Where James?”
“Senegambia! Who knows? He could be there with her.”
“Hold on dude! How can you identify her when we have never met or seen her before? We need to get a picture of her first”
“Are you out of your mind Njies? We have the man’s picture we can easily trace him! It is him we are interested in for now and not her. Requesting for her picture would be a stupid move.”
“Why not we wait for them here then?” I suggested. James, quite a pugnacious young man had become irritated with the lengthy arguments.
“Njies get the f*** to the drivers seat and proceed to “Britannia” restaurant. What makes you believe in your stupid thinking that this man would walk her back home?”
“James look you can’t tell me that this man would let this lady back home alone.”
“Njies look this man is not coming back here; not today. Criminals are often foresight. We need to trace and locate where this man lives. Time is fast fading we have two more days to have this criminal under custody. Understood?”
“These not this criminal it can’t be one person.” I corrected him.
“Whatever the case maybe Njies we need to hurry. Remember we promised to do this within one week.”

The blasting sounds of music slapped our ears. The atmosphere in Senegambia was quite euphoric. It wasn’t a weekend, but it was apt to chill in those conditions. We rushed straight to Britannia restaurant but there was no sign of Sniper as they would call him. We continued searching for possible restaurants he could have been. “James let’s take the picture and ask around.”
“Who do you suppose we ask? Njies look we can’t repeat what transpired at Tallinding Koloban. We need to classify our identity.”
“Okay I understand but we can go back to Britannia restaurant and ask the staff there.” We went back to Britannia restaurant and began asking.
“Hello beautiful sisters, we both reached out for the badges in our pockets and revealed our identities.” We are undercover agents working for the state’s intelligence security department. We are looking for this man in picture. We were told that he was here few moments ago.” I curiously had my eyes glued to the staff as I questioned them. “Yes, we recognize him he often comes here for dinner. He was around when you first entered here.” One of the waitresses responded. “You mean he was in here?” I tried to confirm from the young lady. “Yes, he was.” A young male staff corroborated. “Can you tell us anything about this man?” Another staff took the flow. “All we know is he is rich. He often pays the bills of any customer he meets here, and he never collects his change.” This was very rare. A man would never spend his hard-earned money carelessly like that. “Does he tell you what he does for a living?” “No, we dare not ask him questions of such nature. He acts kindly but looks wild;” “and where did he go to when he left here?” “He was with a lady when he exited the premises, but they headed different ways. We cant actually tell where he headed to.” “Thank you!” James hastily appreciated their responses. “Back to the forest Njies he could be there.”

As we approached the forest, we heard a blasting sound of music in the forest. “Did you hear that sound Njies? It’s like some criminals jubilation for a successful operation.” I made sure we watched and waited to make sure time was right before taking any action. I turned back and spotted the man we have been looking for was at the back of our vehicle. He had all along been in the butt with us. “What the f***!” James reacted. We raced through the forest; it was as if we were chasing lightning. James attempted to take a shot. I hurriedly grabbed his hand. “Don’t shoot James! We need him alive!” I cautioned him. “Demit he’s gone!” James feigned regrets.
We palped our miniature vehicle for our night vision goggles but to no avail. I called Chief Jobe for backed up. I envisaged this could be a heavily armed group of bandits. As we continued mounting a search operation, insects drilled and screamed either side of the forest; but we were under no illusions as to the risks we could be facing.

“To the blasting sounds of music James!” We paced as we explored along for any possible traces. As I turned, I heard a noise of something none of us could tell what it was. Then we heard the sudden sound of a moving vehicle that seemed like ours. We continued running through the dark forest only to be interrupted by looped robes on what seemed to be an escape route. I felt oozing blood from my forehead, I gulped my fury and moved on as if it was an IAAF athletics championships final between Usain Bolt and Johan Blake. I could feel James limping, but we had to keep it moving. Luckily, our vehicle was parked as we had left it.

Hours had become days, days had become weeks and weeks had become months. We had not had a good sleep since we began pursuing this or these criminals whatever the case was going to be. We continued to look through the gloomy forest and spotted something that looked like a human being studying our next move. I, just like James had become fade up but I had to apply the techniques and experience I gained from my time with the British army in their confrontation with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. I asked James to go from the left as I move from the right. We marched slowly to surround the person. There was no sign of movement as we continued to approach. We both hurriedly grasped to capture him, but it was a mare silhouette.

There was zero sign of the backed up I requested for and dawn was fast approaching. We decided to go back to town and check uncompleted storey-buildings. We aimed for our vehicle, I suggested we use a different route. I suddenly heard James stumbled and fell into what looked like a dungeon. There was no traceable entry gateway, but it was a gigantic dungeon. “James! James can you hear me?” What answered me was the punching sound of physically able men. I took my time to sneak an entry as James and our suspect were having a real go at each other. I had my gun on his head, but he remained unfazed. He knew we wanted him alive and I was never going to blow his skull. I used my pistol’s head to knock him unconscious.

We had finally got our suspect. Hands cuffed behind, knees on the ground and legs chained. “Who are you working for?” We asked as we heard marching steps escaping. I tried marching for pace, but I got confronted by firing. I had no choice but to hide and use my FNS-9 Compact pistol and hit back. A bullet landed on my ankle, but I was fortunate to hit back on the head with my last round. I labored to reach where the person was drowning in a pool of blood. I could recognize him. He was a onetime Connell Gadhafis marksman. I had seen him on T.V. during the Arab uprisings in Libya.

The backed-up team had arrived and James had found an unprecedented amount of cash and a host of other belongings including a very sophisticated magnum in his possession. At last! It was time to rejoice. The suspect under custody had been identified by one of the officers in the backed-up team as an ex-Somali pirate.

PART 3
Weeping might endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Our suspect had been apprehended and detained at the Police Headquarters. Chief security Mr Jobe was overwhelmed and couldn’t hide his emotions. We hugged and enjoyed the moment with my swollen eyelid and serious ankle injury.
I had served in the Police Force for a duration of just five years before I resigned to pursue my master’s degree in the UK and I was going to offer my services to the department of justice. James’s mission was over, but he was going to wait and appear as an eyewitness when trials got underway.

Two hours had already elapsed, and the suspect’s constitutional rights had to be respected. He had to be informed of the reason(s) for his arrest and detention in a language he understood within three hours of detention. He was still a threat despite being in handcuffs. James and I intruded his confinement to bring our suspect for the cautionary statement. He had not uttered a single word since we got the better of him. I even wondered whether he was going to say something.

I didn’t know his name and I knew the name Sniper given to us was not his real name. “Can you please tell us your name young man?” He was around mid-forties; tall, dark in colour and physically strong. I repeated my question over and over, but he refused to speak to any of us. I was becoming fad up, but I somehow expected it from a suspect of such calibre. Suddenly, he, to my surprise chuckled and said, “my name is Abdallah Abdallah an ex-Somali pirate.” This was a typical Somali name but what shocked me was his identity as an ex-pirate. Time was fading, and I had to hurry before I was going to be time barred. I had to tell him the reasons for his detention even though he knew better. “Abdallah Abdallah you are being arrested for committing the offence of armed robbery.” He nodded. He had refused to speak since he revealed his name.

I thrust my hand in my pocket for a pouch of cigarettes. “Do you smoke Abdallah?” He continued to mute himself but nodded where he was quietly and calmly seated; hair disheveled, cloths almost thorn apart and legs dangling. I was trying to play it smart to build friendship with him. He received the cigarettes, lighted it and gestured signs of appreciation with thumps up. What bothered me was how comes and ex-Somali pirate and an armed robbery suspect who had perpetrated a lot of crimes did not even have a single scar on his entire body?
“Abdallah you see life goes on. You are being in our custody doesn’t make you a criminal. You are just a suspect and you are as innocent as any one of us here. You are innocent until proven guilty in a competent court of law.” He nodded as I assured him. “It would be best for both of us to clear the air and we all find our ways. Give your statement and we would gauge what happens next. If you wish you can make it in the presence of an attorney that would be even better.

Finally, after having a nice chat with him, he was willing to have his statement taken. I had made sure the judges rules of taking down statement were followed. I had an independent witness ready and I gave him words of advice before having his statement taken. “You need not say anything. You have the right to remain silent, but anything said would be admitted as evidence in a court of law.”

“I am as I told you earlier, an ex-Somali pirate. I was borne in Somalia to a Gambian father and a Somali mother. I lost my dad as a teenager and I am the only child of my parents. I grew up in the streets where I was picked up by terrorists group the “Alshabab” militants at the North East of the capital Mogadishu as a child soldier. This is how I joined piracy as I grew up.” “What brought you to The Gambia amid all the countries you passed by before making your final entry here?” “I wanted to return the country my father came from since I could not stay in Somalia when I escaped from the Alshabab and my mother had been killed by terrorist attacks in my decades long absence. The Gambia was the only country I wanted to return to.” “Why did you resort to armed robbery when you came to The Gambia and not another job?” I didn’t know anyone in here and I was not used to living in town with people. I had lived in the forest for almost my whole entire life. I never wanted to return to criminality as a way but it’s just in my veins now. I can’t do away with it.” I had heard enough from Abdallah. His well cultured voice was at odd with his trails records. He had voluntarily confessed that he alongside with his death partner were the actual perpetrators of recent burglaries and armed robberies in town. He was charged for the offence of armed robbery.

In my charge sheet, I made sure the statement of offence and particulars of claims were all but perfectly drafted before it was sent to the Attorney General’s Chambers.

Tuesday April 15th, 2014 was the date Abdallah was due to appear in court for his eagerly anticipated trial. The High Court where he was going to be tried was as crowded as it was hard to imagine.

I walked him through the door, hands cuffed, and legs chained. Justice Sonko the trial judge ordered for him to be freed. Amadou Jawo was the state counsel to prosecute him. To my surprise, when the charge sheet was read he objected to his name being Abdallah Abdallah and pleaded not guilty even though he had already confessed. He had become a totally different person in his solitary confinement. “My name is Farah! Farah Muhammad! Is my name!!” He protested. He had become the real pugnacious man I once envisaged.
In his examination-in-chief he denied his confession being voluntary. “I made my statement out of fear. I was seriously tortured whilst under police custody.” He raised his shirt to show injuries he had sustained on his backbones. “I did not have any scar in my entire body when I was first captured, and video footage can corroborate that.” It was true that he had no scar when he was arrested but he didn’t obtain the one at his back under police custody either. I was going to conduct investigations of how he got that scar.

There was no way our trial could proceed when his confession was not voluntary. The rule is that if the rules in taking down statements are not followed the whole trial becomes null and void. Farah as he claimed his name was, was already playing his cards smart. I didn’t know where he got the scar he made the court to believe in but he had choked the entire prosecution team. He had risked a potential jeopardy of the whole trial.

I visited the Mile II where he was redeployed to make my findings. The prison guard told me that some inmates where trying break away from the prison and that’s where he got his scar from two days before he was due to appear in court. I was not convinced. The scar on his back didn’t look like a less than one week old scar. I had no other choice than to rely on that and inform the counsel responsible for his trial the result of my findings.

It had became a heated argument in court about the admissibility of his confession and ‘vior dire’ was imminent.

The court resumed from session and the trial judge was not convinced that Farah Muhammad’s confession was voluntarily made. The declaration of null and void was all that was left for the judge to deliver. Confusion had taken over me. I attempted to explain the cause of the scar as a witness. “Your ladyship, this scar on Farah Muhammad, aiming for a jab at him, was obtained in an attempt to escape from his confinement two days ago.” It was easier to swallow a mountain of bananas than convince even the gullible that the scar on him had not occurred earlier than said when he was under police custody. Farah, despite all the real evidence against him was set to be a free man.

James, who had vanished since Farah had been under custody, was never going to let the anguish we had gone through together become futile. He had had Farah secretly filmed and had a computer generated evidence against him. I was almost left in tatters when James called. “Njies!; he had been briefed on what was happening in court as we spoke; look tell the judge that I have a concrete evidence on how Farah got his scar and a footage of his cautionary statement.” I got intrigued. I whispered to my counsel in charge. “Counsel my undercover partner has an evidence of how Farah obtained his scar and a footage of his cautionary statement. He is on his way and ready to testify as an eyewitness.” The counsel pleaded to be given time as evidence was due to arrive within minutes.

The eyewitness, James who had secretly filmed Farah arrived and testified that Farah had obtained his scar as a result of a fight he had in an attempt to stand an inmate who was convicted of treason. This, as he testified happened on the very day he was brought to the Mile II after having had his cautionary statement taken and charged. The counsel requested for the video footage filmed by the testifying witness, James to be played.

At last! Both footages had proven to be in tandem with our eyewitness’s testimony.

It was a forgone conclusion after James’s testimony had saved the trial. It is under Common law that once voluntary confession has been proven, the issue of dispute before the court is the innocence of the accused. However; if the prosecution has further evidence to present, which I had in abundance to consolidate the conviction and sentencing of Farah Muhammad can present it. I tendered the magnum, huge cash and night vision goggles found under his possession for the counsel to tender as exhibits.

Farah had no attorney to represent him and the offence he was charged with did not fall under the offences specified by law to be provided legal representation by the state.

He was convicted and sentenced. I enjoyed the delightful mood I was in when I heard the trial judge deliver the verdict. “This Honourable Court hereby declares that Mr Farah Muhammad is convicted and sentenced for armed robbery to thirty-three years in prison with hard labour. He has the right to appeal within forty days.”

THE END
PURELY FICTION
AUTHOR: MOMODOU LAMIN BAH THE VIRTUOUS