By Kwasi Frimpong
Last week could best be described as the “Market Week” for the nation’s judiciary, gallivanting from its own corridors to the legislative house, shredding dreams and aspirations of some people, putting party big wigs behind bars, liberating some and increasing its own numbers at the apex court while reducing the numbers at bar.
From Prof Henrietta Mensah Bonsu to Martin Amidu to Tetteh Tevie to Baffoe-Bonnie, not even the self-acclaimed defender and protector of the nation’s purse was spurred in the raid.
The week began with the vetting of four persons who have been nominated by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as justices of the Supreme Court. The four are Professor Henrietta J. A. N. Mensah-Bonsu, a Law lecturer of the University of Ghana, Legon; Mr Emmanuel Yonny Kulendi, a private legal practitioner; Mr Justice Clemence Honyenuga and Mr Justice Issifu Tanko Amadu, both Justices of the Court of Appeal.
The second vetting for the second day was much of a lecturer and her students having a discussion. The venerable Prof. Mensah-Bonsu was at the vetting, literally, to school members of the Vetting Committee. My first encounter with her was when I had to interview her during her sendoff ceremony as Director of the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD).
As a Communication student, LECIAD was my beat to cover for my print class. This is a woman who has achieved so much, and yet offered to remain so humble. The discussion was so fruitful that I caused the story which was supposed to be a campus assignment to be published in the Daily Statesman newspaper (See LECIAD ‘face – changer’ retires, published on Wednesday October 31 2018). Rumours have it that Prof. Mensah-Bonsu was recommended by the Judicial Council to be nominated for Supreme Court during the NDC administration, but was denied the opportunity to serve the country.
Surprisingly, some people also created some mischief that she was been penciled for the position of the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission by the President. With respect to the office of the EC Chairperson and as Prof said herself at her vetting, she is ‘too big’ for that. It is clear from all that she has achieved that, giving her the EC chair, a position which is at the level of an appeals court judge, will be demeaning to a person as Prof. Mensah-Bonsu.
She is an institution of her own and her addition to the Supreme Court bench will do the country a good deal, most decent citizens believe.
The minus of the second day was the attempt by the Member of Parliament of North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, to try to centre the vetting of the renowned Private Legal Practitioner, Emmanuel Yonny Kulendi, on a young man. Many felt that was a low point to try to ruin the career of rather a brilliant young enterprising lawyer in this way by bringing a private issue between the young man and his former boss into the public domain. For many, that was a No! No!, and I believe Mr. Ablakwa himself, probably upon reflection, will admit that the youthful exuberance to try and prove to the world that he did some research before coming to sit at the vetting table has sadly backfired.
Justice Clemence Honyenuga
The biggest talking point around the vetting was what happened on the first day. Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a justice of the appeals court who has had an elevation, failed to secure unanimous approval from the Appointments Committee of Parliament (ACP) when he appeared before it. The committee voted on a 10-7 approval with members of the NDC minority on the panel voting against him.
His only crime was performing his traditional role as a Paramount Chief of the Nyagbo Traditional Area in the Afadzato South District in the Volta Region. As culture demanded, he was to welcome President Nana Akufo-Addo, as the longest -serving paramount chief in the district, when the President visited the area in February.
The Ghanaian is naturally hospitable and will always give the best form of welcome to a visitor. Again, it is culturally ‘un-Ghanaian’ to be rude to a visitor. And more importantly, Western style diplomacy, which has been adapted by Africans, demands that countries or leaders show the best form of diplomacy, especially in communication, to visitors from other areas.
For the Minority to use the words of a chief who was only performing his customary roles and following basic diplomatic principles against him in the line of his professional duties is not only disingenuous, but also smacks of hypocrisy and unwanted mischief.
Two blows to the NDC
The week continued with two uppercuts on the jaws of the opposition party. Three former appointees of former President John Dramani Mahama were sentenced to a cumulative 16 years in jail.
The three, who have been supported fully by former President John Mahama through his constant visit to the court to give them ‘moral support’, are Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, former Board Chairman of the National Communication Authority (NCA), William Tetteh Tevie, former Director-General of the NCA, and Alhaji Salifu Mimina Osman, a former Deputy National Security Coordinator and a businessman. They were sentenced by an Accra Commercial High Court for various offences including conspiracy to willfully causing financial loss to the state to the tune of $4 million. Additionally, they were in contravention of the Public Procurement Act and intentionally misapplying public property.
Prof. Kwaku Asare, American based Ghanaian law professor, puts it in simple terms; “the Board Chair (A1) of NCA arranges with another Board Member (A4), who doubles as Deputy National Security Coordinator, to trigger a request from National Security for NCA to provide institutional support to National Security to acquire a cyber-spying machine from NSO, an Israeli company.
The request comes in from NSC to NCA. A1 agrees with A2, the Director General of NCA, to release $4M to IDL, a local company run by their ally A5, who will buy the equipment from NSO and resell it to NCA for delivery to NSC (National Security Council). On this Ananse Scheme, $4M is transferred to IDL, who pays $1M to NSO, leaving $3M for A1, A2, A4 and A5 to share.”
Later in the week, the Supreme Court, in a 5-2 majority decision, dismissed a suit filed by a former Deputy Attorney General, Dr Dominic Ayine, challenging Mr Martin ABK Amidu’s eligibility for the position as Special Prosecutor. The NDC MP for Bolgatanga East had contended that Mr Amidu, at 66, had passed the age of compulsory retirement from public service, and was therefore not qualified for the position at the time of his appointment. However, the Supreme Court, in its majority decision, dismissed the suit.
The Auditor-General, Daniel Domelevo, was also found guilty of contempt for failing to respond to a suit filed by Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Maafo, which was challenging the $1m surcharge on him. According to the court, the reason given by Mr Domelevo for his inability to respond was “untenable and an afterthought.”
But for his crucial role as the Auditor General, he would have been given a custodial sentence.
“In sentencing the Respondent, this Court has in mind the very crucial role of the Respondent in our country and would not wish to dog him and discourage him or his office in the performance of his duties with a harsh custodial sentence, especially in the midst of the COVID 19 Pandemic,” the Presiding Judge, Justice Botwe, said in her ruling.
All in all, last week was a busy week for the court.