General News of Thursday, 29 August 2013
Ghana’s Supreme Court on Thursday August 29, 2013 upheld John Mahama’s presidency as valid.
The nine-member panel of Justices gave Mr. Mahama a clean ‘gavel of health’ by a majority decision.
The Bench’s final verdict means Mr. Mahama can see through his full four-year term as President.
The Petitioners in the case – the 2012 Presidential candidate of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; his running mate Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia and the party’s national chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey – resorted to the Court to challenge the results of the December 2012 presidential poll on grounds of alleged serious infractions, which they insisted, could not have gone uninvestigated.
They prayed the Court to declare Nana Akufo-Addo as President with reasons that unpardonable malpractices and irregularities at 10,119 polling stations justified the nullification of 3,931,339 “invalid votes” which, the Petitioners argued, would have beaten down the President’s votes and overturned the declared results.
According to the petitioners’ pleadings, over-voting occurred at 1,722 polling stations, while voting without biometric verification occurred at 2,020 polling stations.
They claimed Presiding officers did not sign electoral records (pink sheets) at 1,638 polling stations, while the use of duplicate serial numbers on pink sheets affected 8,987 polling stations.
The Petitioners argued that if the results of the 10,119 polling stations were annulled, President Mahama’s votes would have reduced by 2,622,551, which would have, in turn, beaten down the results declared by the Electoral Commission in his favour, to 41.79 per cent.
By that same principle, the Petitioners said though Nana Akufo-Addo’s votes would have, in like manner, been reduced by 1,233,186, he would have nonetheless secured 56.85 per cent, per their permutations, to cross the 50 per cent mark for victory.
According to the petitioners, Article 63 (3) of the Constitution insists that only valid votes be taken into account in the determination of the validity of the election of the President and therefore urged the court to uphold the clause in the Constitution.
They said per their analysis, President Mahama’s 5,574,761 as declared by the EC on December 9, 2012 should have been 2,952,210, representing 41.79% since votes totaling 2,622,551 out of the figure announced were invalid.
“The declaration made on 9th December 2012 by the 2nd respondent and set out in the Constitutional Instrument of the President Elect Instrument, 2012 (C. I. 80), made under the hand of the Chairman of 2nd respondent, was therefore made wrongfully and this Court is respectfully invited to hold his election was invalid and to set aside same as null and void.”
In the same vein, the petitioners submitted that the 5,248,898 declared by Dr. Afari-Gyan for Nana Akufo-Addo should have been 4,0157,12 representing 56.85% since 1,233,186 of the votes were invalid and should be annulled.
Beside President Mahama, the other respondents were the country’s Electoral Commission (EC) and the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The initial writ of the petitioners was filed at the Supreme Court on December 28, 2012, and the court, on January 22, 2013, allowed the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to be joined to the writ after an application to that effect.
Ahead of the start of the hearing on April 17, 2013, there was a heated national debate about carrying the hearing live on national TV.
That debate was sparked by the Executive Director of policy group Danquah Institute (DI), Mr. Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko.
Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood eventually decided on a televised hearing as part of measures to enhance transparency and strengthen Ghana’s democracy.
National broadcaster, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), nearly pulled the plugs on the hearing half-way through when its new Director General, Major Don Chebe (rtd) revealed that the live coverage was draining GBC’s kitty.
Don Chebe said the broadcaster made a total loss of Ghc3.5 million in revenue, within the period of the live court coverage.
The key witnesses were Dr. Bawumia; the NDC’s General Secretary Mr. Johnson Asiedu-Nketia; Chairman of the Electoral Commission Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan and a representative of international auditing firm, KPMG, Nii Amanor Dodoo.
KPMG offered its services, pro bono, to the apex Court when the need arose for an audit of the electoral records (pink sheets) tendered in evidence by the petitioners.
The firm submitted its report to the court on June 24, 2013.
In the course of the hearing, a few Contemnors were hauled before the Court for criminal contempt.
They included a Deputy Communications Director of the NPP, Mr. Sammy Awuku, who had, during the hearing, described the panel of Justices as “hypocritical and selective”.
Mr. Awuku was not given a custodial sentence despite his conviction for criminal contempt. He was nonetheless strongly reprimanded by the Court and banned from attending the hearing thereon.
Subsequent to Mr. Awuku’s contempt hearing, the Managing Editor of the Daily Searchlight, Mr. Ken Kuranchie and a member of the communications team of the NDC, Mr. Steven Atubiga, were jailed for 10 and three days, respectively, for the same offence.
The Court took judicial notice of Mr. Kuranchie’s justification of Mr. Awuku’s description of the Bench as “hypocritical and selective”.
He was given a harsher sentence for what the Court saw as his belligerence and unremorseful posture.
Mr. Atubiga, who had threatened on radio that President Mahama will not hand over to Nana Akufo-Addo even if the Court ruled to that effect, was, on the other hand, given a lighter sentence, after displaying abject remorse both outside the Court prior to his appearance as well as when he appeared before the Bench for his hearing.
The gavel of contempt also fell on the NPP’s General Secretary Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, popularly known as ‘Sir John’ for using unsavoury words against the President of the Bench, Justice William Atuguba.
Sir John was however spared custodial sentencing but fined Ghc5,000 in addition to a harsh scolding and signing of a bond to be of good behaviour for six months.
Also, fellow NPP Communicator, Hopeson Adorye, who threatened on radio, to decapitate supporters of the NDC if the Court ruled in favour of President Mahama, was fined Ghc2,000 and also made to sign a bond to be of good behaviour.
Bench and Bar
The nine justices who sat on the case include Justices William Atuguba, Julius Ansah, Sophia Adinyira, Rose Constance Owusu, Jones Victor Dotse, Anin Yeboah, Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, N. S. Gbadegbe and Vida Akoto-Bamfo.
Mr. Philip Addison led the team of Counsel for the Petitioners.
The respondents lead Counsel were Tony Lithur for the President; James Quashie-Idun for the Electoral Commission and Tsatsu Tsikata for the NDC.