Feature Article of Friday, 27 January 2012
Columnist: Dowokpor, William
.... Decoupling of AG’s Department and Ministry of Justice.
Circumstances surrounding the dismissal of Attorney General, Hon. Martin Amidu, following his allegations of “gargantuan” corruption against an unnamed fellow cabinet member and the subsequent resignation of Education Minister, Betty Mould Iddrisu, a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, under whose watch the controversial Woyome judgement debt payment was made, brings to the fore the fragile governance infrastructure on which the country has been administered since 1992.
While the appointment and removal of ministers remain the exclusive prerogative of the President, which he has dutifully exercised in the case of Martin Amidu, the President is enjoined, in accordance with good governance practice to investigate the allegations of huge economic crimes against the Republic of Ghana, made by the sacked Attorney General.
I am convinced that, the departure of the two cabinet ministers from government within a period of one week, if thoroughly investigated would confirm the need to decouple the Office of the Attorney General and that of the Minister of Justice. Unfortunately it does not appear President Mills is in any mood to look into the Martin Amidu allegations; and the reasons are obvious. The President is doing all he can to save his government from imminent collapse at the 2012 general elections.
It is recalled that in the course of collecting views of Ghanaians on aspects of the 1992 constitution that needed to be amended, as part of the constitutional review process, proponents of the decoupling of the AG’s Office from that of the Minister of Justice made a strong case. They cited party loyalty as one of the reasons why an A-G and Minister of Justice would not enthusiastically prosecute his or her colleague member of the executive even in the face of obvious wrong doing.
Opponents of the separation including some three former Attorneys General namely Dr. Yao Obed Asamoa, Messrs. Ayi koi Otoo and Joe Ghartey insisted then, that, there were enough safeguards in the constitution to ensure the AG worked independently without interference. If the President wields the power to hire and fire the AG and Minister of Justice as demonstrated in the Martin Amidu case, where are the safeguards?
Surely, if there were any safeguards, independence and or mechanism in the constitution that allowed the AG to withstand the frowns and smiles of the President, Martin Amidu would not have been sacked for some misconduct which has not been fully disclosed. But the hint given by Director of Communications at the Presidency, captioned in the media as “nobody takes the president for granted” gives the impression that Mr. Amidu was sacked for being bold enough to tell the President “I’m sorry Mr. President, you can not have your way in this matter’.
If, after telling the President this, there were any safeguards, that would have allowed the AG to remain in office to prosecute the perpetrators of the alleged crimes, then the former Attorneys General would be right. Unfortunately because the entire drama at the Presidency has not been disclosed, Ghanaians have been left with no option but to believe that, Mr. Amidu’s attempt to be independent was misconstrued to mean “taking the President for granted”. If that is so, then, the three former AGs got it wrong, when they insisted there are any safeguards.
In view of this case in point, I think the time is right, to take seriously, calls for the separation of the AGs from the Ministry of Justice as have been made, by the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) among others over the years.
Now that President Mills has benefited from the status quo, it is doubtful if he will initiate the process of separation as recommended in aspects of the Constitutional Review commission’s report submitted to him recently. The good news though, is that, the next President, Dr. papa Kwesi Nduom and the Progressives in their ten point agenda for the transformation of Ghana, remain committed to taking steps to have the two portfolios decoupled to ensure democracy, good political governance and the rule of law without let or hindrance in Ghana.
Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency.