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General News of Monday, 24 February 2020


Judge in Opuni’s case under intense criticism for endorsing Akufo-Addo

Clemence Jackson Honyenuga ,Justice of the Appeal Clemence Jackson Honyenuga ,Justice of the Appeal

Justice of the Appeal’s Court, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga has incurred the wrath of many for publicly endorsing President Akufo-Addo for this year’s presidential election.

Reading from a written speech, the Court of Appeal judge, who doubles as the Paramount Chief of the Nyagbo Traditional Area commended the president and hoped he emerges victorious in the forthcoming election.

The judge who sits as additional High Court judge is currently presiding over the case involving former COCOBOD boss Dr. Stephen Opuni, a case some have described as political witch-hunting.

“We wish to congratulate you for the excellent manner you are governing this dear country of ours, it is our hope that with your vision and the gains made in your first term, Ghanaians may consider giving you another four years” Justice Honyenuga whose stool name is Torgbui Ashui Nyagasi V, told the president at a durbar of chiefs and people of Nyagbo. The president was on a three-day tour to the Volta/Oti regions last week.

Many, including legal luminaries, who felt the judge probably erred in this open declaration took to social media to criticize his conduct.

Some media reports suggest Justice Honyenuga is one of three persons the government is considering for appointment to the Supreme Court, raising suspicion his comments were to meant to endear him further to the current government.

Some commentators suggest his statement is a breach of the Code of Conduct for Judges and Magistrates as well as chiefs’ code of conduct: Justice Honyenuga finds himself in these two noble fields. Under Rule 6 of judges’ code of conduct, they are not allowed to “publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for political office”. Also, Ghana’s 1992 Constitution bars chiefs from taking part in partisan politics.

As far as the chiefs are concerned, Section (1) of Article 276 states: “A chief shall not take part in active party politics, and any chief wishing to do so and seeking election to Parliament shall abdicate his stool or skin.”

A law professor, Stephen Kwaku Asare, who is also a D&D Fellow in Public Law and Justice at Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) describes Justice Honyenuga’s conduct as a violation of the judicial code of conduct.

“I was utterly surprised to read that a Judge of the Superior court has publicly endorsed a candidate for political office in clear violation of the judicial code of conduct. Of course, we do not take our laws and codes seriously but judges should do a little better”.

The Opuni-Agongo case has been cited on several public platforms, among a plethora of others by President Nana Akufo-Addo, who is seeking a second term. Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, are on trial for their alleged engagement in acts that resulted in a financial loss of GHS271.3 million to the state in a series of fertiliser deals.

They have been charged with 27 counts, including wilfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, defrauding by false pretence, money laundering and corruption of a public officer.

The two have pleaded not guilty to all the charges and are on self-recognisance bail of GHS300,000 each.