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Opinions of Monday, 2 December 2013

Columnist: Rii, Jedd

The turn of her lady chief justice: the wood factor.

When the stakes are high, you would want to believe, that the person in charge is in control. Her Lady Chief Justice, Mrs Theodora Wood has come in for some heavy criticism, for her decision to initiate a probe into the conduct and proceedings of the institution she heads.

It has been largely misconstrued, as an investigation into the release of a leaked recording of a dismissed deputy minister of information. It is true, that there were calls, initially by the NPP to the Chief Justice for such an action, but why it is understandable, it was not the reason why the Her Lady Chief Justice instituted the probe.

The Chief Justice does not investigate allegations from the public unless it is presented in court. It is the job of the government in power, to investigate and prosecute allegations from the public. The probe by the Chief justice is therefore not because of calls from the NPP, but the reaction of the Mahama administration to the allegations made by Ms Hamma.

The action of the Chief Justice is to examine the integrity of the judicial process, the application of its rules, conduct and the delivery of justice. The probe will be confined to the men and women under her command and the judicial procedures in the institution that she heads. As such, the criticism by individuals from the NDC, that she is merely pandering to the whims of the NPP are misplaced.

The heavy critics of the Chief Justice, mainly from the NDC accusing her of being selective, some of whom are legal professionals should know, to direct any allegations they want investigated to the police and other agencies of government, which exist for the purpose of investigating and preparing cases for court. The Chief Justice will then be within her remit to examine the evidence.

With an apparent lack of appetite other than to dismiss Ms Hamma, the Mahama administration appears to have no interest in the assertions, which formed part or the basis for her dismissal, in spite of acting as if the exposure by Ms Hamma was the beginning of a major scandal involving the judiciary. The government is perhaps with the hope that it can ride piggy back on the findings of the Chief Justice, if it comes back clear.

In the wake of the secret recordings on former deputy, minister of information; Ms Hamma, the action of the Mahama administration was to swiftly terminate her appointment. The reason for that is subject to supposition. However in similar situations of indiscretion, it will be expected that the minister would have been summoned to give an explanation and then asked to resign. The significance will be demonstrating a conduct [ not an act ] which is unfit for governance or public office.

In cases such as gross misconduct, where there is reason to suggest, that the continued presence in a position by an individual, will constitute a clear and present danger or detriment without evidence of any criminal act, the government will be right to summarily terminate the appointment of any such individual.

By summarily dismissing Ms Hamma, the suggesting by the action of the Mahama administration, is that she posed a clear and present danger or detriment to the people, if she remained in her position. It gave credence to the assertions that (1)there was probable inducement or undue influence in a judicial process by her boss; the Minister for Information. (2)Her primary objective for being in government was to use her position to amass a million dollars [or thereabouts ].

Now, the first assertion should not get you dismissed, unless it is being done as punishment for exposure or bringing the government into disrepute. So we have to assume that Ms Hamma was dismissed because she posed a clear and present danger or detriment to the people of Ghana and either intended or was inchoately amassing a million dollars, most or all of which, would have been money belonging to the people of the nation.

However, we cannot ignore the first assertion of Ms Hamma for the simple reason that she was a deputy minister of information. It was her job to know and she would have come by a lot of information, including those which will not be flattering to her boss. Some will be true and others will be without foundation. However if the government reacts to any information in a manner which appears as a knee jerk reaction, aimed at protecting itself and its image, it is bound to cause some concern about the credibility and probable impact of the said information on all parties concerned.

The Chief Justice is being proactive and while she would normally have an review on the conduct and delivery of justice following any major case, she has had cause to expand the one on the election petition, to now include a probe, because the government acted on information which included allegations on the performance and subsequent delivery of justice by persons under her command.

It is an internal judicial exercise on due diligence, instituted on her own volition in response to events outside her jurisdiction. There is no need to get members of the public involved. If the committee she has instituted, return that all her people who acted on the petition acted with due propriety, that will be the end of the matter unless information elsewhere suggests otherwise.

It must be clear, that if the probe by the Chief Justice comes back as such, that will not suggest that Ms Hamma’s assertions are untrue, what it means is that, the Chief Justice, having taken all reasonable steps, has satisfied herself that the integrity of the judiciary is intact and was in no manner influenced by the action(s) of persons outside the judiciary.

For that reason, there can be no claim by the government, that the probe by the Chief Justice [ if it comes back clear ] indicates that the government is also in the clear. The probe can only suggest that the judiciary is in the clear. The government will have to institute its own investigation or ask the chief Justice to expand her probe into the conduct and affairs of those mentioned by Ms Hamma.

There cannot be much credence on the words of an individual who was bent on taking a million dollars of Ghanaian people’s money. But someone ordered those recordings to be made. Someone intended releasing those recordings to discredit and humiliate Ms Hamma. The government also reacted in a manner which suggested that she was a threat.

Well! Ms Hamma is no longer a threat [thank goodness!] but the people are owed an explanation. It is clear the recordings on Ms Hamma were released because she somehow had an opinion of herself, which could not be reconciled with her relationship to her boss, work or colleagues. The people need to know if there are persons in government, actively making recordings for purposes other than to actually fight crime.

Would Ms Hamma still be in government, secretly amassing the people’s money, if she and her boss were on good terms? Are there others in government who are plundering the people’s money unchallenged, because they are on good terms with grandees in government? These and many questions are what people of the nation would like answered by the actions of the government.

For the Chief Justice, Her Lady Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, when it comes to the judiciary under her command, she has aptly demonstrated that she is in control. She has shown a high level of capability, an understanding of her environment and her theatre of engagement. Her display of trailblazing initiatives has totally transformed the national perspective. Qualities which though expected at such high echelons, are surprisingly not common. She is one of a rare breed.

The current probe at the judiciary is part of a wider initiative to ensure her house is in order to deliver what the Ghanaian people expect of her. She is showing due diligence and a steely determination to ensure that her legacy will be one of which the nation will be proud. She is unlikely to be swayed by anything which has no bearing on the job she has at hand: delivering justice.

That is another Ghanaian to be proud of.

Jedd Rii