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General News of Friday, 4 July 2003

Source: GNA

New Chief Justice sworn into office

Accra, July 4, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor said on Friday that the Judiciary had a big role in getting the country out of its socio-economic development problems and ensuring normalcy and order. He said, "Since independence 45 years ago, the country has suffered much turbulence, coup d'etats, revolutionary regimes and violations of the Constitution. We want to get out of this mess, we want normalcy to a stabilized order. If we are to succeed, a lot would depend on the Judiciary, especially the Supreme Court."

President Kufuor said this when he swore in Mr Justice George Kingsley Acquah, 61, into office as the 23rd Chief Justice of Ghana at the Castle, Osu. He administered the oath of allegiance and presented the instruments of appointment to Mr Justice Acquah. President Kufuor said the country was now at the cross-roads, beset with many problems, the economy, unemployment, high interest rates and inflation and charged the new Chief Justice to be aware that these were difficult times and that the Judiciary must be the stabilising factor to ensure that the Constitution was on course.

He said the new Chief Justice, should be imbued with a singular conscience for the nation because for sometime now the Judiciary had been under great suspicion of corruption. President Kufuor asked the new Chief Justice to ensure that Judges lived above suspicion and conducted themselves in such a way that would inspire the people. He said all judges should be treated fairly with promotion and selection of judges on panels at the Supreme Court, adding, " there should not be any disparity in the performance of your duty." "You are there to lead and direct the Judiciary to play its function in the evolution of the nation. Self-serving parochialism should not be part of the make-up of the Judiciary", he said.

Mr Justice Acquah said the public's perception of the Judiciary now was not encouraging following allegations of corruption, incompetence, unreasonable delay and other malpractices on the part of some of the personnel of the Judicial Service. He said the factors that led to these perception were many, ranging from the use of outdated rules and procedures, inadequate human resource development facilities, the lack of physical facilities, use of obsolete equipment, low morale due to poor conditions of service, to understaffing in some critical areas including magistrates, interpreters and stenographers.

Mr Justice Acquah said in response to these concerns, the Service with the assistance of donors had for the last two years embarked on major projects aimed at modernizing and reforming the system. He said the World Bank had spent about 14 billion cedis in automating Accra and other High Courts in the regions. Mr Justice Acquah said plans were far advanced for the construction of a six courtroom commercial court by DANIDA and a new two-year training course for well-educated lay magistrates. He said his vision for the Judiciary was to work closely with his colleagues and institutions within the Service to re-position the Judiciary in such a way as to redeem its sinking image and integrity.

Mr Justice Acquah pledged to promote the rule of law, transparency and speedy administration of justice, uphold fundamental human rights and promote good governance to encourage free enterprise, attract private investors and instil confidence in the public. He said the greatest constraint in efforts to reform and modernize the Service was the inadequate infrastructures and to ease the congestion in the courts, a two-block four storey building begun about four years ago was still at the foundation level and about three million dollars was required to complete and refurbish it.

Mr Justice Acquah said the Cocoa Affairs courts were also in a deplorable state while it was also long overdue to have a permanent Court of Appeal in Kumasi to cater for the Northern part of the country. The New Chief Justice attended Adisadel College where he obtained both his West African Examinations Councils' Ordinary and Advanced Level Certificates and proceeded to the University of Ghana from 1964 to 1967 to obtain B.A. in Philosophy and from 1968 to 1970 obtained LL.B Hons. (Law).

Mr Justice Acquah entered the Ghana Law School from 1970 to 1972 for his Professional Certificate in Law and was called to the Bar in 1972. He was in Private Legal practice from 1972 to 1989; became a High Court Judge from 1989 to 1994, Appeal Court Judge from 1994 to 1995, Supreme Court Judge from 1995 to date and served on more than 20 Committees. Mr Owusu Ansah, the Judicial Secretary told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that Mr Justice Acquah was the first Chief Justice to undergo his law studies in Ghana.