You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2014 08 06Article 319881

Opinions of Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Columnist: Adjei-Gyamfi, Godwin

A call for an Independent Prosecution Service in Ghana

Woyome Fraud; A call for an Independent Prosecution Service in Ghana

The Supreme Court on 31/07/2014 unanimously ruled that Alfred Agbesi Woyome had no valid contract and further directed that the businessman refunds the $51.2 million judgement debt paid to him between 2009 - 2011. The seven-member panel presided over by Chief Justice Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood ruled that the National Democratic Congress financier got the money out of an invalid and unconstitutional contract and that there was sufficient evidence available which the Attorney General’s Department could have relied on to prevent this fraudulent payment in the first place.

In its ruling, the court said the contracts upon which he made and received the claim was in contravention of Article 181 (5) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, which requires such contracts to be laid before and approved by Parliament.

The ruling follows a JUDICIAL REVIEW brought before the court by former Attorney General Martin Amidu AKA "Citizen Vigilante" against Alfred Agbes. Mr. Amidu was seeking various reliefs in the two separate cases.
Although the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in his favour in June 2013, Martin Amidu applied for Judicial Review in what he termed a miscarriage of justice.

In that trial, Martin Amidu, who represented himself in court, argued that the Attorney General, who was one of the respondents in the case, facilitated Waterville Holdings’ “unconstitutional” acts in the construction of stadia for the CAN 2008.

The Attorney General, represented by Chief State Attorneys Dorothy Afriyie Ansah and Stella Badu told the court Martin Amidu was “entitled to his reliefs”.

As we have seen, the Attorney General's office lacks adequate leadership and prosecution skills to carry out effective prosecution to retrieve the state's coffers from the NDC financier. Martin Amidu is therefore a real brave heart who needs to be honoured and celebrated by the nation for his pivotal role in the Woyome-judgement debt saga.

Since Ghana’s State Prosecution lost the Ghana @ 50 case, the Ya-Na case and now the Woyome-judgement debt saga, I have come to the conclusion that the organisation is "not fit for purpose." As a lawyer with fourteen years experience, with ten of those years spent as a Crown Advocate (principal prosecutor) in the United Kingdom, now practising in Ghana, I am amazed by the sheer incompetence and amateurish of some of the attorneys representing the state as prosecutors.

From nine months in Ghana I have seen sometimes, they even do not turn up in court and fail to inform the court as a matter of curtsey to avoid waste of time, cost and resources. On some days, they turn up late with no explanation as to why they were late and at times with no file. They often ask for adjournments or "dates" for flimsy reasons and when they are ready, they come across as unprepared and their performance is nothing to write home about.

I cannot believe some of the elementary mistakes they commit in prosecuting cases, as if their main goal is defeat. In some cases, the judge is compelled to give default judgement because the Attorney General Department failed to represent the state at the hearing or put up a defence. The catalogue of inefficiencies by the State Prosecution is beyond comprehension. I guess probably, that is how prosecution is done in Ghana.

The failures, unwillingness or inability of the Attorney General’s Department to prosecute the Woyome case is very disturbing and a risk to case law development and seeking justice for victims of crime in Ghana. They hide behind their incompetence and accuse judges of being bias against the state. I am not defending the judiciary and I have my own suspicion that some judges may also be incompetent and bias against the state for whatever reason.

Notwithstanding these obstacles the main culprit for the unfavourable judgements against the state is the incompetence by the prosecution from the Attorney General's office.

Martin Amidu's one man crusade demonstrates that for the state to reverse the incompetence and improve the performance of prosecutors there is the urgent need for root and branch reorganisation of the Prosecution Service in Ghana. There is a need for the next government to establish an Independent Prosecution Service similar to that in England and Wales.
How long are we going to allow the Attorney General to wear two hats at the same time? The post holder simply cannot be trusted to advice the government and be expected to prosecute those in government and or associated with the government as demonstrated by the case of Woyome.

I understand the NDC made a manifesto commitment to separate the Attorney General’s Department and Ministry of Justice into an independent Prosecution Service but sadly, like all of their manifesto commitments, has not come into fruition. The separation is absolutely critical not only to improve the prosecution service but also to wean off the political contamination in the prosecution of cases.

Prosecution and trials are not about vengeance and retribution but to demand justice, through transparency, fairness and accountability for all, irrespective of political, religious, tribal affiliation and socio-economic status.

The creation of an Independent Prosecution Service headed by a technocrat capable of making independent decisions devoid of politics on prosecutions is long overdue in Ghana. That should be accompanied by competency based skills training for Prosecutors and adequately resourced. State Prosecution Service should also cast the net wider in search of prosecutors, including instructing private experience Barristers to prosecute high profile and complex cases on behalf of the state. From my observation in the court room in Ghana, it is abundantly clear to me that the defeats suffered by the state at the courts are not due to the state not having good or bad cases but rather more to do with poor prosecution. A typical example is the Ya-Na case. What you see is what you get, chuff in chuff out. I could have done a better job in that case to at least, secured conviction for the victim and his family.

From the above failures, non-attendance at courts, defaults judgements against the state and others, it is obvious that the Prosecution Service or the Attorney General’s Department lacks effective leadership. Perhaps, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice and his lieutenants are too busy with political decisions on the drafting of bills and bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements or even pre-occupied with unrealistic schemes to prosecute and convict political opponents and therefore have no or little time for prosecuting other criminal cases.

Ghana needs a national prosecution service with an independent body to conduct day-to-day operational delivery of successful prosecution and a political head that would report on policy to the minister but be solely responsible for leadership and direction, the development and implementation of strategic policies. A service with skilled, competent and professional prosecutors that would make it feasible for the state to secure successful prosecutions, just like that of our hero, Martin "Citizen Vigilante"

By Godwin Adjei-Gyamfi
Lawyer & Former Prosecutor at Crown Prosecution Service, UK