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Opinions of Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Columnist: Adamu, Tanko Balik

Ghanaian Judiciary Gradually making itself Irrelevant

The judiciary by definition is one of the arms of government charged with the responsibility of interpreting the laws of the land which in our case is the 1992 Constitution alongside other relevant customs. In a country where the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances are applied, the judiciary also serves as a check on the other arms of government. These principles are very essential if the excesses of governments are to be controlled in the country. One should therefore have been excited that Ghana as a country was one where the excesses or arbitrariness of one arm of government will be checked by the other. It is a shame however that the judiciary arm of government in our country is not applying itself to the rights it has. Ghanaian judiciary has been steamrolled into doing sometimes unthinkable things by the government of the day. This happened during the NPP era albeit in a much smaller scale than it is happening today. It nonetheless happened and to the extent that it continued means that Ghanaians have to start paying attention to the institution itself rather than the narrow political lenses we have often viewed things.
The integrity of the Ghanaian judiciary is very essential if our young but fledging democracy is to be protected. Every Ghanaian should be able to go about his/her constitutionally allowed duties with at least a surety that they will be protected from being thrown in jail by some power drunk punk. It is however sad to say that the Ghanaian judicial system at this point do not offer Ghanaians this protection. Several cases exist to demonstrate this point. First amongst them include the prosecution of one Nana Darkwa whose case is pending in court and for which reason, I will not bother to go in detail but a learned judge was willing to sit on this case and waste the nation’s resources to try a person whose only crime is speaking his mind in a country where freedom of speech is protected by the constitution. When I head this case, I was excited because I said that will be a test case for a judge with balls to stand up for the constitution and dismiss the case but I was wrong, the young man was remanded in custody and was only released when the chorus for his release got louder. The unprofessionalism of the prosecutor in this case came to head when he told the whole world that he could not locate the investigator or the tapes for this case. This however did not make the judge dismiss the case, he still adjourned to hear it another day after he himself failed to show up for one of the hearing. You guys might succeed in wasting everybody’s time but you are by these tactics exposing your incompetence to the whole wide world.
In another case, Ghanaians allegedly involved in conflicts in the North have been remanded and allowed to rot in jail for over a year without any charges been preferred against them and our so-called institution of justice charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the rights of Ghanaians are not violated is not only standing by, but actively ensured that this happened. Close to this type of nonsense is the recent swoop of over 41 people from the same area for their alleged roles in the murder of the Yaa Naa. I do not want to be caught in the Abudu and Andani debate because I personally feel it is rubbish but if we are even to accept the fact that the nine (9) who were eventually charged had a role to play in the conflict, what will we have to say about the 27 others who for no reason where dragged out of their beds and sent to Bimbilla? Couldn’t a decent judge dismiss this case solely based on the technically of the manner of arrests? What kind of people actually make up our judiciary? How brilliant are these people? In another case in Techiman, the judiciary only got involved when the Asantehene couldn’t take it anymore. In doing so, they only seemed to have reinforced the thinking of the Asantehene and other Ghanaians without actually paying attention to the merits or their lack thereof. The question I have for the judiciary is what happened to the principles of habeas corpus, certiorari and mandamus?
When it comes to the integrity of the people employed as judges in Ghana, I am not surprised our justice system is what it is today. People like Ret. Justice Kpegah, Judge Wilson and frankly a bunch of idiots have used the system to empower and enrich themselves instead of standing for the principles of rule of law. Justice Kpegah even sued the judicial service for refusing to guarantee his personal loan. What sort of public ridicule is that? He wasn’t even ashamed to defend that before Ghanaians with his only reason being that he was going to use the money to pay his children’s tuition and it was part of his benefits as retired justice. This argument is the most bizarre I ever heard from any Ghanaian! An organization that you no longer work for, should guarantee your loan and pay it back to the bank in case you default in paying, what a benefit that is? Even if you were still working as a Supreme Court judge, who says the judicial service is under obligation to guarantee your loans? This ignoramus of a Supreme Court judge was head on radio telling another lawyer that he taught him at law school. Am not surprised some of our lawyers turned out the way they did? He hasn’t found time to stand for the constitutionally denied right of Ex-President Kuffour of his ESB. The law is not there for us to choose and pick only when it is good. As bad and extravagant as the ESB of the former president is, it has to still be honored or we have to amend our constitution. We can not be capricious and arbitrary when it comes to the laws of the land.
I will like to conclude by urging well meaning Ghanaians to form a coalition for the defense of our constitution. It doesn’t matter if the coalition is partisan; the only thing that will be important is the defense of constitutional provisions. They should always ensure that they speak up and if possible appoint people to defend others if their constitutionally guaranteed rights are being infringed upon whether they agree with them politically or not. It will be best if such a coalition is made up of decent lawyers akin to the ACLU of the United States of America. A strong force for the support of our constitution in my opinion will go a long way to protect and deepen our democracy and I pray that there is a brave lawyer out there in Ghana to heed this call.
God Bless Ghana!
Tanko Adamu
Pittsburgh, PA USA