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Opinions of Sunday, 2 June 2019

Columnist: Dr Sebastian J. Owusu

An open letter to the Chief Justice

Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo

Bribery Tape Scandal: Justice Jacob Boon cannot run away from Justice


Following a masterpiece investigation conducted recently by Starr FM’s investigative journalist, Edward Adeti, on the judiciary, and the reactions from Ghanaians and the international community on the exposé, the Chief Justice, Her Ladyship Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, only needs to act now.

Her failure to hand Justice Jacob Boon the punishment he deserves for bringing the name of the country into disrepute globally could leave her to blame for a looming further global ridicule. At a recent international summit on democracy in the United States, the alleged serious misconduct of a senior judge in Ghana, Justice Jacob Boon, and the failure of the country’s Judicial Service to deal expeditiously with the issue was among the serious topics raised and discussed.

The issue came up in the United States after prominent organizations in Ghana like the Centre for Democratic Development Ghana (CDD-Ghana), the National Patriots against Injustice and Corruption, the Citizens’ Movement against Corruption (CMaC) et cetera were in the news calling for Justice Boon to be investigated with all the names mentioned in an investigative tape that went viral in April this year. The tape also got to us in the United States. But surprisingly, the general public is unaware of any action the Chief Justice has taken or is taking to interdict the judge and have him investigated. The missing action gives a troubling impression that the judge is being given protection by selective justice in a popular country in Sub-Saharan Africa like Ghana.

What more evidence does anyone need that the judge had engaged himself in a serious misconduct on a case he was handling than what the former Minister of State at the Office of the President, Mr. Rockson Bukari, said on the tape about the judge and a paramount chief, Tongo Rana? What more evidence does anybody need that the judge has brought a big scar upon the judiciary than his own decision to recuse himself immediately from the case after he was confronted and the secrets of the private meetings he had been having at his house with one of the parties involved in a case before him were laid bare to him?

It will serve a very good purpose to analyze one crucial point the public cannot afford to miss. The judge and the defendants, the Chinese miners precisely, were caught having meetings together at the judge’s house. The meetings alone show the defendants and the judge knew the defendants were guilty of the charges levelled against them in court by the other party hence the secret meetings to find a way out. After they were caught by the investigative journalist, the defendants presented a cash and a vehicle to him to shut him up. To give a journalist that magnitude of bribe to prevent the public from knowing about their secret meetings with the judge tells the same public how they and the judge had reached a deal for the defendants to get an undeserved justice in the court of law and how serious they did not want the public to know about the gravity of their plot with the judge.

If the defendants did not go to the house of the judge, they would not make any attempts to sweep the investigation under the carpet. If their secret was not about bribing the judge to rule in their favour, they would not extend the same bribe to the undercover journalist.

Presenting bribes to the undercover journalist to kill the story is proof that the defendants did same to the judge to buy justice. It did not come as a surprise when it came out in the news as we read online that the judge, whilst the undercover investigation was going on, ruled in favour on the defendants as the court trial progressed. This is a big eyesore worth investigating after the judge is interdicted. But sadly public comments suggest the judge is being protected because he is near retirement. Since when has the law become a respecter of any judge whose misconduct calls for immediate interdiction, investigation and a disciplinary action irrespective of whether the judge is near retirement or has just begun his or her career?

An investigation that caused no less a public figure than a whole Minister of State at the Office of the President to plead for the judge not to be exposed after he had been caught meeting with the Chinese investors and finally cost him his job after he resigned over his bribery comments on the investigative tape should be enough to cause the judge, who is at the centre of the whole investigation and the big fallouts, to be interdicted and investigated immediately. All the facts show the judge was compromised and for this reason cannot be allowed to continue to sit on any cases in the court of law until he is cleared of any wrongdoing if possible. It is a shame on Ghana’s democracy that a judge who is assigned to supervise the work of judges in a region would stoop to a level where he would have to recuse himself from a case over a serious misconduct and a subordinate judge would then have to take over the case to start the trial all over.

We want to join the CDD-Ghana, the CMaC, the NAPAIC and the rest in their calls for all those mentioned in the investigative tapes we have heard so far to be invited and be prosecuted by the appropriate bodies. We have heard of such names or positions like Rockson Bukari, Charles (his full name not mentioned), Maxwell (his full name not mentioned), Suweid (his full name not mentioned), the Shaanxi’s CEO ((his name not mentioned), the Tongo Rana (his name not mentioned) and Justice Jacob Boon being cited on the tapes. Nobody is above the law. This is a crucial test for the Ghana Police Service to prove they are really always poised to discharge their “service with integrity” as their motto says. It is also an important test for the Judicial Service to exercise its motto “Justice and Fair Play” expeditiously.

The works done by the likes of Anas Aremeyaw Anas, Edward Adeti, Manasseh Azure Awuni and Julian Owusu-Abedi et cetera as we follow the happenings back at home should be celebrated no matter the relentless threats, attacks and fabrications plotted against them by the enemies of society, individuals and groups who benefit secretly from corruption and social injustices. We can only join many others in congratulating Starr FM’s Edward Adeti for resisting the bribes and all the other opportunities promised him just to protect the public. He could have built a mansion and would have had cars from that story if he had wanted to go the way those who use their power to blackmail and to extort instead of serving the public often do. He is a good example and a standard-bearer for many other journalists not to lower the standard of courage, discipline and integrity and one who should be celebrated and protected.

Congratulations to the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) for championing the rights of journalists who face danger and attacks for exposing corruption. Congratulations also to Starr FM, Ghanaweb, the Crusading Guide Newspaper, Peacefmonline.com, the Daily Graphic, the Ghanaian Times, Dailymailgh.com, Myjoyonline.com and Citifmonline.com for keeping us Ghanaians in the diaspora well informed about this particular development in our justice system.

To conclude, we wish to say we cannot let our democracy down. We cannot afford to create or tolerate an atmosphere where the public would have reasons not to trust a judge or our judicial system. We cannot ridicule ourselves and our democracy in the eyes of the international community. Justice Boon is the centre of the resignation we have seen, the public protests and the public outcry the country has continued to hear for a long time now. Ghana is not a lawless state. He has eroded the public trust in the judiciary and cannot run away from justice. Justice Boon simply must face the law to serve as a deterrent for others who do not care about how Ghana is seen by the international community.

By Dr Sebastian J. Owusu, Head of Concerned Ghanaians in Georgia (COGHAG), USA.

Email Address: sebastianowusu2000@gmail.com