You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2003 03 17Article 34148

Opinions of Monday, 17 March 2003

Columnist: Anane, Baffuor Gyau

The Judicial System Needs Changes

Wofa Kwadwo Manu put on his new ?Ekunini Ntoma? his beautiful wife bought for him as his Christmas gift. His young and pretty wife had already polished the pair of native sandals Wofa Kwadwo would be wearing. The shine on the sandals could reflect his handsome face if he bent down to touch his foot. The handsomeness of his well-defined facial features was not hidden by age. The face was wrinkle free. Wofa Kwadwo, as he was affectionately called and popularly known, was packing to go out of town. He opened his black leather briefcase and put wads of new cedi notes in large denominations inside. He carried with him his mobile phone and other appurtenances of the wealthy.

Wofa Kwadwo, resplendent in his beautiful and apparently expensive traditional attire, looked as regal as royalty could be. He stepped outside his room, briefcase in hand, into the lushly and beautifully landscaped front-yard. His shapely and youthful-looking wife was already in the front-yard to bid him farewell. Together with the manicured lawn, the half-acre front-yard looked like a beautiful botanical garden except for the garage and driveway. Wofa Kwadwo?s late model Toyota Camry was parked in the driveway that led to the main gate. He got into the car, about to leave behind his pretty wife and his magnificent walled-around five-bedroom cinder block house. Wofa Kwadwo started the engine. He let it warm for a while as he conversed with his wife. He started backing out as his wife directed him through the irongate.

Wofa Kwadwo, a successful cocoa farmer and a citrus plantation owner, exemplified the strongly-held belief that one did not have to live in large urban centers, or travel outside the nation, to be a success story if the one worked hard and invested wisely in a stable and democratic society like his beautiful Ghana where enlightenment has upended ignorance. He backed the car out of the gate, parking it by the curb as the engine continued to warm. He had another brief conversation with his wife. The wife smiled and waved Wofa Kwadwo good-bye, wishing him good luck. Wofa Kwadwo smiled appreciatively at his young wife, waving back at her. Destination? The Kumasi Court House, 56 miles away from his medium-sized town.

?I hope the case will be settled today,? he murmured as he drove. ?After five years?? This time he shouted, apparently out of frustration and as a personal protest against the judicial system.

?Ghana is progressing beautifully and a lot of things are getting better. Democracy is working. There is press freedom, and I am doing very well financially. The only problem is that the judicial system stinks,? he said to himself, as he drove and listened to music from his car?s CD player.

?When I visited Yaw in London and he had this case in court it was settled the same day. There was nothing like the plaintiff?s or the defendant?s lawyer was sick and could not come to court the case is adjourned. How come our judicial system, inherited from the British, stinks so badly? The British don?t drag cases on like we do. Five years? Come on,? he muttered, maneuvering his car to avoid a head-on collision with an on coming truck as he negotiated a curve.

Finally, the City of Kumasi was in view, its dilapidated houses giving way to beautiful modern ones. Wofa Kwadwo got closer to the Court House, admiring the well-tended government buildings on both sides of the broad streets as he drove. After 56 miles, murmurings, and music he made it to the Court House. Luck was on his side. He got a parking spot, a walking distance from the Court House. His mobile phone rang, as he was busy searching through his briefcase for some documents. The phone rang again and again, chirping like a pet bird that needed attention from its owner. Wofa Kwadwo seemed to be looking for something very important. Probably, a legal document. Finally, he answered the phone. It was his lawyer telling Wofa Kwadwo where to meet him in the court building.

?Hello, Wofa Kwadwo,? a gentleman, nattily dressed in a tailored suit, greeted him.

?Hello, Osei,? responded Wofa Kwadwo, ?Back on the case again,? continued Wofa Kwadwo, extending his hand to greet the gentleman.

?I hope today will be the end. Twelve years of pain and sorrow. It has taken a heavy toll on me.?

?Mine is five years. I won the case years ago and we?ve had unending appeals.?

?Mine is adjourned any time I come here. Reasons? The defendant?s lawyer?s wife is sick. The defendant?s lawyer?s wife has given birth. Wofa Kwadwo, this is too much headache. Unbelievable.?

?It?s unbelievable, preposterous. It stinks,? Wofa Kwadwo concurred. Wofa Kwadwo continued: ?The appellate courts are responsible for the lack of fair and speedy trial.?

?Wofa Kwadwo,? said the gentleman, making direct eye contact with Wofa Kwadwo. ?A High Court judge recently admitted that ?all the stakeholders in the criminal justice system contributed to delays in courts?,? the gentleman continued.

?Osei, you right. I heard that the same judge also said that he deplored the ?needless adjournments? by private legal practitioners, poorly prepared lawyers and tactics designed to lengthen trials.?

?I hope and pray this great judge would be transferred here to sit on my case.?

?I hope so too.?

?One thing the judge said that I admire him for is the comment that ?Some of our rules are outmoded or too archaic and thus not relevant to our present situation.??

?That was great.?

?You right.?

Wofa Kwadwo and his friend headed towards the entrance of the Court House, holding their briefcases, hoping and praying that their cases would come to trial today. They entered the Court House and parted ways, wishing one another good luck. Wofa Kwadwo entered Room 301.

?Hello, Wofa Kwadwo,? a gentleman in a dark brown suit said, getting up from his seat. He shook hands with Wofa Kwadwo.

?I think he?s a chief,? a young man whispered to another man wearing a black shirt and a pair of black trousers.

?He looks regal,? the man in the black outfit said, a little above a whisper.

Wofa Kwadwo?s lawyer led him outside as all eyes followed them.

?Wofa Kwadwo,? said the lawyer, as they stood near a corner by themselves for a little privacy.

?Yes, Lawyer Mensah.?

?The defendant?s lawyer couldn?t make it.?

?Not again. I can?t believe this.? Wofa Kwadwo shook his head. ?His knee again?? he asked.

?Yes?. I understand he has problem walking.?

?Ridiculous?.How long is it going to take to settle this case? A millenium??

?Patience?.. Wofa Kwadwo. It will soon come to trial.?

?When??

?I am working hard on it.?

?Let us get the hell out here,? Wofa Kwadwo said, very frustrated.

?Wofa Kwadwo, I do understand your concerns and frustrations with the justice system. Adjournment of court cases is not unique to Ghana.?

?Well, Lawyer Mensah, how would you feel to be in my situation. How many times do I come here to be told the defendant?s lawyer has been hospitalized because of knee injury? He doesn?t play soccer. How come he?s always using the knee as an excuse for adjournments? I am sick and tired of all this.?

?Wofa Kwadwo.?

?Yes, Lawyer Mensah.?

?You have been patient for five years. I can assure you that the case will be settled sooner or later. Patience.?

?Well there?s nothing I can do now. I still have my Sweet Ohemmaa?

?Life goes on, Wofa Kwadwo.?

?That?s right. Let me take care of some business and go home to my Sweet Ohemmaa. I miss her,? agreed Wofa Kwadwo, seemingly pacified.

?Why didn?t you bring your beautiful wife today??

?Today is the payday for my workers and she being an accountant takes care of the payroll.?

?Beauty and brains. Lucky you, Wofa Kwadwo.?

?What is life without a woman??

?No doubt about that. Without my wife I don?t think it would have been possible for me to go to law school and to become a lawyer,? Wofa Kwadwo?s lawyer answered, supportively.

?Excellent. I am glad you do appreciate the love and support of your wife. And let me ask you one thing, Lawyer Mensah, is there any creation of God prettier than a beautiful woman??

?Wofa Kwadwo, that?s a tough one?..Let me think?.Mmmmm?..A beautiful flower??

?Mmmm?..That could be true. Well, then when I get to town I am going to buy my Sweet Ohemmaa roses and some beautiful flowers.?

?That will be perfect. But why do you want to buy when you do grow all these beautiful exotic flowers in your front-yard??

?There?s more gratification when I buy it. I can?t give my Sweet Ohemmaa our own flowers.?

?That?s true. A gift of flowers gratifies a woman.?

?Very well-put. Lawyer Mensah, buy some for your wife.?

?I will.?

?Anyway, Lawyer Mensah, I strongly believe that to solve these backlog of cases and appeals, the President, the Parliamentarians, and the lawyers and the Justices should work together to come up with a better system,? said Wofa Kwadwo, walking towards his car with his lawyer.

?So the onus is on the Presidency, the Legislative Body, and the Judiciary?? ?Yes, Lawyer Mensah. The responsibility is theirs. I can afford the up and down to the Kumasi Court House. What about the poor farmer living at Kwadwo Nkwanta facing the same problem??

?Wofa Kwadwo, I agree with you. As I said the problem is not unique to Ghana. Ghana is trying, doing everything to improve the legal system. The government has established The Fast Track Courts to help in this. Wofa Kwadwo, everything is being done to improve the system. And I can???

?Cases dragging on for five, ten, twelve years? Wives sick? Wives having babies? Knee injuries as excuses to adjourn court cases, criminal or civil?? Wofa Kwadwo interrupted.

?Wofa Kwadwo, if you were a lawyer representing someone whose case is coming to trial and your wife Sweet Ohemmaa was sick, would you be in court to represent your client??

?Lawyer Mensah, my Sweet Ohemmaa is a gift from God and she comes first before anything else. I am sure that answers your question.?

?Good. Wofa Kwadwo, lawyers are human too and have legitimate reasons then.?

?Five, ten, twelve years? Appeals that don?t even come to trial??

?Anyway, Wofa Kwadwo, you can mail the cheque to me.?

?Oh, no, Lawyer Mensah. I am going to pay you now.?

?That?s good news.?

?Cash?

?That?s better,? Wofa Kwadwo?s lawyer said, smiling. Wofa Kwadwo bent down to open his briefcase. He took a wad of new cedi notes and handed it to his lawyer.

?Thank you, Wofa Kwadwo?? Wow! You?re carrying a lot of money.?

?When I am in town I have to shop for my Sweet Ohemmaa. She deserves the best.?

?Beautiful.?

?I am also going to get the roses and the flowers for her and when she holds them that will be a beautiful picture. And Lawyer Mensah, you shouldn?t forget your wife. She needs flowers too.?

?Thank you, Wofa Kwadwo. I won?t forget.?

?And don?t forget to help make the justice system better.?

?We will try. Wofa Kwadwo, the fact is, we should stop being litigants. That will help make the system better.?

?If we are not litigious how are you going to eat?? Wofa Kwadwo?s lawyer smiled, walking away from Wofa Kwadwo.

?Bye, Wofa Kwadwo.?

?Bye, Lawyer Mensah,? Wofa Kwadwo said, smiling and waving at his lawyer.

Anane, Baffuor Gyau is a FREELANCE WRITER

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.