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Opinions of Saturday, 14 March 2015

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Woyome, Not Guilty, Who will be Next?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK March 12, 2015

Mr Alfred Woyome who swindled the state of 51.2 million cedis walked free from court when a High Court Judge ruled that state prosecutors failed to adduce evidence to prove the charges against him (see, “Woyome acquitted and discharged” and “Woyome is a thief: prosecutor did a shoddy job”, Ghanaweb, March 12, 2015). This article is to discuss why Woyome got away with murder.

If there was any Ghanaian who ever believed that Woyome would be found guilty, then, s/he needs some psychiatric examination. If anyone believe that the Mahama led NDC government is even interested in retrieving the 51.2 million cedis from Woyome, then s/he is a joke. This case was a complete waste of precious judicial time and state resources because the State Prosecutors planned and managed the prosecution to fail and to ensure Woyome’s acquittal. Why do I say so?

The case involved decisions made by the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Betty Mould-Iddrisu who did not only scandalously approve the payments to Woyome but was also disregarded a High Court Judge’s instructions to make part payment pending final resolution in court and her successor, Mr Martin Amidu who first identified the fraudulent and illegal payments and initiated action to retrieve the money. The other important personality involved in the scam was Mr Barton Oduro, the then Deputy to both Mould-Iddrisu and Martin Amidu and who defended the fraud on the basis that the state did not have a case to defend the Woyome claim against the state. The others were two senior civil servants who jointly colluded with Woyome and connived to deceive their political superiors that Woyme had a contract with the state and deserved the money. These were Mr Samuel Nerquaye-Tetteh, the then Chief State Attorney at the Attorney General’s Department, who was later allegedly paid 400,000 cedis by Woyome and Mr Paul Asimenu, the then Director of Legal at Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.

None of the above individuals who were critical to a successful prosecution were called as witness by and for the state. The question is why? These are the people who dealt with Woyome’s claim and payments. So what the hell was happening when none of them appeared before the court to give evidence? The prosecution was a joke and in fact, those involved should be charged for vexatious prosecution and bringing the Attorney General’s Department into dispute. This case should have lasted not more than four weeks but it lasted two years. It was a hoax and a scam on the taxpayers.

Ghana’s current Attorney General and Minister of Justice is woefully unqualified for the job. Just last week, those who were allegedly involved or assisted Nayele in carrying cocaine to the UK for which she has been jailed in the UK were set free for lack of prosecution by the State Prosecution. In my view, the only reason why the current Attorney General occupies her position is that she was in the same practice with the President’s Attorney during the 2012 Presidential Petition. She must go and go now.

This can happen only in corrupt Ghana and all those involved should be ashamed and bow down their heads in shame. In any democratic society, Betty Mould-Iddrisu, Barton Oduro, Samuel Nerquaye-Tetteh and Paul Asimenu would have been prosecuted and jailed for their role in this assisted and scandalous fraud perpetrated on the state. Yet, what we do see in Ghana? Betty Mould-Iddrisu is now the Vice Chairman of the ruling NDC, Barton Oudro is currently the Deputy Speaker of Parliament when in reality he is not fit to be an MP. Samuel Nerquaye-Tetteh is now the Upper West head of the Attorney General’s Department and I am sure Mr Paul Asimenu has also been promoted wherever he is within the civil service.

Woyome case is only the tip of the iceberg. There are more of such deliberate poor performances by the State Prosecution. A typical example is the ongoing GYEEDA trial, which is also another deception by the state. Mr Abuga Pele and all those who have stolen millions of state money will be acquitted because State Prosecution is not interested in securing their conviction, neither are they interested in retrieving the stolen money. The same will happen to the ex-National Service Secretariat Director and his staff who have defrauded the state in hundreds of millions of cedis.

Despite the above failures, President Mahama and his cronies are claiming that he is fighting corruption by arresting and prosecuting them. That is absolute rubbish. What message does Woyome’s failed trial give to Ghanaians and the world, particularly foreign donors? That state organised corruption and fraud is lucrative and people can continue to loot state coffers for their personal benefit and nothing will happen to them if they are evn caught with their hands in the till.

Thursday, March 12 will become one of the darkest days in Ghana’s fight against corruption and Mahama and his Attorney General should be held accountable for this catastrophic failure. The Attorney must resign immediately or be sacked. She should not waste further state resources to make an appeal because nothing will good come out of it. It’s chuff in, chuff out.

I hope one day when NDC is out of power, even if that will take another decade, Woyome, Betty Mould-Iddrisu, Barton Oduro, Samuel Nerquaye-Tetteh and Paul Asimenu would be prosecuted for their role is this gargantuan crime against the state. Ghan’s day of shame.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK