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Opinions of Thursday, 2 February 2012

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Woyome and NDC don’t get it, Do they?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

I planned not to post article on Ghanaweb this week since I do not want bore readers, especially on Woyomegate. Unfortunately, after reading media reports on the Greater Accra NDC primaries, Woyeme’s centre stage presence at some of the venues, his press statement and his decision to sue the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), I did a “Kwadwo Adu Asare” (the Adenta MP who rescinded his earlier decision not to contest the NDC primary). The difference is that my earlier decision was not made public, not by divine intervention and no one asked me to write. He claimed God told him not contest but his constituency members appealed to him to stand again as an MP, so he did. I promise that the decision to write this article was mine and mine alone.

It seems that no matter how gargantuan and revolting the judgement debt payments to Mr Woyeme may appear to Ghanaians, some leading NDC members and Woyeme himself see nothing wrong and strange about the payments. It was unbelievable that he was very visible at some polling stations in Accra over the weekend with NDC party members taking pictures with him. Are they unaware that such public support and defiance of public opinion could come back to haunt the party should it be confirmed that the judgement debt payments were obtained through fraud? I am not suggesting that NDC as a party should not support a party financier who is in difficulty but that could be done discreetly. For example, should Woyome be found wanting, on Election Day in December 2012 what will stick in the minds of voters would be his presence at the NDC primaries and his pictures at the party primaries in the media. That could tarnish some NDC candidates and the party as whole. Despite the fact that the man is a party financier, party gurus should have advised him that, in view of the ongoing Woyomegate, it would be helpful for him to keep a low profile from party affairs and at the same time advise NDC members to desist from publicly supporting him because the case is before a court and he has engaged an Attorney to represent him. Instead, both the party as a collective and some of its members as individuals have continue to support and defend him against the tide of public opinion.

No wonder the Managing Editor of the Insight Newspaper says NDC is on a suicide mission. I will even go further to say that NDC has become the “Taliban” ready to kill its own people (Ghanaians). The defence that there is nothing wrong with the payments to Woyome because he secured them through a court of competent of jurisdiction in Ghana is illogical. That argument is what is known in Logic as “fallacy of hasty conclusion”. First, it is being alleged that he might have obtained the court judgement by fraud, though yet to be proven. Second and the most important in terms of law, is the fact that because the state did not contest the claim, the legality or otherwise of his claims were not examined in court. The judgement was more or less by de fault due to the failure or negligence of the state to defend the claim. His claim and the payments do not definitely become legal just because a court ordered the payments. Even if the claim was fully heard in court and judgement given in his favour so the state made the payments to him and therefore legal, if subsequently, some credible documents or evidence that were not available to the state at the time of hearing come to the attention of the state showing that the judgement was obtained by fraud, the state can go back to court for an appeal. If the appeal is successful and proven that Woyome used illegal means to obtain the judgement, he would be ordered to refund all the payments to him and also prosecuted for fraud. NDC, the earlier you keep quiet on this matter the better. You may be right to support him but as far as the jury is still out, exercise patience.

Woyome’s court action against EOCO is to say the least, confusing. Was it not the same Woyome who first suggested that EOCO should investigate the judgement debt payments? Was it not one of his NDC staunch supporters who lodged a complaint with EOCO? So, why the gargantuan U-turn by Woyome? Did Woyome assume that EOCO would rubber stamp the payments to him or what did he expect from EOCO? Wonders shall never end because indications are that Woyome has regretted making the suggestion in the first place and cooperating with EOCO. Perhaps, Woyome thinks that he can fool all the people all the time but EOCO has made it clear to him that he can only fool some of the people some of the time.

Woyome and his Attorney are claiming that EOCO has no power to investigate the payments to him. That EOCO is investigating a decision of a court or even reversing that decision. I disagree with them because EOCO is not investigation the court decision neither has EOCO reversed the decision of the court. There is a difference between the “court claim” and the “payments”. EOCO is not investigating the “court claim” or the decision of the court but how or why the payments were made to him. In other words, why the state did not defend his claim and instead made the payments to him. It is only a higher court that can reverse the court judgement on his claim and I do not believe that EOCO has done so or intends to do so.

Reading through Woyome’s press statement, it appears to me that EOCO obtained a court order to freeze his bank accounts. If this is correct, then EOCO is working within the rule of law. EOCO’s decision to freeze his banks accounts is not a reversal of the court judgement but rather to prevent him from disbursing the money that was paid to him or launder it beyond the Ghana’s borders and beyond the reach of the state in the near future should the state wins the appeal. The judgement debt payments if obtained through fraud, amounted to economic crimes against Ghana and therefore it is right, appropriate and legal for EOCO to investigate them. The only problem is that the state has lodged an appeal which is still pending at the court. Normally, a case before a court should not be dealt with or investigated by another body. I am not privy to the specific instructions from the President to EOCO, so it is impossible to conclude whether there is duplication by EOCO. In fact, the Woyomegate is far from the norm and therefore exceptional measures may be necessary on this occasion.

It is also sad for Woyome to attempt to use his press statement to seek public sympathy for his cause to defraud the state. That is even insulting because it is their taxes that were used to pay him when some workers have not been migrated onto the Single Spine Salary Scale for lack of funds. Children still attend school under trees, hospitals lack equipment and materials, cities, towns and villages lack good drinking water and yet he was given that gargantuan sum of money. Ghanaians would not rush into sympathizing with Woyome who is alleged to have used illegal means to obtain judgement debts against the state. Ghanaians may be forgiving but certainly not fools and are clever than some NDC members. Majority of the Ghanaian public are rational and would not buy his claims that he is a victim of a witch hunt and EOCO is being discriminatory against him by not investigating other judgement debt payments. The real victim in this matter is Ghana and not Woyome. He is not being victimised because it is the payments to him that are being questioned and if he has evidence that other payments are questionable he should provide it to the appropriate authorities and stop this victimhood mentality. It will not work. Again, it has been reported that EOCO was instructed to look at all judgement debt payments and not only his, so there is no discrimination. He is just crying wolf when there is nothing foul about EOCO investigating the payments to him.

Does Woyome’s gargantuan U-turn on EOCO vindicate EOCO’s ability to carry out fair and independent assessment of the judgement debt payments? Would that assure NPP that after all, EOCO will not cover up Woyomegate? Will NPP as a party or leading members reconsider their decision to boycott EOCO? It appears Woyome is learning from NPP by going court to prevent EOCO from doing its work. If you can’t beat them, join them. Perhaps, NPP and Woyome could have joint court injunction against EOCO as either partners against accountability, transparency and probity or partners in crime. In fact, the court action by Woyome against EOCO has discredited NPP leading members who are pursuing similar claims against EOCO. If both Woyome and NPP leading members have nothing to hide, why stop EOCO from doing its work? Maybe, Woyome and others in both NPP and NDC have swallowed too much and at the right time they would be compelled to vomit what they have illegally and fraudulently acquired. Woyome and his accomplices can run from their deeds but they cannot hide and soon the long arm of justice will catch up with them. I hope I am right and that President Mills will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that when Kwame Pianim said he is incorruptible, that is a truism. We are still watching.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK