When the Professor of law kicks the law to touch
Ebo Quansah uin Accra
I begun writing this piece yesterday, after reading the full statement issued by former Attorney-General Martin Amidu, on the decision by the Cabinet of Prof. John Evans Atta Mills to reverse the ruling of the Supreme Court of Ghana, on what has come to be known in local circles as the No.2 Mungo Avenue Bungalow purchase.
Unlike the learned former Attorney-General, I am not a member, let alone a founding member of the National Democratic Congress. I cannot, therefore, feel embarrassed as a member of the party.
I am a Ghanaian and naturally, I am ashamed by the decision of the Cabinet of the President of the Republic to set aside the ruling of the Supreme Court, the highest court in this land of our birth.
The ‘No court’ decision, is an affront to the rule of law we all cherish and sets a very dangerous precedent in the conduct of state affairs by the executive, headed by a Professor of law.
I am enraged that the Government of the Republic of Ghana, my country of birth and cherished home at the c entre of the earth, is behaving as if we are in the jungle.
I am not a lawyer. I cannot profess to interpret the laws of the land as proficiently as learned members of the legal profession. But, I can at least, appreciate the basic tenets as enshrined in the Constitution.
Under Article 127(2) -“Neither the President nor Parliament nor any person acting under the authority of the President or Parliament nor any person whatsoever shall interfere with Judges, Judicial officers or other persons exercising Judicial power, in the exercise of their Judicial functions; and all organs and agencies of the State shall accord to the courts such assistance as the courts may reasonably require to protect the independence, dignity and effectiveness of the courts, subject to this Constitution.”
I do not believe one would have to hold his professorial inaugural in law, to appreciate the import of this Article and sub clause. In plain language, no person or institution has any right to usurp the powers of our courts.
What the Cabinet of the Republic of Ghana did last Thursday is, therefore, illegal and an affront to the rule of law in this country. Last Thursday, the Ministry of Information issued a press release signed by Mr. Fritz Baffour, apparently after the Cabinet of Prof. John Evans Atta Mills had finished its weekly meeting at the Castle.
“In the Supreme interest of the people of Ghana, and taking cognizance of the Supreme Court ruling in the matter of Mr. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey’s immoral acquisition of a state property which he occupied as a Minister of State, Cabinet at its sitting today, Thursday, May 24, 2012, has decided NOT to sell the said property,” the statement said.
“The property in question thus continues to remain the property of the state. Cabinet has also decided that no political appointee should ever be allowed to engage in any such unacceptable transaction.”
Sometimes, I wonder what kind of politics officialdom chooses to indulge in. I know elections are a few months away and this Government, especially reeling under its gargantuan failure, is always looking for the opportunity to paint its rivals as more evil than they themselves, to attract some sympathy from the people of Ghana.
It is a fact universally acknowledged that selling of state property to the political elite did not start with the acquisition of No.2 Mungo Street. Evidence is available that the President of the Republic, who presided over the Cabinet that issued what amount to fatwa of last Thursday, acquired a state property at Ofankor.
I do not believe that property has been confiscated to the state. If the President of the Republic also has a state property registered in his name, what kind of morality is the Cabinet talking about?
The morality in the Cabinet argument falls flat against the President’s own acquisition. If someone should research into political acquisitions, it would take a while to list all items sold on the back of politics.
It was when Prof. Mills was Vice-President of this Republic that Nsawan Cannaries was sold to Caridem, a company owned by the 31st December Women’s Movement. Has the President and his Cabinet ever bothered their heads about who bought the huge edifice that once housed the Ghana National Trading Corporation in down town Accra?
If we should talk of morality in politics, we do not believe we would have a President and a Cabinet sitting at the Castle and reversing Supreme Court Verdicts.
It is not too long ago, that those seeking the verdict of Ghanaians went on the campaign trail to Mumford, near Apam in the Central Region, and lied through their teeth that former President John Agyekum Kufuor did not like the Fantes and their fishing trade and as a result of this dislike for the coastal people and their trade, the former President had taken the biggest cold store owned by the state to the Ashanti Region.
At the time the declaration was made, the Speaker knew that all state cold stores were sold to NDC activists. The campaigners also knew that by the time Kufuor came to power, the state of Ghana had no cold stores to be sent to the Ashanti Region. That is morality for you.
Let me emphasize once more. I am not a lawyer. But my understanding of what our judges do is to interpret the law. They are not moralists. That is why any rebuttal of judicial decisions should be based on the law of the land. Even then the rebuttal must come in the form of taking the case back to court.
In this case, since it was the Supreme Court that made the ruling, there could not be any appeal. Thank God, the laws of the land are so structured that there is room for a review.
The Supreme Court judges could have been asked to review their decision if the directors of state policy believe that there has been a miscarriage of justice in the No.2 Mungo Street affair.
I have heard members of the so-called Government Communication Team argue that the decision by the Cabinet not to allow Mr. Jake Obestebi-Lamptey to own the property he had already paid for had nothing to do with reversing the verdict of the Supreme Court.
I do not believe I need to bore readers about the unacceptability of this assertion. If the court makes a ruling and the Cabinet refuses to work with the ruling, we need no ghost to pontificate on its significance.
As a Ghanaian, I feel that this administration has shamed the country and its citizens enough. Since January, this administration has failed to meet its financial obligations to many state institutions. For a very long time, the Judiciary was denied access to financial resources with which to administer justice in Ghana.
All Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies have not had their Common Fund released since January this year. For half the year, basic and second cycle schools have been denied their Capitation Grants.
Somehow, the Cabinet of President John Evans Atta Mills appears not to be bothered about the shortfall of money in the system, which has seriously crippled the governance process.
Rather, Ministers of State have chosen to use a vital Cabinet meeting to discuss the Supreme Court verdict on a bungalow. Apparently, Nii Lante Vanderpuiye had elected to avail himself of all the comforts that the renovated bungalow could bestow on the occupant.
And for that matter, Cabinet members of Prof. Mills, spotting at least four lawyers of repute, have, like the traditional ostrich, buried their heads in the sand on issues seriously undermining the state, and rather chosen to go and lend their support to someone who has occupied No.2 Mungo Street at Ridge, a fashionable suburb of Accra, without legal authority.
At a time that the state of Ghana has parceled out 94 million Euros of our hard earned foreign exchange to a construction firm, which was already indebted to this Republic and Alfred Agbesi Woyome is still holding on to the GH¢51 million acquired under dubious circumstances, the average Ghanaian would expect the Cabinet to be focused on the fundamental issues that would bail this country out of the economic mess the Government has created in three and a quarter years of misadventure.
With the kind of priority displayed by the Cabinet in its decision of May 24, there is very little wonder that this society is gradually slipping away. There is ample evidence to suggest that the supply of electricity by tots and other major problems of society would continue to plague this nation, so long as the law Professor and his second string administrators, continue to hold sway.
This nation is in very shaky hands!
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