Godfred Dame Vrs Richard Jakpa–How It All Started

The trial of Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, former Deputy Minister of Finance and first Accused (A1), and Richard Jakpa, third Accused (A3), a businessman, in the ambulance case took a new twist on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 based on the following;

The refusal by Dr. Ato Forson’s legal team to cross-examine Mr Jakpa first, after his evidence-in-chief response by the Attorney-General (A-G),Mr. Godfred Yeboah Dame, and confrontation between the A-G and A1’s lead counsel, Dr. Abdul Baasit Aziz Bamba.

Dr. Bamba had vehemently objected to the offer to cross-examine A3 first, before the prosecution, saying it will be to the disadvantage of A1, as the call is extremely unfair, prejudicial and constitute violation of fair trial under Article 19(1)(2)(c) and (e).
According to him, Article 19 takes precedence over any other statute, including Section 69 of the Evidence Act.He argued that in an adversarial legal system like Ghana, when a witness, not of the prosecution had testified, the first to cross-examine the accused in the case would be the prosecution.

The counsel added that only a compelling reason could push aside this principle, and in that regard, Section 69 of the Evidence Act does not provide sufficient legal basis for A1 to be called upon to cross-examine A3 first.

The Financial and Economic Division of the Accra High Court, presided over by Justice AfiaSerwahAsare-Botwe, Court of Appeal judge, sitting with an additional responsibility of the High Court, however, told Dr.Bamba that it was not the first time counsel for a first Accused was being called upon to cross-examinean accused person before the prosecution comes in.

Secondly, the high court does not have the powers of the Supreme Court to take a decision on constitutionality of the matter.
Dr. Bamba responded that: “unfortunately, by the jurisprudence of our Supreme Court, if you are raising any issue of unconstitutionality during the course of a trial, we are required to raise it before the trial court.”

The counsel also informed the court that his argument has been put into writing and he was even praised by Her Ladyship for being a good academician.
The legal argument changed to a ‘different gear’, when Mr. Godfred Dame, in concluding his argument in opposition, referred to Dr.Bamba’s submission as a clear fallacy and lacking intellectual honesty.

On two occasions, Dr. Bamba angrily stood up with the speed of light to object to the submission of the A-G. He pushed the chair so hard that, the judge who was in the middle of writing her ruling had to pause to find out what was happening.

Hearing how angry Dr.Bamba sounded, Justice Asare-Botwe expressed shock and said: “Dr.Bamba, do not get agitated, you scared me. You have always been a calm person.”
Dr.Bambaagreed with the court that he was an extremely calm person, but added that the A-G had misrepresented what he said.He prayed for leave to respond to the A-G, as his submission was made in open court, but his prayer was denied.

To calm down the atmosphere in the courtroom, the case was stood down for 15 minutes and the parties were invited to the judge’s chambers.
Before the parties could seek audience with the judge, the situation had gotten out of hand. It happened that when the A-G was walking in front of the defence team to the judge’s chambers, he repeated his comment about ‘academic dishonesty’, which immediately infuriated Dr. Bamba.

Dr.Bamba, on top of his voice, asked the A-G the kind of person he was and that he should get out of his face. He said other things like, the A-G being his junior in training and practice of the law.

The commotion forced Her Ladyship to open her door, after retiring to her chambers to meet the counsels.Other members of the bar present calmed down the feuding parties and forced them into the judge’s chambers.
The court resumed and Dr. Bamba started his cross-examination, asking about 13 questions before the case was adjourned to Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 12 noon.
On the next adjourned date, the feisty argument shifted from the A-G and Counsel Bamba, to the A-G and Jakpa (A3).

This time round, A3 was enraged for being accused by the Attorney-General for defending A1(Dr. CassielAtoForson), when he was in court to defend himself. In the ensuing arguments, A3 accused Godfred Dame of calling him on phone and also meeting him in person to discuss the case.

A3, in open court, revealed that the A-G has been impressing upon him to cooperate with the prosecution to secure the sentence of A1, the Minority Leader in Parliament.
The third accused then threatened that if the A-G dares him, he will open the Pandora box because Mr. Dame has brought hostility right to his door-step, and the soldier in him could not resist a reprisal attack.

Mr. Jakpa’s outburst came from an answer to a question from Godwin Edudzi Tamakloe, holding Dr.Bamba’s brief, and the A-G’s interjection that he wondered what Mr.Jakpa’sbusiness was, in testifying about authorisation. The A-G also added that “just by force to defend other accused persons.”
How it all started

Q: Can you tell the court what seal it is, if there is any name, agency or department of Ghana on it?
A: It is the Controller and Accountant General Department security seal.

Q: You will agree with me that without this seal from the Controller and Accountant General Department, the Bank of Ghana will not honour the payment?

A: Yes my lady, and to explain further, this is a seal that is in the Office of the Minister of Finance. Any letter that originates from the office of the Minster of Finance, if it is going to CARQD, it carries a seal of authorisation from the MOF office.
This is because the Minister of Finance office is the only place where the authority to debit any local or foreign account of government emanates from, with explicit approval of the Minister himself.

Whenever the Minister of Finance, for whatever reason is unable to be physically present in his office and had to delegate any part of his statutory authority to any of his deputies or the Chief Director once any of his subordinates signed any letter, be it authorised by the Minister and writes it as memo or a verbal instruction to write a letter to debit any account of government.
That letter, once written and signed for the substantive Minister by any of the delegated officers under him, that letter is conveyed by either the Secretaries or by those delegated officers.

Hon. Dame: My lady, I am a little bit constrained to intervene because the Minister of Finance at that time was in court and testified about authorisation. I wonder what Mr.Jakpa’s business is, to testify about authorisation.
By Court: I have decided not to make any further comments and I will just sit and watch you people because if Ido not, I may find myself in conflict with a lot of people because when my junior at the bar tells me that in doing my job, I have engaged a witness.

I think we have raised the bar to a level which is an odd new level, so I will not make any more comments, so do what you want to do. When the time comes and I need to sit through the evidence, I will because when the question is put there, which is a very direct clear question, that the seal is what gives it some kind of authenticity and the person wants to tell us all the workings of the Ministry of Finance, I will sit and listen.

Hon. Dame: Just by force to defend other accused persons.
By Court: No, that is not the point. Hon. Attorney General do not talk. Two days ago, you caused a third world war here, so please.

Mr. Tamakloe:My lady, I do not know that the problem of the Attorney General is against Al.
By Court: You people please, please….
Mr. Tamakloe: Where from this defence? Is he defending him? Are we not entitled to cross-examination? No, what is this?

By Court: Mr. Tamakloe, I do not have a gavel. Please all of you just resume your seats.
Hon. Dame: My lady, the point I am making is actually part of my objection, if my learned friend wants it to go on record, then let it be on record.
Mr. Tamakloe: My lady, if he thinks the question is not properly asked, the question can be disallowed.

By Court: I think that we fail to appreciate how very academic our work is. Everything is provided for by law or procedure by case law. Nothing new is being created here. Everything we are doing now has already been written and we are just trying to listen to the evidence and see how it applies to all those things, which have been written.

And even if he gives evidence, which is not objected to and it is time to assess the evidence, I will have to sit through it and decide, which is relevant and which is not. Which is allowed and which is not and that is what I have decided to do so, this thing that you want to lose your temper by all means, I will not allow it.

I will not lose my temper and you will also not lose yours because if we start doing that and I start exercising the powers that I exercise as a Judge, may be all of you will not go home. Because the way some of you are interjecting and those who are also shouting, if I do that, all of you will not go home, so I will just sit and I am tired of trying to direct the witness as to what to do, and the unfortunate thing is that, Mr.Gyawu has a victim mentality.

Every little thing I say, he has decided not to understand. I do not get it. And I think I have done everything to demonstrate that, I do everything in my power to be fair. But what I see is that the question is very simple…

A3: My lady, I want to put on record that I am not here to defend A1.
By Court: I have not told you that you have defended Al.
A3. No I am not talking about you.
By Court: Who said so?

A3. The Attorney General did that… He accused me directly and I want to respond.
By Court: Please Mr. Jakpa, all that fight they were fighting and disgracing the Bench and the Bar, I did not write it. Please move on.

A3: My lady, I have heard that but I want to make it clear here that the Attorney General has on several occasions had meetings with me privately at odd hours, both in person and on phone in respect of this case to cooperate or answer in a manner that will make his case better against A1 and I have refused.

And I have evidence to that and so if he is accusing me here that I am here to defend A1, he has brought hostilities to my door step and I am responding to the hostilities. And if he continues on this angle, I will open the Pandora box and we will all know actually what transpired. He has brought it up and I will give it to him.

By Court: Sit down a bit
A3: My lady I am a little bit uncomfortable.
By court: Why are you uncomfortable?

A3: I am angry because how can he accuse me to be defending Al when I am here to fight for my liberty and he has been impressing on me to cooperate with him so that he can put Al in jail and I refused. So he comes here to accuse me of defending Al. It is unacceptable.
By Court: Mr.Jakpa, twice or three times that you have said it, I have heard you.

A3: So, if he dares me, I will open the Pandora box here and I have evidence for that.
ByCourt: As for Pandora box, everybody in Ghana here is opening a Pandora box.

A3: So let us slag out and I am ready for that.
By Court: You cannot use such language here in the court of law. Let me also caution you. You see, your lawyer is not doing his job, when you are granted bail one of the conditions, apart from coming to court, is that you will also behave well.

A3: Yes my lady.
By Court: So when you come to court and start saying things like, we are slugging it out, who is slugging what out?

A3: He is daring me.
By Court: This is not about show of manhood. I have told you it is okay. They should record what you have just said. Beyond recording what you have just said, there is nothing any judge is supposed to do and there are things people want to do and do not want to do.
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Following the scene created on the last sitting of the court and subsequent adjournment, the next court date became dramatic.
Before the case was called at 12 noon, the court was full to capacity, to the extent that Her Ladyship ordered that no more people are allowed to enter.

A3 was then called to mount the box to continue with his cross examination and was also reminded of his previous oath.
Dr.Bamba rose to his feet, informing the court that they have two motions pending. The first pending motion was about Stay of Proceedings, filed on May 21, 2024 and the return date was May 28, 2024.
The second motion was for an Order for Enquiry, but the court stepped in, leaving Dr. Bamba’s submission hanging in the air.
According to the court, the applicant remained focused on the earlier motion, which was ripe for hearing but the other is not.

The judge advised the counsel that she did not want the court to be turned into a circus. A3 at this point had been asked to step out of the witness box and resume his seat.
The judge now turned her attention to the aftermath of Thursday’s proceedings, particularly the public discourse on the matter.

She entreated the public to calm down and reassess the situation and adjourned the case to next week Tuesday.
But before the court could rise, Sammy Gyamfi – Communications Officer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) – was invited to mount the witness box.

Mr.Gyamfi, in doing so, was going where the recorder and the clerks sit. The judge immediately pointed out to Mr.Gyamfi that because he has not been coming to court as a lawyer, he does not even know where to pass.
After Mr.Gyamfi took the other way round to the box, the court told him he was not going to take the oath.

The court, therefore, lands Mr.Gyamfi his first question (Q): “Last week, when did you get here?”
A: In terms of time?
Q: In terms of scheme of things and don’t ask me questions.
A: My lady, I need clarification of things.

Mr. Tamakloe stepped in to defend Mr. Gyamfi, by saying that he (Sammy Gyamfi) was in the court throughout and indicated to the court that, the court only noticed him after he had gone out and was returning.

Mr. Tamakloe added that it was when Mr. Gyanfi was returning to the courtroom that the judge noticed him and commented on his attire as a lawyer.
Mr. Gyamfi was ordered to go back to his seat, but was later asked to stand for a comment he made, that if the Attorney-General could call an accused behind his lawyer, why can’t he call the judge.

The NDC communication officer rebutted, telling the court that it had misquoted him and that heused ‘a judge’ and not ‘the judge’.
The court responded that “a judge” and “the judge” does not make any difference and cautioned him not to go about casting slur on the Judiciary.

According to the court, the judiciary is not made up of politicians and she, Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe does not want to be one.
She urged Sammy Gyamfi and his cohorts of politicians to stay in their arena and leave them alone, saying “be more responsible in your statement, do not ever forget you are a lawyer for convenience seek. No lawyer does what you are doing to the bench.”
Sammy Gyamfi responded that he has not attacked any judge to warrant the observation of the court.

Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong attempted to intervene in the back and forth argument between the judge and Sammy Gyamfi, but ended up telling Justice Asare-Botwe that it was her court.
The court further stated that the NDC, Attorney-General’s Department and the government, which Mr Dame represents, all erred with the issue of statements on a matter before the court.


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