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Opuni tells prosecution: I’m exercising my legal rights, but not desperate

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Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni

The former Chief Executive (CE) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and first accused in the GH¢217.3 million cocoa trial, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, has reiterated that he is not desperate as alleged by the Principal State Attorney (PSA), Stella Ohene Appiah.

He told the Criminal High Court’1’, presided over by a Supreme Court justice, Clemence Honyenuga, yesterday that it was most unfortunate that whenever the prosecution, led by the PSA, Stella, makes reference to his application of certiorari and perpetual injunction to restrain his lordship, she claims he was picking and choosing a judge to conduct the trial.

But to Dr Opuni’s respective view, all his applications at the court are part of exercising his legal rights under the Constitution.

According to the then boss of COCOBOD’s counsel, Samuel Codjoe, the application was filed because the former has lost confidence in the presiding judge and by precedent, if a party in a case lose confidence in a judge, it is required that the latter declines jurisdiction.

The court was compelled to adjourn sitting to Monday, December 12, to deliver ruling on a new application – stay of proceedings – filed by Opuni’s lawyers yesterday.

Although it was scheduled to deliver ruling yesterday on the certiorari application filed by the first accused.

Dr Opuni is standing trial with businessman Seidu Agongo and his company, Agricult Ghana Limited on 27 criminal counts, including contravention of the Public Procurement Act, manufacturing fertilizer without registration, money laundering and corruption by public officer.

They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300, 000.00 self-recognisance bail.

Arguments yesterday

Codjoe: We have filed an application for stay, pending appeal because it is an application for stay and suspension in this very case before this court. It is our submission that until this application for stay or suspension is heard nothing can be done about this case.

It has been fixed for hearing on December 15. Nothing can be done, including delivering this ruling.

My lord, we are fortified in this submission by the Republic vs the High Court, Exparte Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, which was delivered on…Civil motion J5/52/20.

The Supreme Court held that “…” The application should be heard before continuing proceedings irrespective of our application of certiorari at the Supreme Court. We are entailed to bring this application as a stand alone.

Stella: We are opposed to counsel’s request for proceedings to be adjourned pending the hearing of the applicant’s application for stay. The court adjourned yesterday to today to enable my lord give ruling on submission made by counsel.

My lord, it is trite that the mere filing of application for stay doesn’t operate as a stay in the absence of any order staying the proceedings of my lord. In the case expert of Kalid…the Supreme Court speaking …Benny JSC….unless restrained by a higher court, the high court is not under obligation to stay proceedings.

There is desperation on the part of the applicant to file numerous unmeritorious and baseless applications just to stultifying the trial. And my lord, Benny JSC had the occasion to comment on the conduct of litigant and lawyers who through their conducts and behaviour show to the court that they wished to be allowed to choose and pick their own judges to sit on their cases.

My lord, this unfortunate observation by the Supreme Court has been playing out right before this honour court. My lord, we submit that you have not been stayed in anyway, and therefore, [you] should go on and read this ruling for today.

Either the filing of interlocutory application or the filing of application for stay bars my lord from continuing with the matter today. The alternative, I humbly submit that abridge time forward to today to enable counsel move his application for stay and the prosecution will respond on point of law. My lord I humbly submit.

Codjoe: replying on point of law.

  1. The case of Exparte Kalid was in 2015. The Exparte Kennedy Agyapong was in 2020. It is our submission that the Supreme Court moved from the position of Exparte Kalid by virtue of its powers under Article 129(3) of the 1992 Constitution. So now the position is that contained in Exparte Kennedy Agyapong.
  2. My learned friend referred to Exparte Kalid, which the Supreme Court held that we shouldn’t choose our judge and… Contrary to the submission that we want to have our judge that we are desperate…page 28, Exparte Kennedy decision where the Supreme Court reliance was placed on the case of Exparte Mensah and other reported in 1994/1995 Ghana Bar Report, where the Supreme Court speaking through Hayford Benjamin JSC cautioned that “…” It is not that we are desperate.

Codjoe: The one even before the Supreme Court is even worse than bias.

Court: That is your view. Learn to be humble my friend.

Counsel: We are humble. We are not saying it. If one of the parties has lost confidence in a judge, or once a judge realised that one of the parties has lost confidence in his impartiality, then it is better that he decline jurisdiction.

Court: We have passed that stage. This authority is irrelevant.

Counsel: It is our position that we are not desperate. We are exercising our legal rights. It is most unfortunate that the prosecution says we are picking and choosing judges to preside over the case.

Court: We will abridge the time and the hearing of the motion to Monday, December 12, 2022.

BERNICE BESSEY

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