Bribery and corruption rock Ghana’s judiciary

by Kwabena Opong

The judiciary in the West African nation of Ghana is on the verge of suspense and fear as judges, magistrates and other workers of the judicial service are caught on video negotiating and taking bribes to drop and set culprits free, among other things. This follows a painstaking, investigative report by Anas Aremeyaw Anas, a journalist with the New Crusading Guide newspaper. Already many Ghanaians suspect the judiciary is corrupt and Anas’ investigations seem to have provided the needed proof.
The full report and the video have not yet been released to the public but reports from the Managing Editor of the New Crusading Guide, Malam Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, indicate that President Mahama, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, and Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, among several high profile personalities in the country have all been shown the premier of the video. The New Crusading Guide is also releasing in bits and pieces some of the textual reports.
An initial list of the names of 12 judges has already been released to the press and it includes the following: Justice Essel Mensah, Justice Charles Quist, Justice Peter U. Dery, Justice John Ajet Nassam, Justice Ernest Obimpe, Justice Mustapha Habib Logoh, Justice Yaw Ansu-Gyeabour, Justice Ayisi Addo Justice Mohammed Iddrisu, Justice Yaw Badu, Justice Heward Mills. According to the author, more than 170 judges and other workers of the judicial service were covered in the investigations and would be unmasked for various acts of corruption. In addition to the 12 high court judges 22 Circuit and Magistrate court judges have also been suspended effective September 10.
Prominent Ghanaians including statesmen, senior lawyers and politicians have commented on the scandal in diverse ways: Mr. Samuel Okudjeto, a former chair of the country’s bar association and a respected advocate has insisted that the investigation be shelved. He feels the court of public opinion would jumpstart the legalities in the case and would therefore skew the due process. “I maintain that until the complete enquiry, they should not show it because you’re asking the public to be judges and that is incorrect. You need proof and in this case if proof is provided, the proper thing to do is to take action and the quicker the action is taken, the better it is so as to clear the public mind of the perception,” he stated in an interview with Citi News. Mr. Okudzeto opines that the investigations be shelved until further investigations are completed.
In equal measure, former President Jerry John Rawlings also cautions circumspection until further investigations are mounted to ascertain the truth in the accusations. He states “It is important, … that the relevant institutions and authorities take the necessary steps to investigate fully these revelations and deal appropriately with the guilty culprits.
“The media and members of the general public should exercise a lot of circumspection and restraint so we do not end up bringing the reputation of many members of the judiciary – who have their integrity intact – into disrepute.”
Similar sentiments have come from several quarters in the polity but Anas seems to be enjoying the support of some institutions and individuals at the same time. The Attorney General’s department has in the meantime absolved the investigative journalist of all lawsuits that might arise from his findings. The country’s judicial council has also stated that no corrupt judge would be spared in a statement assuring the public that the outcome of the investigations would be made public. Justice Alex B. Poku Acheampong, judicial secretary has said the Council “fully reckons” that the perception or actuality of corruption in the Judiciary “undermines confidence in the institution and cannot be tolerated to continue in any shape or form, hence the need to act with utmost dispatch.”
Chief Justice Wood is said to be studying the cases to determine if there is a case of prima facie against each of the judges found culpable.
Corruption has escalated since 2009 when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government took office. Several scandals have been uncovered in some government agencies including SADA, GYEEDA, SUBAH, and the National Service Secretariat where several millions of cedis have been found to be misappropriated by officials. Millions of Ghana cedis earmarked for several projects have found their way into individual pockets and yet most of the perpetrators are walking. In some cases as the Black Stars World Cup melee, the culprits were reassigned to the office of the president.
Judgment debts have been paid that have been found to be improper and questionable putting the state in debt for several billions of dollars. Several government ministries, departments and agencies have been involved in one form of corruption or the other since 2009. The Auditor general’s report have also uncovered several cases of misappropriation and embezzlement of state funds. So have the parliamentary committee investigating financial misconduct that has also found so many cases of mishandling of government moneys. In none of the findings in the above institutions has any perpetrator been punished or recommended for trial.
Aremeyaw’s findings have literally removed the veneer of respect for and hope Ghanaians once had in the judiciary.


Posted by on Sep 16 2015. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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