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30.07.2021 Opinion

CJ $5 Million Bribery Allegation: Meritorious Or Counterintuitive? (1)

By Dr. Kwaku Agyeman-Budu
CJ $5 Million Bribery Allegation: Meritorious Or Counterintuitive? (1)
LISTEN JUL 30, 2021

In the past few days, a member of the legal profession in response to a petition filed against him by a former client of his to the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council has ostensibly sought to implicate His Lordship the Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana, Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah, in a Five Million Dollar ($5,000,000.00) bribery scandal.

It goes without saying that allegations of impropriety, bribery and/or corruption levelled against any public official must prima facie be taken seriously and thoroughly scrutinized and even investigated, regardless of the way and manner in which it is made.

Thus, when such an allegation is made against the Chief Justice of Ghana, and is subsequently serialized on social and all other media platforms, it is imperative that the public discourse on the matter be guided by verifiable facts, devoid of political coloration.

As a matter of fact, our duty to the public as legal professionals includes providing public education and shaping the discourse on matters of national importance, especially those “adjudicated” upon in the infamous “court of public opinion”, that have a bearing on the law, the legal profession and the justice system generally.

This is what I seek to do after having perused the relevant court documents on the matter, all of which are available to the general public.

In order to fully appreciate the context within which the bribery allegation was made against His Lordship the Chief Justice, it is imperative that we understand the events that preceded it in a chronological manner:

  1. Ogyeedom Obranu Kwesi Atta VI v. Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. & Lands Commission, is the ongoing case in question that has led to the allegation of bribery levelled against His Lordship the Chief Justice.
  2. Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd., which is now Vodafone Ghana Ltd. (the first Defendant in this case), was originally granted the title to a piece of land situated at Gomoa Afransi in the Central Region by the Lands Commission (the second Defendant).
  3. The Plaintiff, Ogyeedom Obranu Kwesi Atta VI issued a writ of summons against the two Defendants in the High Court, Swedru, for among other reliefs, the following:
    1. A declaration of title to land;
    2. An order for recovery of possession; and
    3. Special damages for trespass and unlawful possession.
  4. It was the Plaintiff's assertion that the State had arbitrarily occupied a portion of his ancestral land without due process and the payment of compensation as required by the laws of Ghana; and that the land has subsequently been given to Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (Vodafone Ghana Ltd.).
  5. The Lands Commission in its defence indicated that they had acquired the land on behalf of the State, originally for the purposes of Satellite Communication Research, and admitted granting a lease to Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. because it was their belief that the land, which is the subject matter of the dispute, formed part of lands vested in the Government of Ghana by virtue of the Stool Lands (Efutu and Gomoa Ajumako) Instrument, 1961 (E.I. 206).
  6. It was therefore the contention of Lands Commission that the allegation of the lack of due process in the acquisition of the land, the subject matter of the dispute, was false, and that compensation had also been duly paid to the Plaintiff's predecessor in title, one Nana Obranu Gura II (the Plaintiff's grandfather).
  7. Whilst the case was ongoing, the Lands Commission however subsequently indicated that it had come to the realization that the land in dispute was not actually lands vested in the Government of Ghana, but was outside the scope of lands covered by E.I. 206, and that they were also unable to trace the evidence of the payment of compensation to the Plaintiff's predecessor in title.
  8. On the basis of these admissions by the Lands Commission, the High Court in Swedru granted judgment in favour of the Plaintiff, Ogyeedom Obranu Kwesi Atta VI, to the tune of about Sixteen Million United States Dollars ($16 million).
  9. Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (Vodafone Ghana Ltd.), being dissatisfied with the judgment of the High Court in favour of the Plaintiff, appealed the decision in the Court of Appeal.
  10. Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (Vodafone Ghana Ltd.) also sought a stay of execution of the judgment of the High Court, and was granted a conditional stay of execution, by which they were required to pay about Four Million United States Dollars ($4 million) out of the judgment debt of Sixteen Million United States Dollars ($16 million).
  11. Believing that this amount was onerous, Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (Vodafone Ghana Ltd.) repeated their application for stay of execution, but the Court of Appeal dismissed the application.
  12. On 11th June 2019, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal entirely, and affirmed the decision of the High Court.
  13. Still dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeal, Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (Vodafone Ghana Ltd.) filed another appeal, this time in the Supreme Court.
  14. During the pendency of the appeal and upon the apparent discovery of new/fresh evidence, Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (Vodafone Ghana Ltd.) subsequently applied to the Supreme Court for leave to adduce fresh evidence in the Appeal to demonstrate that the land, which is the subject matter of the dispute, was actually acquired by the Government of Ghana by Executive Instrument 86 (E.I. 86) of 7th June, 1969 pursuant to the State Lands Act of 1962 (Act 125), and that the Government of Ghana had as far back as 6th October 1969 paid compensation for the acquisition of the land to the Plaintiff's predecessor in title, Nana Obranu Gura II (the Plaintiff's grandfather).
  15. Whilst this application for the adduction of fresh evidence was pending, Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (Vodafone Ghana Ltd.) filed another application for stay of execution of the judgment, this time in the Supreme Court, on the back of the dismissal of their application for stay of execution by the Court of Appeal.
  16. At this point, the President of the ordinary bench of the Supreme Court hearing this case, His Lordship Justice V.J.M. Dotse, wrote a memo to His Lordship the Chief Justice informing him of the case before the panel, that was likely to occasion a departure from a settled position of the law by the Supreme Court i.e. the granting of stay of executions.
  17. It was further indicated that due to the fact that it was a very settled position of the law, any disturbance or departure from this ought not to be determined by an ordinary bench of five (5) Justices, but rather by an enhanced panel of seven (7) Justices, constituted by His Lordship the Chief Justice pursuant to his discretionary powers, so that the issue may be dealt with comprehensively in order to enrich our jurisprudence.
  18. His Lordship the Chief Justice thus enhanced the panel from five (5) to seven (7), and included himself and thus presided.
  19. For the avoidance of doubt, it is critical to note that until this point, His Lordship the Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah, was not part of the part of the Supreme Court panel adjudicating the matter.
  20. That notwithstanding, by virtue of his position as Chief Justice, he presided over the panel in the hearing of the repeat application for stay of execution.
  21. Thus, with the Chief Justice presiding, the Supreme Court granted Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (Vodafone Ghana's) repeat application for stay of execution of the High Court Judgment, which had been affirmed by the Court of Appeal, thus departing from a settled position of the law.
  22. As a result of the fact that the reliefs sought in the application for stay of execution included any other order or orders that the court may deem meet, a consequential order was then made by the Supreme Court presided over by the Chief Justice, that having regard to the application for stay of execution that had been granted and on the totality of the circumstances of the appeal, the Plaintiff should refund the part payment of the judgment debt that he had received from Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (Vodafone Ghana Ltd.) i.e. Four Million United States Dollars ($4 million) into the Registry of the court. (Kindly refer to point 10, above)
  23. The application for the adduction of fresh evidence was also argued before the Supreme Court (also presided over by the Chief Justice), and the Supreme Court once again granted the application in favour of Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (Vodafone Ghana Ltd.). (Refer to point 14, above)
  24. It is important to also note that, the Plaintiff wrote a petition to the Chief Justice that he and Justice V.J.M. Dotse had essentially evinced prejudice in the case by prejudging some of the issues that the court had to consider, by reason of comments they had both made and thus should both recuse themselves.
  25. This petition was dismissed as being unmeritorious.
  26. The Plaintiff, then subsequently brought an application before the court also seeking leave to adduce fresh evidence to basically counter the fresh evidence which Ghana Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (Vodafone Ghana Ltd.) had been granted leave to lead (Refer to point 23, above).

The writer is a Lecturer & Head of Law Centers, GIMPA Faculty of Law and holds BA, LL.B, BL (Ghana); LL.M, SJD (Fordham)

By Dr. Kwaku Agyeman-Budu

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