President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo Monday pledged unflinching commitment to the prosecution of foreign nationals caught mining illegally in the country.
He said the judiciary remained crucial to ending the menace of illegal mining and its attendant environmental degradation and should readily apply the law when needed.
The President gave the assurance while opening the 2022 Annual General Meeting of the Ghana Bar Association on the theme: “Ghana’s Democracy under the Fourth Republic: Gains, Challenges and Prospects.”
“May I learned colleagues, assure you of my full support to the attorney general in his determination to prosecute Aisha Huang and her collaborators, who apparently insisted on flouting our laws against galamsey and illegal mining.
“I expect that if they are found guilty, the courts would apply the full rigours of the new amended act 995, which has increased substantially, the punishment for breaches of the Law,” President Akufo Addo stated.
He said although the nation had not attained full growth potential despite gains made under the Fourth Republic, constitutional adherence should remain the basic rule, and said it would help deliver progress.
President Akufo-Addo said the Government was committed to sending the nation back to the growth rate of the pre-coronavirus era.
“The basic commitment to resolving these challenges within the framework of due process and democratic institutions, must remain unshaken, and I am confident that God willing, we will overcome these challenges.
“We overcame the fearsome Covid 19 menace with a resolution, desire for action and correct policy, and we will overcome our current economic challenges with the same mixture of determination, energy, and appropriate policy.”
He said it was important to maintain and protect the place of the Judiciary, and, therefore, the government had committed more to help the independent institution advance.
He said the government was helping bridge the technology gaps within the Justice systems, among others, the electronic court system, adding that the increase in the number of courts, would enhance access to justice across the nation.
The President said 100 courts and bungalows for judges were at various stages of completion across all 16 regions, and that 60 per cent would be handed over for use before the coming legal year commences.
Other several court projects are ongoing, including new high courts for all the new regions.
President Akufo-Addo said the Justice Department must be preserved as the main pillar for the reinforcement of the rule of law and called on members of the Bar not to be fazed by individuals and entities bent on marring the image of the Judiciary for personal and political gain.
President Akufo-Addo was welcomed to the ceremony with a Guard of Honour, and a 21-gun salute.
Mr Godfred Yeboah Odame, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, said the country has gained a worldwide reputation for its justice system and legal services with a call for the GBA to uphold to glow.
He said, “central to that reputation is the integrity of her Judiciary and the quality of judgments emanating from our courts, with decisions of our Superior Courts cited in cases in other jurisdictions, “with the court recognised for excellence and openness to innovation.”
The Attorney-General said it took decades, arguably over a century, to build the integrity of Ghana's Judiciary.
“Let us not condone the imprudent actions of citizens to destroy it through baseless attacks.”
The Minister said the essential elements of the profession must be guarded against elements, who seek to destroy the same, saying “our reactions to adverse rulings given against us by the courts do not traverse the bounds of ethical behaviour.”
He called on lawyers to support the Electoral Commission as presently constituted to persist in its quest to deliver for the nation a free, fair and credible election capable of measuring up to the test of international standards.
“I entreat the Bar to resist the misguided and parochial efforts of certain characters to undermine our democracy through unwarranted attacks on the Electoral Commission.”
Mr Odame, however, outlined some fundamental problems with the justice system, including representation for accused persons to face prosecutors, a long summary trial of criminal cases, which militates against the rights of fair trial and overcrowding and understaffed seminaries, not a functional prison system should be of prime concern to the members of the Bar.
Chief Justice Anin Yeboah, in his address, read for him by Mr Justice Jones Dotse, Justice of the Supreme Court, said the Bar existed to protect the democratic order and should be active on issues of national concern.
He noted how the right to regress continued to enrich our electoral process and said the present hung parliament “calls on us to once again strengthen our democracy”, and, therefore, the Bar Association should “take up the challenge to help form consensus on the way forward”.
Mr Yaw Acheampong Boafo, the President of the Ghana Bar Association, appealed to Ghanaians to be less partisan and more nationalistic and exhibit a renewed and stronger spirit of patriotism.
“Can we be a little bit more selfless, more hardworking and exhibit more honesty and integrity? Can we be less partisan and be more nationalistic?”
He urged all to support activities in consolidating the gains in the fourth republic as imperfect that it was, it could remain a better option for military takeovers, saying, “We owe a collective obligation to ensure that the Fourth Republic remains the last ever Republic.”
“We must all appreciate that an imperfect constitutional democracy that gives the opportunity to citizens to either change governments or extends their mandate is a far better option than any form of military adventurism where our lives and opportunities would be at the whims and caprices of some lawless few.
We still have the time, talents, resources and will to turn back from the political and economic precipice and stand tall in the comity of nations. “
The Weeklong conference features a legal outreach in selected schools, a medical outreach at the Volta Serene Hotel, and tours of tourist attractions and sites in the Region.
There will also be a sod cutting in Ho for the first regional Bar Centre of the Association.