Former President John Dramani Mahama has said President Nana Akufo-Addo has packed Ghana’s courts with “so many” politically exposed judges who do not dispense justice fairly.
“I’m talking about where people take good cases [to the court] and get bad outcomes; that is what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about [taking] bad cases [to court] and expecting good outcomes”, the 2020 flag bearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) told Alfred Ocansey of Accra-based TV3 in a recent interview.
“I just think that they [judges] should go by the oath of office that they take: that they shall dispense justice fairly to all manner of persons, and if they did that I’m sure that the image of our judiciary will rise in the eyes of the public”, Mr Mahama reiterated.
For instance, he observed, “There are complaints that are made against judges and you expect that action will be taken against those judges after investigations but you don’t hear anything; nothing happens and the judges continue to do what they want”.
Mr Mahama noted that President Akufo-Addo’s stuffing of the courts with political elements as judges is partly to blame for the bad image the public has about the judiciary.
“But part of the perception is also the packing of the courts by this president”, Mr Mahama noted.
“He’s appointed more judges in this history of this country than any other government: from the circuit, lower courts right up to the upper courts; he’s packed so many judges and most of them are political party [persons], I mean people who are openly exposed as political party operatives and, so, if you put people like that on, what do you expect”, he said.
Addressing a conference of lawyers of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) on Sunday, 28 August 2022, Mr Mahama said the image of Ghana’s judiciary is “broken” under the leadership of Justice Anin-Yeboah, and hoped that a “new Chief Justice” leads an image-cleansing crusade in the future, since, in his view, the current Chief Justice cannot lead such a process.
At that conference, Mr Mahama bewailed that the judiciary has now become the butt of jokes, as a result of its biased rulings and decisions on cases with a political tinge.
Recently, he noted, “so badly has the image of our judiciary deteriorated that many of our citizenry openly make a mockery of our justice system and of our justices”.
“The phrase, ‘Go to court’ is, these days, is met with derisive laughter, instead of hope that one will truly get justice if he went to the court”, Mr Mahama explained.
He said: “If people are not poking fun about politics and inducements being used to sway the hand of justice in the lower courts, then it is poking fun and making statements about the 7-0 of the ‘Unanimous FC’ verdicts, which, mostly, involve cases of a political nature in our Supreme Court”.
“This is an unfortunate development”, he regretted, pointing out: “One of the scariest existential threats to any democracy is when citizens think their judiciary holds no value for them” or is of “no use to them, and this is the security threat that the national security apparatus tried to draw the attention of the nation to, recently but was poorly received by the President and his party”.
“It is scary because it threatens the peace and stability of our democracy and we must quickly correct this fast-spreading notion”, warned Mr Mahama.
He said it is a harbinger of danger.
“If care is not taken, we’ll get to a stage where people will have no qualms about taking the law into their own hands because they do not have the confidence that they can get any justice from the system”, he cautioned.
“There’s, therefore, the urgent need for the Ghanaian judiciary, to work to win the trust and confidence of the citizenry and erase the widely-held perception of hostility and political bias in legal proceedings at the highest court of the land”, he urged.
“Unfortunately”, Mr Mahama noted, “we have no hope that the current leadership of our Judiciary can lead such a process of change”.
“We can only hope that a new Chief Justice will lead the process to repair the broken image that our judiciary has acquired over the last few years”, he said.
This is not the first time the former President has lunged at the judiciary.
In March this year, he said: “We do have problems with the judiciary, I must say”, adding: “I think that it is necessary for some internal reforms to take place there”.
“It is necessary for the Chief Justice or whoever is responsible, to make some reforms”, Mr Mahama said when he addressed the US Chapter of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) at Bentley University over the weekend.
Bemoaning how, in his view, “most of the governance institutions have been politicised”, Mr Mahama said: “I give the example of the Judiciary – It is only in Ghana that a Supreme Court will make a decision that a birth certificate is not proof of citizenship”.
“There are many such funny judgments that have been given”, he added.
“I remember at one time, our colleague, Professor Raymond Atuguba, said that from research he had done, judges turn to give their judgments in favour of the political party or leader that appointed them”.
“He was subjected to such a whirlwind of indignation by the judiciary but if you bring it down to what is happening today, and you look at it and see who appointed who, you will find that there was some truth in the research.”
“The thing is, our Constitution gives the security of tenure to judges. Once you have been appointed, you cannot be removed”.
“That is why we give security of tenure so that you will have the courage, no matter who appointed you, to give judgment according to your conscience. That is what our judges should do. They must rise to the occasion”, urged Mr Mahama.
SC’s 7-0 verdict serves you right for going to court with zero evidence! – Akufo-Addo tackles Mahama's 'selfish', 'partisan' attacks on Judiciary
In a veiled response, President Akufo-Addo called out Mr Mahama over what he described as the opposition leader’s “systematic” attacks on the Judiciary and Electoral Commission.
According to President Akufo-Addo, “Just as the government continues to implement policies to advance the rule of law, and, thereby, reinforce the confidence of the people, and shore up our nation’s reputation as a country governed by the rule of law, there are some who have made it their political agenda to disparage, systematically, the image of the Judiciary for selfish, parochial, partisan reasons.”
He stated: “These are the plaintiffs, who go to court, indeed, to the highest court of the land, provide not a single shred of evidence to back their claims, and, yet, insist that their claims be upheld, despite the elementary violation of the ancient, common-law rules for the discharge of the burden of proof that such a result would entail.”
The President continued: “It is no wonder that their claims were unanimously dismissed 7-0 by the apex court” – a reference to the apex court’s endorsement of the 2020 election result declared by the electoral commission that was challenged by Mr Mahama in court.
The electoral commission – party to the suit – said that President Nana Akufo-Addo of the National Patriotic Party (NPP) won 51.59% of the vote and Mr Mahama took 47.36%.
President Akufo-Addo said: “The result of this case is in stark contrast to the result of a similar one in 2013, when the unsuccessful plaintiffs managed to persuade four out of a nine-member court, to find for them, and, yet, the earlier plaintiffs chose not to wage a political war against the court.”
President Akufo-Addo made this known on Monday, 12 September 2022, when he delivered the keynote address at this year’s Bar Conference of the Ghana Bar Association.
He told Members of the Bar that Ghana is governed in accordance with the rule of law, and not on the basis of political considerations.
“It is important that all of us – especially us lawyers, who cherish the democracy we are building – say no to such persons, and guard jealously our democratic way of life, which we have done so much to bring into being. Independent judges, administering the law, protecting the human rights of citizens, and ensuring public accountability, are strong pillars of our democracy,” the President added.
Just as an independent Electoral Commission, noted for its efficiency and the transparency of its dealings, is one other such pillar, President Akufo-Addo noted that the Commission is, predictably, the object of the same anti-democratic attacks as the Judiciary.
“Mercifully for all of us, these attacks have not shaken the confidence of the people in these institutions. Genuine democrats should devote their energies to finding ways and means of strengthening the democratic institutions of our Republic, instead of expending profitless time in undermining them,” he stressed.