The alleged Cecilia Abena Dapaah scandal which hit the Ghanaian media landscape on 21 July 2023, apart from the entertainment and emotional catharsis it has generated, seriously demonstrates a clear failure of the executive branch of government and the authority conferred upon it under the Constitution that “extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution and all laws made under or continued in force by this Constitution.” The power to investigate and prosecute offences committed under the laws of Ghana is the prerogative of the executive branch vested in the President of the Republic.
The fact that the Government and the public learnt for the first time simultaneously through the medium of the media that police prosecutors were prosecuting suspects for stealing various sums involving colossal amounts of US$1 million, €300,000, and millions of Ghana Cedis and assorted clothes valued at GH¢95,000, handbags, perfumes, and jewellery valued at US$95,000, six pieces of Kente cloth worth GH¢90,000 and six sets of men's suits valued at US$3,000 the property of a Minister of State and her husband also exposes serious weakness in the security and intelligence apparatus of Ghana.
The fundamental issue in the Cecilia Dapaah case in my view is not the colossal amounts allegedly stolen from her residence but the security breach posed by employing unvetted persons who have access to the residences of Ministers of State and access to their bedrooms. The fact that the suspects unlawfully entered into the Minister and her husband's living room in their absence over a period of time to be able to steal the properties involved must have been of prime interest to the Director-General CID for her to have officially informed the Inspector-General of Police in writing or by situation report (Sitrep) of the complaint by the Minister's husband and her as soon as it was received in October 2022 as disclosed on the charge sheet in the Circuit Court where the case of stealing alone ended up for trial.
The Inspector-General of Police has a responsibility to inform the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for National Security of all serious cases involving security breaches at the residences of any Minister of State being investigated by the police to enable them to fulfill their coordinating function of briefing the President, the National Security Council, and the Cabinet during security briefings. The weekly or monthly security briefings under an efficiently run Government must reflect such important and serious security breaches of a Minister of State's residence. The fact that weekly or monthly written security briefs may indicate which and when senior officials of the Republic have exited the country and when they returned underscore the fact that the personal safety and security of Ministers of State is an important matter for any investigator to report to his or her superior officer for purposes of security and intelligence briefs to the appropriate quarters.
The foregoing explains why it is abominable for the safety of this nation to have taken a report of proceedings of an Accra Circuit Court on 20 July 2023 by the Chronicle newspaper for the President of Ghana together with his security and intelligence apparatus consisting of the Minister for the Interior, the Attorney-General, the Minister for National Security, the National Security Coordinator, and the Director-General for the National Intelligence Bureau to wake up to the fact that a Minister of State and her husband had made a complaint to the Ghana Police Service about the theft of their property since October 2022. It is damning for the image not only of the government of the day but also the image of the country as a modern state.
The elaborate and formal procedure for reporting breaches of security to the safety of Ministers of State is not intended to suppress the commission of crime by any official of Government. The procedure itself ensures that whatever offences have been committed by a Minister of State are known within the chain of command and makes it difficult to suppress offences committed by high state officials.
The excitement, hysteria, baying for blood and propensity for mob lynching of the Minister of State, even before the facts concerning the sources of the property stolen from the residence of the former Minister and her husband were conclusively established, could have been avoided if the Director-General of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) who submitted the case to the court for trial had recognized the national security implications of the case and sent a Sitrep to the Inspector-General of Police informing him of the complaint when it was received in or around October 2022.
The Director-General CID was also duty bound to inform the Director of Public Prosecutions through the Attorney-General in writing of the pendency of such an investigation and to have submitted the docket to the Office of the Attorney-General for advice or directions as to how to proceed. This is because the Attorney-General is responsible under the Constitution for the initiation and prosecution of all criminal offences and the investigatory powers of the police are exercised on behalf of the Attorney-General.
The case of the former Minister, Cecilia Dapaah and her husband hit the airwaves on 21 July 2023 and she was immediately found guilty by the media and public opinion. The case immediately became politicized for electoral advantage without even giving her husband and her any opportunity to state their side of events and how they accumulated the property stolen from their bedroom through unlawful entry by the suspects. The constitutional presumption of innocence on the part of her husband and her were thrown asunder by a public already weighed under economic depression and waiting to lynch any suspected criminal, particularly government officials. This must be a reminder for those who have lived through the 4 June 1979 uprising where Ghanaians including junior officers of the Armed Forces hysterically, emotionally, and irrationally bayed for the blood of former Heads of State and other senior military officers who eventually lost their lives at the firing squad amid cheers from the public.
In the midst of the hysteria and the politicization generated by the arraignment of the suspects before the Circuit Court without the knowledge of the Attorney-General and the Government the stakes were weighed against the Minister and her husband. Consequently, she chose what she thought was the line of least resistance first, by issuing a press statement on 21 July 2023 offering to explain inconsistencies in the charge sheet and second, on the 22 July 2023 by resigning her office under the media and mob lynching hysteria generated by the media reportage of the case.
The tone of the President's acceptance of her resignation did not appear to help matters as the public saw in the President's letter an attempt to suppress or interfere in an on-going police investigation at the time. There was no law enforcement agency which had exhibited an intention to investigate the sources of the income of the Minister and her husband even though there were calls for such an investigation by the Ghana Police Service which was already seized with the case, the CHRAJ, and the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP).
The worst of public hysteria and emotions looking for the former Minister's blood was yet to happen under the unlawful populist law enforcement rubric of the OSP. On the morning of 24 July 2023, at 11:24:58 am Myjoyonline.com as though preparing the public mind for the coming inquisition against the former Minister reported that:
'The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) is under siege to investigate and possibly, prosecute the resigned Sanitation Minister, Cecilia Dapaah after a huge amount of cash was allegedly stolen from her home. Social commentators and social media users have been calling on the OSP to take up the matter before it gets cold. When asked if the calls had stopped coming through, a source at the OSP told Myjoyonline “they have not stopped coming” since the case became public last week.”
Then at 12: 33:46 pm the same day, Myjoyfmonline.com published a press release by the OSP under the signature of Kissi Agyebeng, the Special Prosecutor dated 24 July 2023 stating the following:
“At 11:55 GMT on 24 July 2023, Cecilia Dapaah, who resigned from the position of Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources on 22 July 2023, was placed under arrest by the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) in respect of corruption and corruption-related offences regarding large amounts of money and other valuable items reportedly stolen from her residence.
Ms. Dapaah is being questioned by authorized Officers of the OSP.”
Kissi Agyebeng by publicizing the supposed arrest of Cecilia Dapaah who had just resigned her office as a Minister of State was eroding her presumption of innocence and deepening the perception that the former Minister was guilty of an unstated offence before she could even be investigated for a specified corruption offence. Populism has no place in law enforcement. Law enforcement is a serious and impartial business as it deals with upholding the constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens suspected of the commission of crime during investigation. Firstly, it is unethical to deploy law enforcement in aid of public hysteria and emotions before the establishment of prima facie evidence pursuant to an investigation.
Secondly, there is no offence known under Section 79 of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act, 2017 (Act 959) as corruption and corruption-related offences.
Consequently, the Special Prosecutor was violating the Constitutional rights of the former Minister by accusing her of no offence known to Act 959. Indeed, Parliament has not passed any law criminalizing unexplained wealth and the OSP's LI 2374 does not create any such offence. The media lawyers and associates of the Special Prosecutor who referred to Regulation 20 (1) and (2) of LI 2374 as justification for the OSP's investigation of unexplained wealth are seriously misleading the public because that regulation deals only with “request to a suspect to make a declaration of the property and income of the suspect”. A suspect in terms of Act 959 is a person who is suspected of having committed one of the offences contained in Section 79 of Act 959 which does not include unexplained wealth which has not been criminalized in Ghana by the political elite. Furthermore, Articles 286 and 287 dealing with asset declaration referred to by those lawyers are enforceable by the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and not the OSP.
The Special Prosecutor was, therefore, on a populist and unethical frolic of his own and fishing for evidence by placing the former Minister under arrest and purporting to investigate her. This is a matter which Cecilia Dapaah's lawyer ought to examine closely and challenge the authority of the Special Prosecutor to have arrested, interrogated and conducted searches of the residences of her husband and her unlawfully. The OSP contributed in no small measure to cementing the perception that the former Minister had acquired unexplained wealth which she had stashed away in her residences as justifying the stealing of the property of her husband and her.
As a result of the populist and unethical law enforcement by the OSP, on the same Monday 24 July 2023, one Eric Mawuena Egbeta, a TV3 reporter in a stand-up reportage in front of OSP referenced sources within the OSP in telling the station that a new stash of money was found during a search at the former Minister's residences which took them about five hours to count. In his words:
"From the search at her residence yesterday [Monday, July 24], a lot more cash has been discovered and it took officials of the Special Prosecutor close to five hours alone in counting this amount of cash which was discovered in her home.”
This reportage supposedly based on leaks from the authorized Officers of the OSP found expression in various social media platforms and in videos together with allegations that it took over five hours for the authorized officers to count the stash of cash in various currencies the OSP found in the former Minister and her husband's residences.
Then comes along Paul Adom-Otchere, speaking on his Good Evening Ghana show on 25 July 2023 who in an attempt to defend the beleaguered former Minister and her husband informs his audience that checks by his team with the OSP shows that nothing of the sort [stash of assorted money in various currencies] were found during the OSP's search on 24 July 2023. Paul Adom-Otchere stated that: "We understand that it is untrue and the OSP must come out and clarify, we tried to search about this and what we have is that it is not true.” He insinuated further that the TV 3 reportage was untrue when he said that:
"We don't know why TV3 has been carrying this story since midday. It has no source, neither the Special Prosecutor or his deputy. If TV3 has further and better particulars, they should publish it tomorrow or even tonight…. Because our sources indicate that the Special Prosecutor has said it is not true."
The Special Prosecutor with his tail between his legs obeyed Paul Adom-Otchere's demand to come out and to clarify the leaks emanating from the OSP to the press by lamely issuing a press release on 26 July 2023 stating, inter alia, that:
“The OSP has, …., taken a number of steps and actions, including placing Ms. Dapaah under arrest and conducting searches at two residential properties associated with her. The OSP is still conducting its investigation. The public will be briefed on the outcome of the investigation when it is concluded, including any further steps the Office may take.”
There can be no smoke without fire, so the saying goes. The public believes that the investigation division of the OSP must have leaked the results of their search at the former Minister and her husband's residences to Eric Mawuena Egbeta, the TV3 reporter for him to engage in a stand-up reportage at the OSP. No amount of sophistry in language used by the Special Prosecutor can change that perception brough about by the indiscretion, irresponsible, and unprofessional investigative style of the OSP.
The OSP itself need to be investigated for the criminal offence of breach of confidentiality under Section 74 of Act 959, gross misconduct, and the sources of the alleged leakages unearthed in the interest of national security, the safety and protection of the fundamental rights of citizens who may appear before the OSP in the future. It is for this purpose that Section 74 (1) and (2) of Act 959 criminalizes the giving out of information that has come into the possession of an authorized officer in the performance of his functions under the Act to summary conviction to a fine or to imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than two years or to both.
The Ghana Police Service should as a matter of urgency and fairness investigate the sources of the alleged leakages as mandated by Section 74 of Act 959 as the Special Prosecutor will have to be the subject of this investigation himself to establish which authorized officers committed the offences. The Police cybersecurity department is capable of tracing the sources of the video and other publications on social media. It is important that the OSP, which I had the distinguished honour to establish and operationalize, does not leak like a sieve during investigations - whether lawful or unlawful investigations. It was for these reasons that I questioned the unconstitutional appointments of known politically partisan friends of the Special Prosecutor to the OSP which unconstitutional appointments have not been redressed by the Government that is now reaping the distasteful the results. The integrity of the OSP is clearly at stake if the presumption of innocence guaranteed the citizen is to be protected.
The circumstances under which the Police Administration submitted the docket on the complaint by the former Minister and her husband to the Office of the Attorney-General on 25 July 2023 for advice after the horse had fled before closing the stables is unknown. One can only surmise that it constitutes part of the inept Government's damage control mechanism. It also demonstrates a failure and complete breakdown of the standard operating systems that have conventionally been in place since independence for the supervision of the delegated investigatory and prosecutorial authority of the Attorney-General to the Ghana Police Service.
The serious security breaches to the residence of Cecilia Dapaah has left broken eggs all over the faces of the President and his law enforcement agencies. In all these ineptitude the presumption of innocence has been trampled upon as though it has never been guaranteed under the Constitution. In the case of the former Minister's husband his voice has completely been silenced by mob lynching hysteria and emotions as though marrying a woman who becomes a Minister of State kills one's very existence as a human being. The manner this case has been handled by the executive branch and its agencies may constitute a disincentive for honest and qualified citizens to wish to accept appointment to high offices in the Republic. Even the worst suspected criminal is entitled to the presumption of innocence and a fair trial until proven guilty by a court of law under the 1992 Constitution. The Constitution mandates all genuine constitutional defence activists to defend those hallowed rights even if they may incur the opprobrium of a hysteric and emotional public.
Martin A. B. K. Amidu 27 July 2023