LAWYER FRANCIS Kojo-Smith, legal counsel for Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) in the ongoing legal battle revolving around the razing down to the ground of Pier Hotel by the former President Jerry John Rawlings-led regime, has withdrawn his representation at court.
According to him, he has withdrawn because of intimidation and frustration with the powers that be, in addition to a strongly worded letter sent to him by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General (A-G), Mr. Joe Ghartey.
In a letter dated March 29 this year addressed to the court, Mr. Kojo-Smith said, “Following my oral announcement of withdrawal in court today as legal representative of the first defunct (obviously referring to AMA), on 29th March 2007, I hereby write to confirm my position.”
He told this paper that he was not prepared to compromise his professionalism. “I am doing the right thing. I don't want to be ordered about by anybody,” he said, adding that, it beats his imagination that the AG should be ordering and interfering with his work.
“He is the Attorney-General; he cannot order me or people about. I don't see any reason why my opinions should be criminalized. In fact I was going to sue him for defamation of character but some colleagues advised me not to do that,” he told this paper on Tuesday when the paper wanted to know further why he withdrew from the matter.
He argued that, “I have withdrawn my service because of intimidation and provocations of the Attorney-General.”
Mr. Kojo-Smith was then representing the AMA in court in the case in which the latter has been accused of wrongfully razing down Pier Hotel, belonging to Alhaji Yusif Ibrahim, by the NDC government.
Prior to his withdrawal, he had recommended an out-of-court settlement by the parties involved, which saw the plaintiffs write a memo to the government but it ended up in a cross fire between him and the Attorney General.
The Attorney-General, Joe Ghartey, wrote stating that, “Having regard to the steps that you have taken in this matter, I have no option but to advise the AMA to take steps to be represented by other legal Counsel. And also kindly desist from putting yourself out as representing the Ministry of Defence, otherwise you will leave me with no option than to report your conduct to the General Legal Council,” in a letter dated March 14, this year.
In his letter under the caption, “Alhaji Yusif Ibrahim and Others Vrs AMA Suit No. FTC IV/2001”, he chastised the AMA lawyer for writing to the Ministry of Defence, arguing that it was improper since the ministry was not a party to the case.
“We have advised the Ministry of Defence to treat the communication with the contempt that it deserves,” the A-G stated, contending that he found it difficult to understand how he (Smith) could purport to settle a matter on behalf of a client he did not represent.
Mr. Smith, also in reply to the A-G expressed grave indignation about the government's reluctance to speedily resolve the problem and stated that he was not prepared to do things against his conscience and convictions.
Mr. Kojo-Smith, then counsel for AMA averred that the A-G had no right to wade into the matter by jumping the gun to state that something above US$5m should be paid to the owners of the hotel instead of the court's decision.
He told this paper that, “it was wrong for the Attorney General to decide what amount is to be paid to the plaintiff. It must be decided by the court and not him.”
Alhaji Yusif Ibrahim, the owner of the demolished hotel, also expressed worry over the position taken by the A-G in a chat with the paper last week. He told this paper in a telephone interview that despite the fact that the government has beaten a retreat, he has given everything to the Creator to judge the case for him. “I have given everything to the Almighty God who is the best judge,” he said.