Some chiefs of the Greater Accra Region are advocating the inclusion of chiefs in the judicial system in order to make the delivery of justice accessible to local communities throughout the country.
Nene Klangbojo Animle, Paramount Chief of Osu Doku, argued that the erosion of traditional judicial powers of the chieftaincy institution from the modern judicial administration has denied rural people speedy justice; hence increasing cases of instant justice and voodoo justice.
"In the olden days, before the coming of the colonialists, every village had at least an Odikro who ensured justice was speedily dispensed. This to a large extent ensured law and order, but now the distance of courts, high court fees and ignorance of court procedures have rather drawn us backwards. There is injustice all over the place," he stressed.
He made the request on behalf of his fellow chiefs at a public forum last Thursday organised by the Judicial Service in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at Dodowa, district capital of Dangme West.
It was under the theme 'Access to Justice: The Role of the Communities and the Judicial Service in Strengthening Judicial Integrity and Capability in Ghana.” The event attracted traditional rulers, public officials and opinion leaders.
"We have the right to arbitrate if the parties agree". Nene Animle insisted, a remark which drew a long applause from the gathering. “ I am the only living chief who had his own police, court and prison and judicial administration running smoothly," he recalled.
Justice S. A. Brobbey, a Supreme Court Judge who represented the Chief Justice, indicated that the concerns of the chiefs would be forwarded to the Chief Justice for consideration.
He explained that the aim of the outreach programme was to actively engage Ghanaians in discussing challenges facing the judicial administration at the local and district levels. "Its primary aim is to give you the opportunity to participate in the administration of justice through your contributions and inputs."
He explained that it is the responsibility of the Judicial Service to employ and post judges and magistrates and administrative staff to all courts, make justice available and less costly and promote justice delivery.
To achieve these objectives, Justice Brobbey revealed that the Judicial Service has embarked on strengthening capacity building by institutionalizing training under the Judicial Service Training Institute, re-examining of court rules and making them available to all. Court fees will also be advertised with the view to assisting litigants on the appropriate fees payable for various services rendered.
He said in discussing access to justice the role of the community cannot be ignored, and this is where district assemblies are expected to provide courts accommodation for staff.
He commended the Dangbe West District Assembly for providing a refurbished bungalow for the magistrate at Dodowa and urged other district assemblies to do the same.
Justice Brobbey observed that statistics available revealed that the Dodowa court is poorly patronized, and that litigants continue to take their cases to Tema, adding that this trend has to be stopped.
"Now that courts have been brought to your doorsteps, there is no need to continue to send cases to Tema. Quite apart from the transportation cost, litigation time will be prolonged by traveling the distance. The drive for access to justice will be defeated if courts within your communities are abandoned in preference to distant courts", he advised.
He said the public has the right to transparent justice and therefore all users of the court are urged to insist on receipts for every payment made in court.
"In the entire public service of which the judiciary is part demands should not be made for the performance of services for which the government pays the worker at the end of the month.
"Quite often it is those who pay the bribe who turn round to complain of what they themselves have paid. What is the point in paying only to use the payment as evidence of corruption? ", he queried.
Mr. Michael Teye Adjowerh-Nortey, the Dangme West District Chief Executive, appealed to the Chief Justice to elevate the Dodowa Magistrate Court to a Circuit Court to discourage people from traveling long distances for the services of a high court.