The NPP, the NDC and the financial loss law
THE MORE I look at and listen to politicians the greater my cynicism about that 'tribe' grows.
Why do the politicians know all the good things to say and do when in opposition, but sing a different tune when they are in charge of the affairs of State?
The latest instance has come with media reports that the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) has charged Mr. Osei Agyei, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Kufuor Administration, with “willfully causing financial loss to the State.”
To the best of my knowledge, the case is yet to be brought before the courts. Still, I have not the least intention of falling foul of the law by pronouncing an opinion regarding the guilt or innocence of Mr. Osei Agyei. However, I cannot help but comment on this possible latest application of the law.
As is well known, this law was passed when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was in power under the presidency of Mr. J. J. Rawlings.
The law was applied when the New Patriotic Party (NPP) came to power with Mr. J. A. Kufuor as President. Those who were sent to prison by the late Mr. Justice Kwame Afreh were Mr. Kwame Peprah, ex-Minister of Finance, Mr. Ibrahim Adam, ex-Minister of Agriculture, and Dr. George Sipa Yankey, a ministry official. Much later, Mr. Dan Abodakpi was also to go to prison under the law.
As might be expected, the NDC did not take kindly at all to the sentencing of the persons mentioned here, as the ex-ministers were all ministers in the NDC administration.
Indeed, paradoxically enough, the severest criticism of the law came from the NDC, the very party whose government had passed the law.
The criticisms made me write as follows: “I have heard NDC spokespersons severely criticising the law on causing financial loss to the state.”
I stated further, “Look, the imprisonment of my fellow Ghanaians, Mr. Kwame Peprah, Mr. Ibrahim Adam AND Dr. George Sipah Yankey, does not make me happy.”
I added, “Apart from everything else, the revelations about the present conditions of our prisons should not make anyone wish that even his bitterest enemy went to jail.”
But I also wrote, “But it is utterly amazing and incredible that the loudest and harshest criticisms of the law have come from the NDC, the very party that passed the law when it was in power, and totally dominated Parliament. (See my article entitled, IS NDC REALLY SERIOUS? in The Chronicle of Monday June 30, 2003).
Dr. Josiah Aryeh, the then General Secretary of the NDC, stated that though they passed the law, they never used it, and that if the NPP Government was so minded, it could repeal it.
Another lawyer, Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni , then the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kumbungu on an NDC ticket, described the law as “too elastic and open-ended.”
When Papa Owusu Ankomah, one-time Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, stated that the law would not be repealed, Alhaji Mumuni described Papa Owusu Ankomah's statement as “arrogant,” when he spoke on Kumasi-based LUV FM.
Professor John Evans Atta Mills, lawyer and one-time Vice President, described the law as too “nebulous.”
The criticisms at the time also took on the judge, Mr. Justice Afreh. Both alive and in death, he was not spared the vitriolic outpourings of the aggrieved. The stroke, he reportedly suffered, was attributed to punishment for a supposed travesty of justice. Much was also made of the judge's statement that the persons involved did not personally benefit, or did not appear to have benefited from the transactions.
About five years after the initial outburst of criticisms, then vice presidential candidate John Mahama has also expressed his views about the law.
The GHANAIAN TIMES issue of Tuesday, June 24, 2008 reported Mr. John Mahama (as he then was) as stating that the law on willfully causing financial loss to the state should be subjected to a dispassionate national debate, for its possible review.
The paper directly quoted Mr. Mahama as saying, “In my opinion, the law is too elastic, and its maintenance on the statute books COULD BE CAPRICIOUSLY APPLIED TO POLITICAL OPPONENTS ON THE FLIMSIEST EXCUSE.” (Emphasis mine).
It is interesting to note that during the electioneering campaign, Mr. Mahama referred to this law and wondered aloud why in its eight years of rule, the NPP government never prosecuted any member of the government or the party. He did not specifically state whether, in his opinion, the law was capriciously applied to send Mr. Peprah, Dr. Yankey, Mr. Adam and Mr. Abodakpi to jail.
To the best of my knowledge, the law has not been repealed, otherwise Mr. Osei Adjei would not be charged under it. It has probably also not been amended to take the detected elasticity, open-endedness and the nebulousness out of it.
The NDC administration, under ex-President Rawlings, may not have applied the law, as stated by Dr. Aryeh, but the Mills-led NDC administration may do so now, if the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu, so directs.
We hear that the charge brought against Mr. Osei Agyei has something to do with the importation of rice from India under a government-to-government negotiation which involved initially, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs whose Minister at the time was Mr. Osei Agyei.
Are there not ironies in life? The Rawlings-led NDC administration that passed the law found it to be good. Later, it was discovered by the NDC that it was not so good when it caught three of its people and a public servant.
A Minister of Justice and Attorney-General in the Kufuor-led NPP administration was emphatic that the law would not be repealed. Now an NPP ex-Foreign Minister is in danger of being prosecuted under this same law. Was Papa shortsighted, spiteful or arrogant?
Should the case ever come to trial, be prepared to listen to NPP accusations of harassment, witch-hunting, bought judges, ingratitude ,the innocent being led to the slaughter, etc.
Of course, there would be replies from NDC circles that it was the law taking its course, that the judge was an upright one, and that, in any case, had the NPP forgotten all about the cases of Mr. Peprah, Mr. Adam, Mr. Abodakpi and Dr. Yankey?
Already, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu, has left no one in any doubt that the axe would fall at the appropriate moment.
Ex-President J. J. Rawlings wants it, and wants it fast.
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