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20.01.2004 General News

CHRAJ dismisses Case for lack of prosecution

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The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has dismissed a case in which the Minority Leader in Parliament, Alban Bagbin, had filed a case against the President for having accepted a monetary offer from a farmer for the renovation of his private residence in Accra.

According to CHRAJ, the case was dismissed on grounds of lack of prosecution or unwillingness on the part of the complainant to continue with the hearing of the case. Bagbin had complained that the ¢41m, which was made available by a Kumasi-based farmer, Opanin Kwame Marfo, for the renovation works on the President’s house was to open the President’s office to influence.

He contended that the money was not paid to the Public Works Department which undertook the renovation works. He is also on record to have stated that there was the need to set the right precedent, in this case, whether it was right for state funds to be used for the renovation of a President’s private residence.

The cross-examination by the Deputy Attorney-General commenced briefly on 8 December, last month, and had to be adjourned again to yesterday, 19 January, and today. Bagbin, however, notified the commission yesterday that his lawyer had travelled to the north of the country to take part in a funeral and, therefore, wanted another adjournment.

But the commission felt that the cross-examination could continue, even in the absence of the Minority Leader’ counsel, because he (Bagbin) was already very familiar with the facts of the case and was also a seasoned lawyer, for which reason the absence of his counsel could in no way prejudice his cross-examination by the Deputy Attorney-General.

The commission also felt that if Bagbin really needed a lawyer during his cross-examination, he could have arranged for another counsel since the case had been brought forward by him on behalf of the Minority Group in Parliament. It was against this background that the commission rejected his application for an adjournment and insisted that the Deputy Attorney General should proceed with the cross-examination.

Bagbin then made it clear that he could not proceed. The commission then explained to him that if he did not agree to be crossed-examined by the Deputy Attorney-General, then the commission would assume that he, (Bagbin) was unable or unwilling to continue with the prosecution of his complaint.

Consequently, the commission had no choice but to dismiss the case for lack of prosecution or unwillingness on the part of Bagbin to continue with the conduct of the case. When questioned as to whether CHRAJ had been fair to Bagbin, the Commissioner of CHRAJ, Francis Emil Short, replied in the affirmative, saying the hearing was fixed for the whole of yesterday and today.

He noted that it was extremely difficult to fix a date that was convenient for all panel members of the commission including Bagbin himself and the lawyers. Short said it was extremely difficult to assemble the members to have the dates fixed for yesterday and today for the continuation of this case.

He said various adjournments had been at the instance of Bagbin, adding that, “the commission has indicated earlier that it does not take kindly to adjournments of its cases because they disrupt our whole programme of activities”. “We do not take it that in this case, the refusal for cross examination was justified”, he added.

Commenting on the ruling, Bagbin discounted claims by the commission that it dismissed the case for his unwillingness to continue with the hearing. He said as far as he was concerned, CHRAJ dismissed the case for lack of a prosecution.

He said he only asked that the cross-examination be adjourned to next week Monday because his lawyer, Mohammed Mumuni, former Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, was attending a funeral of the Nayiri, King of Mamprusi. Bagbin said he was surprised that the CHRAJ dismissed the adjournment of the case because he asked for adjournment, particularly so when it was the CHRAJ which advised him to employ the service of a legal counsel.

He said he filed the complaint for an on behalf of the Minority Group and expressed regret that after my counsel had led me to state my case, the CHRAJ refused my request for adjournment to next Monday to enable my counsel to be present at my cross-examination.

Bagbin said although the Deputy Attorney General did not object to my request for adjournment, the CHRAJ declined my request because according to it, granting the adjournment would cause inconvenience to the parties in the case. According to him, the CHRAJ also said they do not encourage adjournment of cases and the commission stated later that they could not grant the adjournment because my application had no merit.

Bagbin said the issue was not a private matter but a public one which needed to be effectively dealt with because “we need to set a precedent that is worthy of emulation”. He said it was important that CHRAJ was supported to investigate the matter and, therefore, the presence of his lawyer in this case was relevant.

The Minority Leader said it was most unfortunate that such a golden opportunity for the country to assist in putting some systems and structures in place during transitional periods had gone abegging. He wondered whether a President who took office could take state funds to furnish his private residence or should be allowed to live in an expensive hotel.

Bagbin stated that as a result of his complaint it was revealed during the hearing that the auditors had put the cost of the renovation on the President’s private residence at ¢50.9m instead of the ¢41m initially quoted.

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