The Chief Justice (CJ), Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, officially retires from office on June 8th. Per the provisions of the 1992 Constitution, all Supreme Court justices are supposed to retire at 70. But, in order not to create a vacuum after her departure, President Akufo-Addo announced her replacement last week, in the person of Justice Sophia Akuffo.
The Chronicle congratulates the new CJ, whose appointment has received overwhelming endorsement from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). But, one cannot talk about the new CJ, without first looking at the good works of the outgoing Justice Theodora Wood.
When she was appointed by the Kufuor government to replace the late Justice George Acquah, the criticism, especially from the NDC, was that she had been rewarded for presiding over the MV Benjamin cocaine probe.
Some even went to the extent of claiming she was appointed to do the bidding of the then Kufuor government. But, anyone with objective lenses, would agree with The Chronicle that Justice Wood is one of the best CJs Ghana has ever produced. Despite all the negative comments politicians made against her, she discharged her duties according to dictates of the constitution. Indeed, if she was a political animal, as the NDC had tagged her, she would have seized the landmark Election Petition case filed at the Supreme Court by the late Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey and others, to 'teach' the NDC a lesson, but she never did that.
In fact, no rule would have prevented her from presiding over the case, but she decided to recuse herself, and allow her other colleagues at the Supreme Court to sit and hear the case. If she had presided over the case, and given a ruling that did not favour the NDC, it would have given credence to the propaganda the now opposition party spewed against the respected lady.
Apart from this, the outgoing CJ also demonstrated that she was there for all Ghanaians, irrespective of one's status in society. The Chronicle recalls vividly, the intervention she made to ensure freedom for a man from Begoro in the Eastern Region, who had been jailed for three years for stealing a bunch of plantains. The elderly man had argued in court that he was not a thief, and that he plucked the plantain to cook and eat, since he was hungry.
The lower court at Begoro would, however, not listen to the pleadings of the septuagenarian, and sentenced him to three years imprisonment in hard labour. The story was published by the Public Agenda, but after reading The Chronicle editorial on it, Justice Wood appointed one of the Court of Appeal judges to investigate the issue, and at the end of the day, the poor old man was set free. This is not the only case she intervened in after a newspaper publication – there are several others we cannot enumerate here.
This means that she was always ahead of her Public Affairs Department by reading everything concerning the judiciary in the newspapers, and reacting to them where necessary. Indeed, if she was not doing that, the poor man at Begoro would have probably died in prison, because he could not afford a lawyer to defend him at the lower court. Ghanaians can also recall the way and manner Justice Wood dealt with the judicial corruption case, after Anas Aremeyaw Anas' expose.
To prove that she was an incorruptible leader, she tackled the issue head on by sacking some of the judges who were found guilty of the offence, whilst others have also dragged her to court to challenge her decision. In a nutshell, the Lady Chief Justice demonstrated that she was not a pushover, and that she was appointed to defend the Constitution.
Judging from the above issues we have raised, it is clear that Justice Theodora Wood has set a high standard, which the incoming the CJ, Sophia Akuffo, must follow. We advise her to closely follow the media instead of overly relying on her media managers, who can, sometimes, sieve the information before it gets to her. If her predecessor had done that, she would not have today been receiving praises from The Chronicle and other industry prayers. Hundreds of poor Ghanaians have found themselves in prison, because they lack the financial wherewithal to hire a lawyer to defend them. These are some of the issues we think the incoming CJ should look at, so that when she exits office in future, Ghanaians would remember her good deeds.