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02.02.2020 Feature Article

Two Manhyia Palace Royals And Their Impact On Jurisprudence In Ghana

A Posthumous Account Of Nana Akwasi Agyeman And Baffour Akoto
Two Manhyia Palace Royals And Their Impact On Jurisprudence In Ghana
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Admirably, the Asante Kingdom led by an overlord called Asantehene is one of the time tested and well-organized monarchies in the world. The head office of the Asante Kingdom from where the Asantehene reigns is the Manhyia Palace. The Kingdom is known for its men and women of valor who made and still make various courageously recognizable strides in society thereby touching different facets of societal life.

It is these men and women of valor that make the Asante Kingdom what it is today and what it will continue to be till the world ends. Such audacious deeds of the Asante people are in keeping with the assertion by the late Tsami Kofi Adreh, a royal of the Dzagbaku Division of Mepe Traditional Area in the North Tongu District of the Volta Region. Tsami Adreh (a linguist of Manklalo Ayadugbe) said, the development or fame of a community is not showcased by lifting the community physically on a cleft stick for others to see. Rather, it is the good and courageous deeds of the community members that make the community famous and well recognized.” Such is the case of the men and women of valor of the Asante Kingdom.

In January 2020, we heard sadly that a famous royal of the Asante Kingdom, Nana Akwasi Agyeman had slipped into eternity on 14th January 2020 and in tune with Akan customs and tradition, Asanteman had already organized a ceremony to commemorate the one week of his demise. May his gentle soul find favor in the Lord God and may Asanteman be consoled with the Shakespearean assertion of inevitability that everything that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity.

Nana Akwasi Agyeman who was also called Okumkɔm (he kills hunger), was the Chairman of the Kumasi City Council (KCC) for over 20 years under various political regimes. In contemporary times, KCC is called Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA). Suffice to say that Okumkɔm was the Mayor of the garden city (Kumasi). He was a high-ranking Asante royal who was even once penned down as a possible occupant of the famous and sacred Golden Stool.

This article is meant to recognize posthumously, the diverse contributions Nana Akwasi Agyeman and his forebear, Baffour Osei Akoto had made in terms of how court decisions in their cases have strengthened jurisprudence in Ghana. Jurisprudence means a legal system or philosophy of law. It is the study of law and the structure of the legal system. Undoubtedly, the cases of these two Asante royals of blessed memories have become celebrated cases for legal education in Ghana in terms of case law. It is therefore worth recognizing them with this article because he who has done good deeds deserves commendation. Even though the Akoto cases preceded the Akwasi Agyeman cases, we will discuss the latter first, mindful of the fact that Nana Akwasi Agyeman had just passed on to eternity and he is yet to be buried. Regarding Baffour Osei Akoto, he died about 18 years ago.

The Court Cases Of Nana Akwasi Agyeman (Okumkɔm)

Nana Akwasi Agyeman (Okumkɔm) Nana Akwasi Agyeman (Okumkɔm)
As indicated earlier, Nana Akwasi Agyeman was not only an Asante royal but also a Ghanaian politician for years. It is surprising to submit that Okumkɔm had served as the Mayor of Kumasi under different political regimes that ruled Ghana. He was the Mayor under National Redemption Council (NRC), the first and second Supreme Military Council regimes (SMC SMC II & I), People’s National Party (PNP) and the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) as well as the National Democratic Congress (NDC). It was when he was the Kumasi Mayor in the late 1970s and early 1980s that Nana Akwasi Agyeman’s court cases contributed meaningfully to jurisprudence in Ghana. Specifically, Nana Akwasi Agyeman’s cases came under the legal umbrella of judicial review of administrative actions. The plaintiffs (14 councilors of the erstwhile Kumasi City Council) applied for the order of quo warranto to as it were, challenge the authority by which Okumkɔm still occupied the office as the Executive Chairman of KCC even after his tenure ended (Gyima and Others v. Agyeman and another, 1981, GLR 427). Quo Warranto is a Latin phrase interpreted as by what warrant. The case of the plaintiffs was that Nana Akwasi Agyeman’s continuous stay in office after his tenure ended sinned against sections 8(3) and 8A of the Local Administration Act, 1971 (Act 359), as amended by Local Government Administration (Amendment) Decree, 1974 (N.R.C.D 258), and Local Government (Amendment) Decree, 1979 (S.M.C.D 219). Through their lawyer, the 14 councilors argued that per the nets of the Local Government (Amendment) Decree, 1979 (S.M.C.D 219), they should have elected one of their members as the Executive Chairman of the KCC.

Actually, Nana Akwasi Agyeman occupied the office of the Chairman of KCC from December 1977 to January 1979 even though his tenure was one (1) year by law. It was also argued that his continuation in office after his tenure ended was contrariwise to section 7 (2) of the transitional provisions of the 1979 (3rd Republican) Constitution. It stipulates, “A person who before the coming into force of this Constitution would have been required under the law in force to vacate his office at the expiration of a period of service shall…vacate his office at the expiration of that period.” The court, therefore, upheld the plaintiffs’ application for quo warranto and awarded a cost of ₵500.00 in favour of the applicants through the lips of Roger Korsah J. The High Court furthered that one of the 14 councilors should be elected as the Executive Chairman of KCC.

Just after this judgment, the Limann PNP Administration of the Third Republic re-appointed Nana Akwasi Agyeman as the Chairman of the KCC on 19th January 1979 which tenure expired again on 18th January 1980 by law even though his re-appointment letter did not specify any tenure.

In yet another court case referred to as the Republic v. Executive Chairman, Kumasi City Council; exparte Gyimah and Others [1981] GLR 466, the 14 councilors of Kumasi City Council relied on the decision in the earlier case and brought another action against Nana Akwasi Agyeman. They demanded that the defendant (Akwsi Agyeman) should show by what authority he still held himself as the Executive Chairman of the KCC even after the High Court ruled that one of the 14 KCC councilors should be elected as the Chairman of KCC.

They prayed the court to issue quo warranto against him to show by what warrant or authority he was wielding power as the Chairman of KCC. They added that by law, one of the 14 councilors should have been appointed the Chairman of KCC. However, Justice Jones-Mensah of the High Court, Kumasi dismissed the application and submitted poignantly that the order of quo warranto is a graceful or discretionary remedy or writ and not a writ of right. The judge added that the earlier court decision that upheld the quo warranto application did not take away the overriding constitutional power conferred on the President to appoint the Chairman of KCC. The President is clothed with authority by section 8 (a) of the Local Administration Act, 1971 (Act 359) as inserted by the Local Government (Amendment) Decree 1979 (S.M.C.D 219), to appoint the Executive Chairman of KCC.

Effectively, therefore, Nana Akwasi Agyeman’s re-appointment as the Executive Chairman of KCC was lawful and could not be questioned. The Akwasi Agyeman cases became the most celebrated cases of quo warranto in jurisprudence in Ghana. Even though the moral lesson is not to encourage people to continue to occupy office after their tenure ended, the cases are often cited in legal arguments over quo warranto applications. The cases have therefore enriched jurisprudence in Ghana. In the first case, quo warrranto was issued against him with a fine of ₵500.00 but in the second case, the court dismissed the quo warranto application against him. It is my desire to give Nana Akwasi Agyeman another title. He should be called the quo warranto royal of Asante Kingdom or the quo warranto man of Ghana.

The Court Cases Of Baffour Osei Akoto

Baffour Osei Akoto Baffour Osei Akoto
The Akoto case was a 1961 case of application for the order or writ of Habeas Corpus, which was denied the applicants/ appellants by the two superior courts of judicature under the 1960 Constitution (i.e. the High Court and the Supreme Court). Habeas Corpus is a Latin expression, which means produce the live body of a detained person or let us have in court, the living body being detained so that the court gives him or her a fair hearing on the altar of natural justice. Habeas Corpus, therefore, questions the ground on which a person is being detained. It is therefore a writ issued by the courts to challenge the ground on which a person is being detained. In re is a Latin expression, which means in the matter of. As such, In re Akoto means in the matter of Akoto. However, the case actually involved Akoto and 7 others detained with him.

Akoto was called Baffour Osei Akoto and he was the Chief Linguist of the then Asantehene (Otumfuo Nana Agyeman Prempeh II). Akoto died in September 2002 and he was given a state burial by the Kuffuor Administration. His son is the current Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Owusu Afriyie Akoto. In order not to sound confusing, take note that any Akoto mentioned later in the article will refer to Baffour Osei Akoto and not his son, Hon. Owusu Afriyie Akoto.

Baffuor Osei Akoto was one of the founding fathers of the National Liberation Movement (NLM), a political movement or party formed with the slaughter of a sheep near the Subin River in Ashanti Region. The NLM became an opposition party to the ruling Convention People’s Party (CPP) with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as President.

As indicated earlier, the Akoto case is popularly referred to as Re Akoto or In re Akoto [Re Akoto (1961), 2GLR 253] in legal literature. The facts are that a statute called Preventive Detention Act (PDA), 1958 (No. 17) was enforced under the 1960 or First Republican Constitution. Section 2 of the PDA clothed the Interior Minister with power to detain for five (5) years renewable, people whose conduct was found to be “prejudicial to the security of State.”

On 10th and 11th November 1959, Akoto and 7 others (1. Peter Alex Danso alias Kwaku Danso, 2.Osei Assibey Mensah, 3.Nana Antwi Bosaiko alias John Mensah, 4. Joseph Kojo Antwi-Kusi alias Anane Antwi-Kusi, 5. Benjamin Kwaku Owusu, 6. Andrew Kojo Edusei and 7. Halidu Kramo) were arrested and detained without trial. Their detention was to last for 5 years but it could be renewed per the tenets of the PDA. Their offence was that they were fomenting troubles in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions hence their conduct was prejudicial to the security of the state.

Through their legal counsel, the renowned J. B. Danquah (one of the big 6), Akoto and his detained colleagues applied for the Writ of Habeas Corpus ad subjiciendum at the High Court (HC) to remove them from illegal detention but the HC did not grant their application. It should be noted however that J.B. Danquah himself was later detained under the PDA in 1961 and 1964 till he died in detention on 4th February 1965 at the Nsawam Medium Prisons.

When the HC denied Akoto and others the order of Habeas Corpus, they appealed to the Supreme Court (SC). On 28th August 1961 therefore, the SC had before it, the case of constitutional interpretation with regard to article 13 (1) of the Constitution, 1960. Article 13 (1) of the 1960 Constitution states, “Subject to such restrictions as may be necessary for preserving public order, morality or health, no person should be deprived of freedom of religion or speech, of the right to move and assemble without hindrance or of the right to access to courts of law.”

As it were, therefore, the SC was to rule on the constitutionality or otherwise of the PDA and for that matter the legality or otherwise of the detention of Akoto and the 7 others. J.B.Danquah made a 7-point argument to justify why his clients should not continue to be in detention. He argued inter alia, “The PDA, 1958 itself was in contravention to Article 13 (1) of the 1960 Constitution which enshrined declarations made by the President (Nkrumah) regarding the fundamental principles upon his assumption of office.”

Surprisingly, the SC dismissed the Habeas Corpus application by Akoto and others and asserted that “…the contention that the Preventive Detention Act, 1958 is contrary to the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana is untenable and for the reasons indicated, the appeal is dismissed.” The SC furthered that Parliament is competent even in time of peace to pass the PDA, 1958 hence it was not contrary to the Constitution. Even though Akoto, the highly ranked Asante royal did not win the case, the case has become the most celebrated Habeas Corpus Case in Ghanaian jurisprudence and legal brains often opine that the decision in re Akoto has continued to haunt the SC even till date. It is my observation that both the Akwasi Agyeman and Akoto cases constitute a feat for the Asante Kingdom since the two men were royals therefrom.


To this end, I am sure it is now evident how the two royals of the Asante Kingdom have contributed significantly to jurisprudence in Ghana. May the gentle soul of Nana Akwasi Agyeman and that of Baffuor Osei Akoto continue to rest in perfect peace. Damirifa. Your contributions to jurisprudence in Ghana are very remarkable. Your names cannot be erased from Ghana Law Reports and other legal literature. May God continue to bless your descendants and other men of valor especially within the Asante Kingdom.

~Asante Sana ~

Author: Philip Afeti Korto.

Email: [email protected]

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