Ghana's Chief Justice, has thrown caution to the wind, threatening to file a lawsuit against owners of Africaweb Publishing B. V, publishers of popular online news portal, GhanaWeb, if it does not desist from publishing unverified articles about the judiciary and his person.
Justice Kwesi Anin Yeboah, who sounded clearly upset, insisted he may be forced to take the news portal on legally, if it continues to publish articles that set him up for insults by its readers.
How the Chief Justice, intends to put a lawsuit filed by him before a judge under him to administer without suffering accusations of judicial chicanery, is raising eyebrows.
Indeed, the likes of Chief Justice Abban, Owiredu, Acquah, Georgina Wood and Sophia Akuffo, have suffered many instances of abuse, but did not issue threats. Justice AninYeboah, appears to be chatting a new course.
The threat was contained in a letter addressed to Ghanaweb which The Herald intercepted. It was signed by Justice Cynthia Pamela Addo, the Judicial Secretary.
The Chief Justice, had been angry at the publication of a petition filed by the chiefs and people of Akpafu and Lolobi over the regional demarcation by Justice Brobbey Commission, which has left them stateless, no district and Constituency. They also insist they not interested in being part of the Oti region, but wants to be remain under the Volta region.
The Paramount Chief of Lolobi Traditional Area, Nana Akoto Masakyi III and Adontenhene of Akpafu Traditional Area, Nana Tetteh-Attu IV, petitioned the Chief Justice, over what they call 'judicial frustration' as they fight over their statelessness.
But the Judicial Secretary, decided to rather attack the media first, instead of ensuring that Justice is not denied the people.
The ex-Jubilee House Staffer wrote, "His Lordship the Chief Justice has therefore directed me to inform you that, he would be compelled to resort to legal action if GhanaWeb does not refrain from publishing such news items about the Judiciary, and in particular about the Chief Justice, without verifying the facts in advance of the such publications and therefore attracting scandalous comments from some consumers".
In the said petition, the frustrated chiefs, lamented how they have been seeking legal redress over "a gaffe" by the Justice Brobbey Commission to lump their communities into Oti Region and Buem Constituency, although they had made it clear that they did not want to be in Oti Region.
"A gaffe by the Commission lumped us into Oti Region and Buem Constituency respectively; although we the legitimate Chiefs of the two traditional areas, as well as the Kade (custodians of customs and traditions), Queenmothers, opinions leaders and the generality of the people made it abundantly clear that we did not want to be in Oti Region. In fact, we did NOT petition the President at all to begin with.
"Rather than being given a fair hearing and justice as guaranteed under the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, we have become hostage to all manner of official manipulations, unethical and inequitable treatment, undeserving of law-abiding citizens seeking to assert their rights under the 1992 Constitution," the petition read in part.
The chiefs, said that since filing their case to protest their inclusion in Oti Region, "it appears the entire judicial system has become a black hole as far as our quest for justice and fair hearing is concerned."
But aside petitioning the Chief Justicethe desperate chiefs copied several media houses including GhanaWeb which caused the news portal to make a publication.
They want the Chief Justice, to impress on the Courts to give their case a fair hearing and redeem Ghana's judicial process from being compromised.
"We would not surrender our dignity, our heritage of peace and harmony and basic human rights as a people to ill-motivated adventurers who have no sense of history," the petition said.
"The Chiefs and Peoples of the Lolobi and Akpafu Traditional Areas, are constrained to hereby seek from your high office, an understanding of the reasons behind the pattern of tacit judicial oppression by officialdom, neglect and denial of fair hearing against universally accepted principles of natural justice and rule of law".
The story however generated several unfavourable comments from readers against the Chief Justice raffling feathers.
The story by the news portal has thus resulted to the threatening statement sanctioned by the Chief Justice dated Wednesday November 18, 2020 and signed Justice Cynthia Pamela Addo, who happens to be the Judicial Secretary.
The six paragraph statement read "The attention of His Lordship the Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana has been drawn to a publication in the GhanaWeb news portal, on 14th November 2020, of a petition to the Chief Justice signed by the paramount chief of Lolobi Traditional Council and the Adonthene of Akpafui Traditional Area".
The statement registered it disgust about the insults the story on GhanaWeb generated saying "His Lordship the Chief Justice has also noted that the said publication resulted in insults on his person by some readers of the said article".
According to the Chief Justice, the petition dated 11 November 2020 from the Lolobi chiefs was received by the office of the Chief Justice the same day.
But, the petition went further to explain that, on the same day, Chief Justice travelled out of Accra for official engagements, including one at Sunyani, the capital of the Bono Region. This, the statement said caused the delay in attending to the petition immediately.
"However, on 11th November 2020, His Lordship the Chief Justice travelled out of Accra to attend to official engagements including the Chief Justice's forum in Sunyani and was therefore unable to attend to the petition immediately; a petition which had only been lodged at His Lordship's secretariat a day before his departure".
It said, upon the CJ's return to office on Monday November 16, 2020, the story had been published by GhanaWeb without crossing checking with the facts from the Judicial Service.
"Unfortunately, His Lordship arrived at the office on Monday 16 November 2020 to find that you had published the said petition on your news portal without checking the facts from the Service resulting in the insults on his person
Below is the full petition by the Lolobi chief and Adontenhene of Akpafu Traditional Areas
Our grievances concern Suit No. GJ1841/2019, filed on the 9th day of September 2019, in exercise of our rights under the Constitution. Over a year on, our case remains on file only. The notice of appeal in recourse to due process addressed certain adverse findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Creation of New Regions (hereinafter 'the Commission' or 'Justice Brobbey Commission') affecting the dignity and aspirations of our people. A gaffe by the Commission lumped us into Oti Region and Buem Constituency respectively; although we the legitimate Chiefs of the two traditional areas, as well as the Kade (custodians of customs and traditions), Queenmothers, opinions leaders and the generality of the people made it abundantly clear that we did not want to be in Oti Region. In fact, we did NOT petition the President at all to begin with.
Rather than being given a fair hearing and justice as guaranteed under the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, we have become hostage to all manner of official manipulations, unethical and inequitable treatment, undeserving of law abiding citizens seeking to assert their rights under the 1992 Constitution.
This petition is meant to obtain direct and unequivocal assurances that our judicial system under your leadership has not become selectively dysfunctional or otherwise compromised where it comes to our quest for justice. We dare raise this sceptre as we sense tacit complicity of the courts in an on-going conspiracy of sorts to subvert our aspirations and trample on our rights as citizens by delaying and denying the hearing of our case.
As Chief Justice and foremost custodian of our judicial traditions and history, you may well appreciate the weight of our resolve knowing a Supreme Court of the Gold Coast ruled in 1945 to administratively keep apart our people and the Buems. This mutually honoured legal decision now stands violated by the Commission in making its groundless recommendation to locate Lolobi and Akpafu Traditional areas in Oti Region when the two traditional areas did not petition the President nor make any representations whatsoever to the Commission to be included in Oti Region.
We catalogue below the experiences that have compelled us to petition your office:
1. Lolobi and Akpafu Traditional Areas on the 9th day of September, 2019, filed a notice of appeal challenging certain adverse findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Creation of New Regions (Suit No. GJ 1841/2019) in exercise of our constitutional rights. Specifically, that the Commission erred when it made recommendations for the inclusion of Lolobi and Akpafu Traditional Areas in the new Oti Region.
The suit points to the fact that the Commission acted in contravention of Article 5(2) of the 1992 Constitution, as the Akpafu and Lolobi communities did not and have never ever submitted petitions to the President demanding inclusion in a new region to be created.
2. The two parties were invited to attend a meeting at the Registry of the Court on 14th day of November 2019 at 1pm for "settlements of records". The invitation was contained in the Registrar's letter dated 4th November 2019. (All relevant documents needed for the process were to be retrieved from the Presidency which was the seat of the Justice Brobbey Commission).
3. In this direction, the Registry, in accordance with law, wrote a letter duly signed by MrIssahakuMussah (Registrar, General Jurisdiction), on 20th December 2019 for submission to the Office of the President. Strangely, the Registrar subsequently withheld transmission of the letter to the Office of the President. From our viewpoint this development defied the norm of courts writing to other institutions in administering justice and upholding the rule of law.
4. On 21st January, 2020, when pressed for action, the Registrar, declared, that he could only forward the letter to the Office of the President on orders of the court. After costly numerous appeals and visits failed to sway the Registrar to complete the process, we had no other option than to oblige in suing him and his office on 11th March, 2020. Suit No. GJ 0765/2020; the Republic vrsMrIssahakuMussah (Registrar General Jurisdiction), Accra and Attorney General Exparte Nana Korkor I and 3 others.
5. Since filing the above cases, it appears the entire judicial system has become a black hole as far as our quest for justice and fair hearing is concerned. All other cases taken to court towards safeguarding our cause and basic rights under the 1992 Constitution of Ghana have been frustrated or neglected, as catalogued below:
i. Taking EC to the Electoral Boundary Tribunal over arbitrarily placing Lolobi and Akpafu Traditional Areas under Jasikan District. Attached are copies of the court documents. (The case was also reported in the media including Ghanaian Times Newspaper p3 of Tuesday, 18 February 2020 edition; https://www.ghanaiantimes.com.gh/ec-dragged-to-court-over-placing-lolobi-akpafu-under-jasikan-district/).
ii. The Court could not sit because no standing panel of Judges had been constituted to hear such disputes. We were compelled to file our case at the Supreme Court to draw the attention of your office to this judicial vacuum. The Chief Justice of Ghana subsequently promised to empanel a Tribunal under article 48(2) to determine the matter. That panel has still not been constituted to date.
iii. Since filing the Mandamus case on 11th March 2020, the Registry frustrated and neglected to either give a court hearing date or assign a court to do so despite countless appeals for attention. When finally a 15th June, 2020 date was given for the hearing of the Mandamus motion in Court '5' General Jurisdiction; the normality of the judicial process became tossed up.
iv. First, on 29th May, 2020, MrIssahakuMussah, the Registrar General Jurisdiction was transferred, to be replaced by another officer unfamiliar with the case.
v. When on the 15th of June 2020, our Chiefs and leadership were in court 5 General Jurisdiction as scheduled, the case docket could not be found. Unofficial accounts indicated the docket was reportedly removed from the Registry of the Court by unknown persons that morning. The docket was later transferred to General Jurisdiction 3.
vi. The case was subsequently rescheduled to 23rd June, 2020 in Court 3. The Chiefs and people went to court but were informed that the date had been changed to the 7th of July, 2020. The same pattern was repeated again until 29th July 2020, (two (2) days to end of the judicial/legal year).
vii. When finally the case was called for the first time on 29th July 2020, the trial Judge made a first demand of 'Proof of Service'. Our lawyers argued that his demand was strange as the Defendant and the AG cited in the case were in court, clearly suggesting they were duly served. The Judge was not persuaded and instantly, adjourning the case to 28th October 2020. (In other words, our case was adjourned amongst others because of absence of Proof of Service). The Judge then added casually that, the AG should file a response to the mandamus.
viii. As feared, there was a no hearing on the 28th October 2020 after three (3) months of waiting. The Judge was not in Court and a Clerk of the court later told our delegation he left instructions that no cases should be fixed for a date before 18th November, 2020.
For the record, our Legal Team, against all these odds, has endeavoured to keep all key stakeholders - including the Presidency, the Judiciary, Speaker of Parliament and others – duly informed of our principled position: That the people of Lolobi and Akpafu dispute the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Creation of New Regions (judgment) as contained in its Report submitted to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Ghana on Tuesday, 26 Day of June 2018, specifically the parts of the judgment relating to Lolobi and Akpafu Traditional Areas..
It is pertinent to note that while we exercise good faith in striving to have the judicial process uphold our cause under the rule of law and the Constitutional order, the above cited stalling and frustrations have provided cover for all manner of ways and means maneuvers, mostly futile; to subvert our legitimate aspirations and human rights as a people. These include:
a. Fraudulent connivance of partisan elements with some ill-informed Ministers to officially misrepresent the status of the Paramount Chief, Nana AkotoMasakyi III in fake letters to various state agencies in order to mislead those uninformed on the historic foundations of our resolve;
b. Certain known deviant persons, for purely mercenary ends have obliged request by scheming officials to fraudulently present themselves as Chiefs of our communities; even when they have no such capacity; all with the intent of deceiving uninformed authorities, that all is well with their ill-fated agenda to see Lolobi and Akpafu in Oti Region.
c. Indications have also come from Parliament of several faulty legislative initiatives intended to administratively regularize the flawed process of lumping Lolobi and Akpafu into the Oti Region. This agenda remains on course in Parliament, even as the incumbent MP of the area, for medical reasons, has been unavailable to brief and effectively represent our viewpoint in the august House.
d. Subtle yet undisguised efforts by the Electoral Commission to disenfranchise our people in the 2020 elections vote by assigning their electoral areas away from the Hohoe Constituency in the Volta Region. This bid goes against the Constitutional provision against adjusting or tampering with electoral boundaries within an electoral cycle. In effect, any lawful relocation of Lolobi and Akpafu out of the Hohoe Constituency and Municipality can only come into effect after January 7, 2021. This provision has not stopped the EC from treating our areas as marginalized from the Hohoe Constituency.
By every measure, we have been made to suffer costly, humiliating and occasionally insulting treatment unbefitting law abiding citizens making a recourse to law for fair hearing and justice. Still, we refuse to lose faith in Ghana's judiciary, the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. This longsuffering posture is a statement of confidence in the ultimate triumph of our right to self-determine our choices in administrative and geopolitical association as guaranteed under the Constitution of Ghana and enlightened universal order.
We, by this petition, wish to draw your attention to the tragic reality that the failure, by omission or commission, of due process by the Courts to hear our case. For one thing, it has emboldened others with dark motives to engage in impunity and myriad provocative activities to undermine the peace and stability of Lolobi and Akpafu Traditional Areas. For another, there is always a limit to human tolerance in the face of injustice; moreso when trusted judicial authority abdicates responsibility to do right timeously.
We humbly and earnestly appeal to you to impress on the Courts to give us fair hearing and redeem our judicial process from being compromised for too long. We would not surrender our dignity, our heritage of peace and harmony and basic human rights as a people to ill-motivated adventurers who have no sense of history.
We trust that you will hear our plea and speedily acknowledge this expression of good faith.
(Nana AkotoMasakyi III Nana Tetteh-Attu IV
Paramount Chief Lolobi Traditional Area) (AdontenheneAkpafu Traditional Area)