General News of 2014-09-01

Prof. Prempeh berates Supreme Court, EC, CHRAJ and NCCE

A renowned expert in constitutional law has slammed Ghana's independent constitutional bodies “for taking their independence to mean a lack of accountability,” leaving the citizenry in awe of their powers. According to Professor H. Kwasi Prempeh, “their independence is not an end in itself,” but a means to an end in good governance.

Prof. Prempeh argued that the 1992 Constitution did not guarantee the independence of the Supreme Court, Electoral Commission (EC), Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) for them to misuse their independence. He noted that these “bodies are beginning to take their independence quite literally,” which he categorically stated should not be the case.

He was commenting on some issues raised at a public forum held in Accra on Friday after he made a presentation on the topic 'The 2013 Election Petition: Status of Recommendations for Electoral reforms.” The forum was organised by IMANI, an Accra-based centre for policy and education. The discussants, who brainstormed the topic from various perspectives, were Abraham Amaliba, a legal practitioner and a member of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) communication team, Egbert Faibille, a lawyer and publisher, Samson Lardi Ayenini, also a lawyer, and Rhoda Acheampong, a representative of the Coalition of Domestic Elections Observers (CODEO).

He contended that the manner these bodies were using their independence was affecting democratic governance in the country as “we are made subjects and not citizens.” He called for a right to public participation to remedy the situation. “We need to demand a right to participation and consultation. The EC has become a black box and we have become supplicants,” the learned don added. The Professor of Constitutional Law challenged civil society organisations, especially OccupyGhana – a middle-class pressure group, to “demand input in participation.”

The constitutional specialist blasted the Supreme Court for making recommendations that allowed the EC to delay the implementation of its recommendations after it ruled on last year's election petition. He submitted: “The court's judgement failed to bring clarity or certainty on how our elections must be conducted.” He posited that the highest court of the republic should have “outlined a procedure to mount a successful petition in court in the event of a future disputed election.”

In a contribution, Prof. Stephen Adei, a former Rector of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), made a strong case for results from all the polling stations to be projected onto a public screen in 2016 as was done in the 1969 parliamentary polls. Prof. Adei said that “If it is not done, then there is a deliberate connivance to rig the elections.” He asked the Ghana Education Service (GES) to permit teachers to become electoral officials so that the polls could be free, fair and transparent.

On August 29, 2013, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition by three leading members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) contesting the validity of the declaration by the EC that the NDC's flag-bearer, John Mahama, won the 2012 presidential poll. The court upheld the declaration, making Mahama the legitimate President.