2020 election petition in retrospect: The fun, the drama and the unanimous decisions

Tsatsu 631x420 Tsatsu Tsikata [R] was the lead counsel for John Mahama and the NDC during the election petition

Sat, 5 Mar 2022 Source: starrfm.com.gh

2022 marks exactly a year when the Supreme Court Court of Ghana unanimously dismissed the 2020 Election petition.

The seven-member panel held that, the petition filed by former President John Dramani Mahama was unmeritorious.

All other applications moved by the petitioner including two reviews were all unanimously dismissed.

The petition was filed on December 30, 2020, and the judgement was delivered on March 4, 2021.

The subject matter

The former president dragged the Electoral Commission led by Jean Adukwei Mensah (Ist Respondent) and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (2nd Respondent) to the apex court over the 2020 Presidential elections.

The suit was filed following the party‘s audit of the 2020 Presidential results “and extensive consultations with the National Executive Committee and Council of Elders of the party”.

The petition details “serious violations of the 1992 Constitution by the Electoral Commission and its Chairperson and Returning Officer for the Presidential Election, Mrs. Jean Adukwei Mensa in the conduct of their constitutional and legal responsibility.”

The petitioner sought among others, a declaration from the Supreme Court to the effect that, “the purported declaration of the results of the 2020 Presidential Election on the 9th day of December 2020 is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.”

The plot

Counsel for the petitioner, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata has been directed to file his closing written address before the close of day on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.

The court had initially ordered all the parties in the petition to file their closing addresses by February 17, 2021.

The two respondents in the petition, (Electoral Commission and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo) filed their closing addresses in conformity with the Supreme Court order for all the parties to simultaneously file written addresses on or before Wednesday [February 17, 2021].

However, the legal team for the petitioner, former President John Dramani Mahama did not file their written address as ordered by the court.

First review: EC not to adduce evidence

They rather filed a review application to challenged the ruling of the court, dated February 11, which overruled an objection by the lawyer for the petitioner, Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, against the decision of the Electoral Commission (EC) not to adduce evidence.

They also filed an application for stay of proceedings and urged the court to put the petition on hold until the final determination of the review application.

Second review: Reopen case

When the first review failed after the order of the court on the filing of addresses, the petitioner filed a second review which challenged the ruling of the court, dated February 16, this year, which dismissed the petitioner’s application to reopen his case with the plan to subpoena the EC Chairperson as a “hostile witness”.

The petitioner also filed another application for stay of proceedings and urged the court to put the petition on hold until the final determination of the review application.

But that was also unanimously dismissed on Monday, February 22, 2021, by the nine-member panel.

At the court sitting Monday, Mr Tsikata in asking for leave to file the closing address told the court that they did not file the address earlier because of the pending applications for stay of proceedings and review.

Respondents opposition

Counsel for the first and second respondents opposed the application for leave by the petitioner to file the address.

The Supreme Court however ruled that in the interest of justice, the petitioner should file the written address by Tuesday, February 23, 2021.

Mr. Tsikata asked the court if counsel would be given an opportunity to orally address the court and highlight some major points in the address.

But the court said no, and that, that opportunity has been passed and that the petition has been adjourned to March 4, 2021 for judgement.

The court however said, if the judges read the written addresses and there is the need for clarification, it will give the directions.

The fun, the drama and the clashes

It was to be expected. The drama, the fun, the excitement and the exchanges that light up the legal submissions.

And these characteristic were never in short supply at the 2020 election petition before the apex court.

As the Supreme Court delivers its judgement on March 4, we walk you through some of the interesting scenes that came up as the hearing of the petition wore on.

It all started from the man who never gives you a dull moment, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, affectionately called General Mosquito.

The General Secretary who was the Petitioner’s star witness, took the apex court down memory lane to his days as a teacher when he employed the help of a calculator to crosscheck the Presidential results from the Eastern Region.

Events from that moment threw the courtroom into a frenzy as the proceedings wore on.

The petitioner, John Mahama is, as part of his petition contending that, the EC erred in its tally of the results of the constituency figures, forming the basis for its decision to reject the total tally.

Asiedu Nketia, the palm wine distiller

Mr Asiedu Nketia yet again, brought humour into the Supreme Court despite the gravity of the case before the court and in an attempt to respond to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, sarcastically added to his job description, that he was distiller of local gin ‘Akpeteshie’.

While under cross-examination, Mr Asiedu Nketia was cautioned by the Justices of the apex court over some utterances he made.

Johnson Asiedu Nketia described himself as a palm wine tapper in his bid to swerve a question posed to him by the lawyer for President Nana Akufo-Addo who is the second respondent.

To put him back on track, Chief Justice, Justice Annin Yeboah, said he [Nketia] cannot be sarcastic in his answers during the cross-examination.

The NDC General Secretary said, “the palm wine tappers are trying to catch up with court proceedings.”

Justice Yeboah then reminded Mr. Nketia of his experience as an astute politician, teacher and banker.

To give clarify, General Mosquito, as he is popularly called, took the opportunity to prove that indeed he is a jack of all trades.

I’m not the petitioner

Lawyer for EC Justin Amenuvor in his bid to scrutinize the NDC scribe on his witness statement asked Mr. Nketia issues relating to the results of the election and the fact that the petitioner was aware of the correct results as well as those from Techiman South when he filed his petition, hence could not rely on wrong figures.

The witness, however, told the court that he was not the petitioner and could therefore, not answer those questions.

At a point, he said “I do not know why you seem to be confusing me with the petitioner,” as he was subjected to a barrage of questions by the EC’s lawyer.

The drama did not end with Mr. NNketia, but Rojo Mettle-Nunoo, the third witness of the petitioner has more. He was one of the two agents of the 2020 NDC flagbearer in the National Collation Centre otherwise known as the ‘Strongroom’ during the December 7, 2020 polls.

Rojo tea without biscuit

During cross-examination by Justin Amenuvor, the lead counsel of the EC, the former Deputy Health Minister sought to clarify his meeting with Jean Mensa, the EC Chair.

She is alleged to have met with Mr. Mettle-Nunoo who had complained about anomalies with some results.

Clarifying how long he waited for the EC Chair, Mr. Amenuvor asked him if he was offered tea and biscuits.

One of the unfolded drama at the hearing was also the encounter between Justice Samuel Marful -Sau (of the blessed memory) and lead counsel for the Second Respondent, Akoto Ampaw.

The Akoto Ampaw wig

After making his submission on why the petitioner, John Mahama, should not be allowed to reopen his case,

The Justice after hearing counsel made his submission on why the Petitioner should not be allowed to reopen case said, “Mr Akoto Ampaw, I think you have to change your wig, it has lost its identity as a wig.”

This threw the rather serious courtroom into a frenzy as those there could not help it but burst into laughter at his comment.

In response Mr Ampaw, removed the wig to have another look at it and went ahead to put it back on his head. Then he said, “My Lord, it gives me a unique identity.”

This comment attracted another round of laughter from those in the courtroom.

Tsatsu is the law

Those who admire him refer to him as ‘The Law.’ It was to eulogise his status as a legal luminary and a colossus. To some, he is the nation’s foremost legal brain.

He is calm yet eloquent, engaging and mostly precise legal submissions has won him the love of many who have elevated him to the above-stated status.

Recent history of the country’s legal fraternity will be incomplete without a mention of Mr Tsikata who has been involved in a number of high-profile cases.

Refereeing this match are seven justices of the Supreme Court with Chief Justice Kwesi Annin-Yeboah presiding.

It is a meeting of the ‘The Law’ and the ‘Lords of the Law’ and when that happens you can surely expect some drama to unfold.

In the course of hearing few incidents of dramatic exchanges ensued between Tsikata and specific judges and at times the bench as a whole.

The first legal exchange that was traded between Tsatsu and the bench was when Justice Nene Amegatcher raised concerns to his constant reference to the first respondent as Jean Mensa instead of the chairperson of the Electoral Commission on January 19, 2021.

Justice Amegatcher argued that Tsatsu was wrong to mention the name of the EC chair as anyone could be drafted into that position.

Mr. Tsatsu insisted that by mentioning her name instead he was referring to the position as well.

Don’t sacrifice justice for expedition

Mr Tsikata was uncomfortable with what he observed to be a position by the judges to expedite the case at the expense of justice.

The court after a pre-trial period sitting spelt out the five issues it will consider for the case.

Tsatsu felt the pre-trial period was rushed and urged the justice not to “sacrifice justice for expedition”.

12 interrogatories

The counsel for petitioner filed an application demanding the Chairperson of the EC to answer some 12 questions.

The court during sitting on January 28 rejected the application but before that Tsatsu exchanged some words with one of the two female judges on the panel.

Justice Mariama Owusu advanced that Tsatsu was jumping the gun as he will have a chance to ask those set of questions during cross-examination.

The Justice Prof. Henrietta Mensah Bonsu Justice interjected and quizzed “are you attempting to cross a bridge you have not reached”?

Lawyer Tsikata replied: “Good, I believe you put that bridge there. Your Ladyship put that bridge there.”

Harassing the witness

Justice Yaw Appau’s accusation of Dr Kpessa Whyte as shirking responsibility as a representative of the petitioner in the EC’s strongroom was not well received by Mr Tsikata. who criticized the judge.

Justice Appau denied harassing the witness saying: “I am not harassing the witness, it is not my duty to harass him. I know that he has been sent there by the petitioner to do the job for him then somebody tells you to go to the petitioner and consult him.

Source: starrfm.com.gh
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