A Ghanaian citizen, Fafali Nyonantor, has filed a fresh application praying the Supreme Court to restrain President Nana Akufo-Addo from appointing a new Chairperson for the Electoral Commission, pending the determination of her substantive case against the removal.
This comes barely a day after it emerged that the President has lined-up some individuals to fill the vacancies at the Commission.
The fresh application for interlocutory junction follows an earlier suit by the same plaintiff, in which she’s asking the court to declare that the committee set up by the Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo, to investigate separate complaints brought against the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, exceeded their powers by recommending the removal of the Chairperson and that the recommendations in the report be declared null and void.
The plaintiff is seeking among other reliefs “A declaration that the determination by Her Ladyship the Chief Justice of a prima facie case pursuant to article 146 of the Constitution for the removal from office of the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission is inconsistent with article 130 (a) of the Constitution as by the said determination Her Ladyship the Chief Justice usurped the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to construe and/or define scope of application of the provisions of the Constitutions, particularly articles 44 (2) and 146 thereof.”
President Akufo-Addo on June 28, 2018, removed the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Charlotte Osei and her two deputies – Amadu Sulley and Georgina Opoku Amankwa from office upon the recommendation of a committee set up by the Chief Justice, to investigate separate complaints brought by some Ghanaian citizens.
Charlotte Osei was accused of various procurement breaches, whilst the deputies were also found guilty of same offenses as well as financial malfeasance.
Although government spokespersons have justified the move, some members of the opposition have challenged it, saying Madam Charlotte Osei, who was appointed by then-President John Mahama, was only hounded out to enable the NPP rig the election in 2020.
In her fresh application, the plaintiff, Fafali Nyonantor, again argued among other things that “the Chief Justice and the Committee lacked the legal mandate to specify and apply the requisite standard of stated misbehaviour that warrants removal from office under Article 146.”
The Editor-in-Chief of the Crusading Guide Newspaper, Mr. Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, has also sued the government over the dismissal of Charlotte Osei.
In a writ invoking the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for the interpretation of the Constitution, Mr. Kwaku Baako argued that the Chief Justice Committee which investigated petitions for the removal of the EC Boss exceeded its constitutional mandate. He thus asked the Supreme Court to pronounce the removal inconsequential.
Supreme Court can’t stop President
But Godfred Dame, a Deputy Attorney General in an interview on Metro TV’s Good Evening Ghana, said the appointment of a new EC chair will commence regardless of the legal lawsuits.
“I do not see any constraint or whatsoever, and the Supreme Court of Ghana has had ample opportunity to pronounce on what a public officer or authority can do in such circumstance. And one fundamental principle is that the courts are slow to restraining the exercise of a constitutional power. So in principle, the courts of Ghana will encourage the exercise of a constitutional power. And I think in this situation there is imperative for the exercise of such a constitutional power,” he explained.
“I think in the interest of the nation and the interest of ensuring that there is no unnecessary hiccup or hold back to the operations of the EC, and to the extent that there is no legal impediment, legal impediment in his way from appointing a new chairperson of the electoral commission, yes, the president can go ahead and appoint a chairperson of the electoral commission together with two deputy chairpersons,” he added.