Pressure Group, Coalition for Social Justice (CSJ), has said the dismissal of the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs Charlotte Osei and her two deputies, Georgina Opoku Amankwah and Amadu Sulley, is a travesty of justice, attack on the country’s democracy and a recipe for chaos.
The group, at a press conference, said its members are convinced that the dismissal of Mrs Osei is “legally bankrupt, absurdly harsh and politically motivated.”
The group said they intend to petition international bodies such as ECOWAS, the African Union, the United Nations, and other development partners to bring pressure to bear on the government to rescind its decision.
Mrs Osei and her two deputies were dismissed by President Nana Akufo-Addo last week on grounds of incompetence and procurement breaches at the election management body.
A five-member committee set up by Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo, to investigate separate complaints brought against the three persons by Ghanaian citizens, recommended their removal.
Some staff of the EC in 2017 petitioned Nana Akufo-Addo to remove Mrs Osei from office over allegations of fraud and financial malfeasance as well as abuse of office.
Mrs Osei also counter-alleged corruption against her deputies insisting that she has done nothing wrong and only being hounded out because she is fighting internal graft.
The president, in accordance with the constitution, forwarded the petition to the Chief Justice to look into the matter.
Below is details of CSJ’s statement read at the press conference:
PRESS CONFERENCE BY COALITION FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE (CSJ)
THEME: “THE REMOVAL OF THE EC BOSS: A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE, AN ATTACK ON OUR DEMOCRACY AND A RECIPE FOR CHAOS”.
DATE: TUESDAY, 3RD JULY, 2018.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, fellow citizens, good morning. On behalf of the Coalition for Social Justice (CSJ), I would like to welcome you to this press conference and to thank you for honoring our invitation at such a short notice. We have invited you here this morning to share with you our thoughts on the dismissal of the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, by President Akufo-Addo.
First and foremost, we would like to express our dismay and utter disgust at the dismissal of the EC Boss, Mrs. Charlotte Osei by President Akufo-Addo. We believe that this decision is a travesty of justice and an attack on our fledgling democracy and must therefore be resisted by all progressive forces. It is an affront to the rule of law and portends great danger for the peace and stability of Ghana.
After a careful scrutiny of the events and processes leading to the dismissal of the EC Boss, we are convinced without a shudder of doubt, that the dismissal of the EC Boss is legally bankrupt, absurdly harsh and politically motivated. We shall at this stage proceed to address these substantive issues.
LEGALLY BANKRUPT DECISION
Ladies and gentlemen, from the outset, it was clear that the alleged petition which was forwarded to the President was incompetent and legally unrecognizable. This is because it was undated, unsigned and fell short of the constitutional requirements of a petition as established by the Supreme Court in the Agyei Twum case. In view of these patent defects, the alleged petition was void at birth and had to be disallowed by the President, who as a constitutional lawyer of many years standing, cannot feign ignorance of this trite legal knowledge.
In a sordid attempt to remedy these patent defects and in breach of the much touted conveyor belt theory, the President in a most bizarre fashion assumed the role of a legal consultant by providing unsolicited advice to Counsel for the faceless petitioners for him to submit the names of the alleged petitioners. However, this attempt proved futile as Counsel for the faceless petitioners failed to provide the signatures of the supposed petitioners in his belated letter to the President dated 20th July, 2017. It is instructive to note that, only the date of the alleged petition and the names of the supposed petitioners were provided in this belated letter, whilst the alleged petition itself remained unsigned either by the supposed petitioners or their alleged Counsel.
Rather than treating the defective petition with the contempt it deserves, the President forwarded the covering letter from Counsel for the faceless petitioners, the alleged unsigned petition and the belated July 20, 2017 letter (which only contained the date of the alleged petition and the names of the supposed petitioners), to the Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana. In short, none of the three (3) documents forwarded by the President to the Chief Justice qualified as a competent petition under the Laws of Ghana. As was succinctly put by Professor Modibo Ocran in the Agyei Twum case, “a legally improper petition is no petition at all”. We therefore submit that, the President acted unlawfully in conveying a patently defective petition to the Chief Justice, which formed the basis for the removal of the EC Boss.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the assertion by the President and other NPP surrogates that the President is a mere conveyor belt and is bound to act upon every document he receives under article 146 is untenable and unsustainable. It defeats commonsense and flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Agyei Twum case, particularly the decision of the venerable Ghanaian jurist, Professor Date Baah JSC (as he then was) in that case.
Fellow citizens, article 146 talks about the President receiving a petition, hence the president has a duty to subject any document so received, to the standards and requirements of a petition set by law, before acting upon same.
In any case, why has the President refused to act upon similar petitions in the past on the basis of this conveyor-belt theory? We make specific reference to a petition to President Akufo-Addo for the removal of the former Chief Justice, Justice Theodora Georgina Wood by one Ernest Obiri Lartey, dated 13th February, 2017. We also make reference to a petition of some leaders of the LA Traditional Area for the removal of the current Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akufo, dated 22nd February, 2018. We know as a matter of fact that both petitions were delivered to the Presidency and duly received. This then begs the question why the President conveniently chose to sweep both petitions under the carpet if he indeed believes in the so-called conveyor belt theory? Mr. President, why the inconsistent and selective application of the law? You cannot approbate and reprobate. It is ultimate hypocrisy for you to choose which petitions to act upon and which ones to ignore.
You cannot for mischief purposes, take solace in a conveyor-belt theory which is alien to our laws. We also note with much regret that, Her Ladyship the Chief Justice acted unlawfully in establishing a prima facie case on the basis of the incompetent petition. In doing so, the Chief Justice described the constitutional requirements of a petition established by the Supreme Court in the Agyei Twum case as too strict and technical, and proceeded to propound what she deemed as a more flexible definition of a petition relative to article 146 of the 1992 Constitution. We hold the view, that the Chief Justice acted unlawfully when she propounded a new legal definition of a petition in contravention of the decision of the Supreme Court in the Agyei Twum case.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, the decisions of the Supreme Court form part of the laws of Ghana (Judicial Precedents) as provided under article 11(1)(e) of the 1992 constitution, and all Lower Courts or Bodies including the administrative office of the Chief Justice, are bound by such decisions. By Law, it is only the Supreme Court which has the power to review its own decisions or depart from same. The Supreme Court has neither reviewed its decision in the Agyei Twum case nor departed from same. Therefore, the purported review of the Agyei Twum case by the Chief Justice was unlawful and absolutely unpardonable given her stature.
It is most unfortunate that the high office of the Chief Justice has become a rubberstamp of Presidential illegalities. It is legally pathetic that an incompetent petition will form the basis for the dismissal of Mrs. Charlotte Osei for “incompetence”.
Friends from the media, after a meticulous consideration of the circumstances surrounding this issue, we submit that the alleged petition which formed the basis for the removal of the EC Boss was contrived and tainted with fraud. We say so because, save one Ampofo Forson, the identities and existence of the supposed petitioners are not ascertainable on the face of the alleged petition, and were never ascertained throughout the investigative process. Under cross-examination of Mr. Ampofo Forson who represented the supposed petitioners, it was discovered that one of the alleged petitioners, George Adjavukewe, was deceased at the time of the petition.
It was also revealed that Mr. Ampofo Forson had no personal knowledge of the content of the alleged petition contrary to his claims. We are of the opinion that, these chilling revelations of fraud should have led to the dismissal of the alleged petition, since fraud vitiates all. We think that, the fraudulent procurement of the name and authority of the deceased George Adjavukewe is a criminal offence which should have been probed further. We are totally befuddled and appalled that such a fundamental and grievous issue will be ignored by the committee in the determination of this matter. Here again, it is evident that the incompetent petition which formed the basis of the dismissal of Mrs. Charlotte Osei was a also fraudulent.
ABSURDLY HARSH DECISION
Ladies and gentlemen, we observe that all the adverse findings made against the EC boss are related to breaches of the Public Procurement Law and not the conduct of elections and other related issues, which are the core mandate of the Electoral Commission. We are of the opinion that a peripheral issue like violation of the Public Procurement law should not constitute enough grounds for the impeachment of the EC Boss whose position is equivalent to a Court of Appeal Judge under the laws of Ghana.
This is particularly so because the Public Procurement Act specifies remedies for its breaches and this does not include “removal from office”. These remedies include, the annulment of procurement proceedings, cancelation of procurement contracts, rectification of procurement breaches, penal sanctions etc. as provided under section 90(3) of the Act. Section 89 of the Procurement Act also specifies procedures for reaching these remedies, and gives the task of investigating breaches of the Procurement Law to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) Board, and not the Chief Justice or a committee set by her. It is trite knowledge that, where a law provides a specific remedy for its breach, only that remedy must apply. Thus, the usurpation of the powers of the PPA Board by the Chief Justice’s committee was against due process.
Also, we find the standard based upon which the EC boss was removed as extremely harsh and unsustainable. We don’t think that statutory breaches by Public Officers in the performance of their duties are sufficient grounds for their impeachment. It is worthy of note that none of the specific impeachment grounds provided under article 146 of the 1992 Constitution (infirmity of body or mind, stated misbehavior and incompetence), are in the nature of statutory breaches. It is therefore absurd, that such tangential issues will form the basis of the removal of the EC Boss.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Chief Justice in finding a prima facie case against the EC Boss, defined “incompetence” as; “conduct which falls below accepted norms or stipulated morality, propriety or legality”. Also she established that, “if a person is required by law to perform an official function in a certain way and he fails or neglect to do so, then the person can be said to have misbehaved”. We dare say that not even the President or the Chief Justice will pass this lofty test of “competence” and “misbehavior” if subjected to same. Was the current Chief Justice not part of the General Legal Council (GLC), whose admission criteria for the Ghana School of Law was held as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the recent Professor Asare case? Should she also be held as “incompetent” and guilty of “stated misbehavior” and be removed from office by virtue of her unconstitutional act? And should this also constitute grounds for her removal from office under article 146?
Friends from the media, we won’t bother you with the litany of similar examples of procurement and other statutory breaches which have engulfed the corruption-infested government of President Akufo-Addo. The award of eleven (11) contracts to the sister-inlaw of the CEO of the NLA, the Ghana Cylinder Manufacturing corruption scandal involving Madam Frances Essiam, the Metro Mass scandal, the sale of five (5) million litres of contaminated fuel by BOST to unlicensed businesses, the KenBond scandal and the dubious Ghana Card project by the NIA, are but a few examples. Therefore, it is odious hypocrisy, for the man who saw nothing wrong with these grievous violations of the laws of Ghana, and who actually supervised all these corrupt cases, to turn around and dismiss the EC boss on such flimsy grounds.
Ladies and gentlemen, the conduct of elections is the core duty of the Electoral Commission.
Mrs. Charlotte Osei has been widely commended both locally and internationally for her sterling leadership relative to the successful conduct of the 2016 General Elections, which led to the election of Candidate Akufo-Addo as President of the Republic of Ghana. We think that this is a true testament of her competence, and peripheral issues of procurement breaches which can be rectified or remedied under the law should not form the basis for her dismissal. We therefore submit, that the strict interpretation of the Procurement Law by the Chief Justice’s committee, which formed the basis of their recommendations, is absurdly harsh and heavy-handed.
POLITICALLY MOTIVATED DECISION
Friends from the media, the NPP would want us to believe that they had nothing to do with the dismissal of the EC Boss and that her woes are self-inflicted, given her inability to manage the differences between herself and her deputies. We submit to you that this is just a smokescreen. A thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding this case shows that, the petty squabbles between the EC Boss and her deputies only served as a catalyst for the grand agenda of the NPP. The NPP is only using the resolvable differences between the EC Boss and her deputies as a convenient alibi to conceal their real agenda.
Ladies and gentlemen, the NPP’s unprovoked aversion for Mrs. Charlotte Osei was obvious from day one. We are all witnesses to the barrage of attacks and the campaign of hate which the NPP waged against the EC Boss in this country. Right from the day of her appointment, Mrs. Charlotte Osei has been a victim of jaundiced resentment from the NPP and its elements. The derogatory and misogynistic attacks by Kennedy Agyepong and other leading figures of the NPP, on the person of the EC Boss and the many attacks on her integrity by the General Secretary of the NPP, Mr. John Boadu, the Deputy General Secretary of the NPP, Nana Obiri Boahen, nephew of the President, Gabby Otchere Darko etc. are still fresh in our minds. They threatened to remove Charlotte Osei if elected and this is exactly what they have done. They have exploited the petty and resolvable differences between the EC Boss and her deputies for their parochial agenda of ousting the EC Boss.
It is also curious and instructive to note that, two (2) of the Court of Appeal Judges who were members of the Chief Justice’s committee, were promoted to the Supreme Court by President Akufo-Addo during the investigative process. Ladies and gentlemen, could this have been an attempt by the President to influence the outcome of the investigative process and did it actually influence it? Your guess is as good as mine.
It is glaringly clear, from the unlawful manner in which the President acted in his handling and transmittal of the defective petition to the Chief Justice that, he had an ulterior motive. This decision is just one of the many cases of bastardization of State Institutions by the Akufo-Addo-led government. The hounding from office of the Governor of the Bank of Ghana and his Deputy and the recent dismissal of the Head of the Births and Deaths Registry are classical examples of this worrying phenomenon. Fellow citizens, the bastardization of key Institutions of State under the watch of President Akufo-Addo is becoming one too many and we are deeply concerned about this trend. We are highly disappointed that the President, who represents the aspirations of the Ghanaian people, continues to act in pursuit of narrow political self-interest, at the expense of nationalist considerations. President Akufo-Addo is gradually becoming a tyrant in the league of the Jean-Bedel Bokassas and the Idi Amins.
THE WAY FORWARD AND CONCLUSION
Ladies and gentlemen, the Electoral Commission is very integral and pivotal to the democracy of this country and we must guard against any attempt to undermine its constitutionally guaranteed independence. As we have sufficiently demonstrated to you, the dismissal of the EC Boss is a sacrilegious desecration of the Laws of this Country. This decision threatens the independence and neutrality of the Electoral Commission and has the potential of eroding the gains we have made in the last twenty-six (26) years of multi-party democracy. We therefore call on the Peace Council of Ghana, Religious Leaders, the Chiefs and traditional Authorities and all Ghanaians to rise up against this obvious illegality and injustice.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, whilst Mrs. Charlotte Osei appears to be the immediate victim of this injustice, it is our contention that this unjust decision borders on the very foundation of our democracy and the desecration of the sacred institution of the Electoral Commission. Whilst we respect Mrs. Charlotte Osei’s privacy in this matter, we wish to state that if within the next fourteen (14) days, she does not seek legal redress on this illegality, we would proceed to court to challenge this egregious injustice.
Secondly, we intend to petition international bodies such as ECOWAS, the African Union, the United Nations, our development partners, and all foreign missions, to bring pressure to bear on this government to rescind this draconian decision that does not resonate with the Ghanaian people, and which further casts our country in bad light within the committee of nations.
Last, but not least, the Coalition for Social Justice will soon embark on a series of mass protests in the regions to drum home our revulsion for this creeping tyranny in our country. We are therefore calling on all well-meaning Ghanaians to join in our quest to seek justice and protect our democracy. VOX POPULI, VOX DEI!
Sammy Gyamfi- Convener
Abass Nurudeen- Head of Communications
Brogya Genfi- Director of Operations
Kwaku Asafo Adjei- Member
Frank Pedro Asare- Member