How to waste the time of the Supreme Court of Ghana

Sun, 14 Feb 2016 Source: Cameron Duodu

In the type of democracy that we are running, the role of the Supreme Court is of overwhelming importance.

The Supreme Court can declare the actions of the President of the Republic “unconstitutional”.

But even more important, the Supreme Court can actually reverse or affirm the decision of the people of Ghana at presidential elections – as happened on that unforgettable day in August 2013.

So how come it has the time to entertain such unbelievable cases as the one reported upon below?

QUOTE: “Blow by blow account of how Supreme Court dismissed Woyome’s “fronter” suit

By: Seth J. Bokpe Thursday, 11 February 2016

“The Supreme Court on Thursday [11 February 2016] threw out a case in which a businessman, Abdulai Yusif Fanash Muhammed, asked the court to set aside its earlier decision that ordered businessman Alfred Agbesi Woyome to refund to the state, sums of money paid to him as judgement debt.

“The court also awarded GH¢15,000 cost[s] against the plaintiff and fixed March 3, 2016 to give its reasons for the decision. Graphic Online brings to its readers interesting excerpts of what transpired at the court between the Bench and Mr Kwasi Afrifa, counsel for the plaintiff’.

Mr Justice Benin: Going through your statement, can you point out the agreement that is between your client and the government of Ghana, upon which he is relying to make his case?

Mr Afrifa: There is no agreement between the government and my client.

Mr Justice Sulley Gbadegbe: Why then should a third person come when the matter has travelled from our original jurisdiction, to review jurisdiction?

Mr Afrifa: This third person’s sole consideration is to ensure compliance with the 1992 Constitution. Beyond that, he has no personal interest in the matter.

Mr Justice Jones Dotse: Is this action not substantially seeking to attack our review jurisdiction or undermine our review jurisdiction – because you cannot undermine a review decision?

Mr Afrifa: My Lords, to the extent that this issue has not been adjudicated, we are not seeking to undermine the review jurisdiction. We are only saying that if the issue has (sic) been put correctly, then this honourable court would have declined jurisdiction because it does not fall within an international business transaction.

Mr Justice Anin Yeboah: Are you asking for interpretation or enforcement?

Mr Afrifa: My Lords, the interpretation of the point that an agreement between a citizen of Ghana and the government of Ghana is not an international business transaction.

Mr Justice Benin: Does Woyome have an agreement with the Ghana government?

Mr Afrifa: Yes.

Mr Justice Benin: Which agreement? Your present client appears to know more about the case than Woyome himself. It is strange!

(Courtroom bursts into laughter)

Mr Afrifa: My Lord, he is a civic-minded person who has followed the proceedings and…

Mr Justice Benin: So when Woyome appeared before this court, he could not tell us that he has a different agreement with the government of Ghana, different from what the court was relying on?…. The person himself has been in this court severally and never mentioned it to this court that what the court was relying upon is not ‘what I have with the Ghana government'; but somebody sitting somewhere is now coming to tell us that what was before the court was wrong! Is that what you are telling us?

Chief Justice Georgina Wood: So this is an interpretation, enforcement or which of the categories?

Mr Afrifa: We are seeking an interpretation of Article 181 in relation to the definition of international business.

Chief Justice Wood: But hasn’t that been settled by this court?

Mr Afrifa: No No… different grounds on assumption that …

Chief Justice Wood: Not so fast! You mean that you will not find from previous decisions that we have an interpretation of what an international business contract is?

. Mr Afrifa: My Lords, the interpretation in all the cases do (sic) not include that of a citizen of Ghana and the government of Ghana. That is the crux of our case.

Justice Anin Yeboah: So, on what basis did the Supreme Court rule?

Mr Afrifa: The Supreme Court originally declined jurisdiction in relation to Woyome. Then the review bench assumed the jurisdiction declined earlier.

Mr Justice Gbadegbe: Is this action not geared towards the setting aside of the review? Are you not embarking on a judicial journey to ask us to declare null and void the review decision?

Mr Afrifa: Yes, flowing from our argument that a transaction between the government of Ghana and a citizen of Ghana is not an international business… to that extent, the decision from this court was null and void.

Chief Justice Wood: It should be obvious, from our previous judgement, that a transaction between a citizen of Ghana and the government of Ghana is not an international business.

Mr Justice Gbadegbe: Do you have any transaction with the government of Ghana that we can look at and examine the competency [of]? We can’t be speculating. A citizen of Ghana may have a contract that satisfies Article 181. This is purely speculative.

Mr Afrifa: My client does not have any agreement.

Mr Justice Gbadegbe Then what cause of action do you have?

Mr Afrifa: His cause of action is the desire to have…

Mr Justice Gbadegbe: Counsel, where is the agreement you are referring to between the citizen of Ghana and the government of Ghana? It is about the right of the parties. Let us examine it.

Mr Justice Anin Yeboah: … You must furnish us with the evidence on which we can rely to make a pronouncement. Where is the agreement? We cannot embark on any speculative venture.

Mr Justice Gbadegbe: Where are the facts that entitle you to come before us? That agreement is not in existence; therefore, it cannot hold. What rights of your client have been violated? None.

Mr Afrifa: We are not alleging the violation of personal rights.

Mr Justice Gbadegbe: You must have a cause of action. You don’t appear to have any.

Mr Justice Anin Yeboah:… What is new about this case?

Chief Justice Wood: What we have been saying is there is no question for interpretation…. whenever this court, through its original jurisdiction, decides on the point of law, what all other people need to do is to apply. So even if you believe you have a cause of action, you don’t come here by Article 2(1). In other words, the interpretation has been done and [is] in the law books.

Mr Justice Dotse: Assuming your client came to you with this request, you have to consider the circumstance and legal issues involved and advise him appropriately.

Chief Justice Wood: People think there are certain magical words that if you use, and [are] able to fit them somewhere in a relief, then automatically, the court assumes jurisdiction. We don’t look at those magic words. This is not an open sesame. Things must show that you crossed the threshold and able to invoke our jurisdiction. People should not think the use of declaration…Article 181, Article 2 (1)… then we would go ahead. We go behind to scrutinise and raise real questions.

Mr Afrifa: (Standing and looking through his documents)

Chief Justice Wood: Where do we put you now?

Mr Afrifa: That the action was mounted on issues now shown to be unmeritorious; that the question has not been decided by this honourable court as to the nature of what constitutes …

Mr Justice Gbadegbe: Since you have come to that understanding what should you be doing now?

Mr Afrifa: In the light of the sentiment of this august court that we have misconceived the points, I cannot press the three and four which have been “unpressed” by the Bench. Under the circumstances, we ask for leave to withdraw the writ filed on December 22, 2015.

Columnist: Cameron Duodu