Judicial Corruption in Ghana

Tue, 7 Sep 2010 Source: Kuffuor, Afia

Judicial Corruption would turn Ghana into another lawless country if the Corrupt Chief Justice Georgina Wood is not sacked!

Corruption is a universal phenomenon. Scholars acknowledge that it is extremely difficult to formulate a universally and generally acceptable definition of corruption.

The Politics of corruption is not new in Ghana as the late 1990s and the whole of 2000s typifies. However what is more dangerous is the crippling in of systemic corruption of judicial system. This will not only deny citizens of their basic human rights, but would also hinder economic development, and might push aggrieve certain of the security services into violence.

The 2008 presidential election re-run is a case in point. The independence of the Electoral Commission became paramount when the Commissioner, Mr Afari Gyan, resisted all attempts by the ruling NPP and the judiciary to influence the outcome of the results. Ex-President Rawlings also played a crucial role by warning the “ordinary ranks” of the Armed Forces not to intervene but rather allow democracy to sort itself out. Ex-President Rawlings and the Electoral Commissioner, Mr Gyan help salvage the tarnished image of constitutional democracy in Ghana and Africa. These two men and ex Nigeria military leader Gen Yakubu Gowon (Head of African Monitoring Team) saved Ghana from the brink of anarchy and possible military coup.

Despite the reforms different forms of judicial corruption continue to afflict the country. This is not about bribery, but judicial bias or interference which can have profound impact on all citizens, thus undermining people’s trust in public institutions and their capacity to deliver fair and impartial outcomes.

Many studies conducted elsewhere have shown a clear connection between high levels of judicial corruption and low levels of economic growth. No investor would invest in a country where disputes are not resolve fairly or where the judiciary is seen as supporting one political party against another.

Since 2000, there has been widespread mistrust of the institution of justice in Ghana. The blatant persecution of Nana Yaa Agyeman Konadu Rawlings and Mr Tsatsu Tsikata almost tip the country into anarchy just before the 2008 elections when a section of the Armed Forces were bent on exacting revenge on the then ruling NPP administration if the results had gone the other way. NPP owes ex-President Rawlings a wealth of gratitude, for without his personal intervention, there would have been a blood bath in Ghana in 2008.

In order to safeguard Ghana’s infant democracy and the institution of justice, there must be a delicate balance between judicial independence and accountability. The government must ensure that there are constitutional and legal mechanisms in place to protect judges from political pressures, as we saw soon after the first round of the 2008 elections. In the same breath, judicial officials should not be permitted to shelter behind outdated immunity provisions and draconian contempt laws.

Many scholars have pointed to growing state interventionism, which gives politicians broad discretion over tempting vast resources. Other scholars, by contrast, have pointed to the wave of IMF/World Bank instigated neo-liberal reforms, associated with the Structural Adjustment/HIPC programs, during which politicians disposed of large portions of public property, often with limited transparency.

According to a research the above factors in tandem with the wave of democratisation that swept across sub-Saharan Africa during the Structural Adjustment years gave the politicians and bureaucrats the added incentives to steal from their people. In Ghana, politicians with questionable characters became extremely rich overnight. One such NPP minister, a former minicab driver in London (he left his wife and children in London to marry a woman 20 years his junior), Stephen Asamoah Boateng, blatantly told the Ghanaians “on air” to “go and eat Konkonte”. Many flaunt their ill gotten wealth to the disgust of the Ghanaians, including many former NPP ministers.

While such characters continue to hide behind corrupt judicial system, demand for judicial accountability would continue to grow. Judicial corruption certainly exists in many countries with its insidious effects of undermining the rule of law as we are seeing in Ghana, however what must not be allowed is for the judiciary to come under the influence or control of the legislative or executive branch.

The sheer corruption within the state institutions prior to the announcement of the final winner in 2008 presidential election results was frightening. While the private radio stations clearly said Atta Mills has an unassailable lead after results 229 constituencies, the “State broadcaster Ghana Broadcasting Corporation says Mr Akufo Addo has a “slight” lead also based on the “same results”. This same “GBC” results had earlier put Prof Atta Mills narrowly ahead, again based on the same 229 constituencies’ results. The stakes were raised higher when Peter Mac Manu, the ruling party General Secretary said “there was widespread intimidation of its election agents in Volta region and results from these areas would be challenged at the Court!!!

However people power defeat the intended aim of NPP to rig the elections with support of corrupt judges, headed by the Chief Justice Georgina Wood. Georgina Wood’s image is now tarnished beyond belief and the only way out is for this disgraced Chief Justice to resign or forced to do so by Ghanaians.

Afia Kuffuor.

Columnist: Kuffuor, Afia