Rising cases of contempt of courts in Ghana - The sad case of Jirapa Tampala

Court Egypt

Tue, 6 Oct 2020 Source: Peter Idi Kuubaare

The generality of Ghanaians has agreed that democracy is the best way out when it comes to governance. That is why at a referendum held on the 28th of April 1992, Ghanaians from all walks of life, overwhelmingly endorsed the draft constitution which is now the supreme law of the land.

The main building pillars of the Ghanaian democracy are made up of the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary as captured in various chapters of eight(8), ten (10) and eleven (11) in that order. In order to stabilize our democracy and nurture it to the fullest it is the judiciary that has been given the mandate to be the final arbiter in times of disputes and to seek permanent solutions to all kinds of disputes.

According to the 1992 constitution article 125(3) “The judicial power of Ghana shall be vested in the judiciary, accordingly, neither the President nor Parliament nor any organ or agency of the President or Parliament shall have or be given final judicial power”. This is the extent to which the 1992 constitution has empowered and shielded the judiciary in Ghana to execute it duties."

The same constitution at article 125(1) states that: “Justice emanates from the people and shall be administered in the name of the Republic by the judiciary which shall be independent and subject only to the constitution. Again, at 125(2),it states that “citizens may exercise popular participation in the administration of justice through the institution of public and customary tribunals and the jury and assessor systems”. This great summary of the functions of the judiciary sets the templates upon which to truly build our young and evolving democracy since 1992.

But it becomes a great source of worry and unpredictable future, when the activities of the courts in Ghana are not being respected. This is especially so, when the ordinary people of Ghana, who are supposed to be its guardian angels as espoused by article 125(1) do not adhere to rule of law. It is worrying of late to observe the level of cases relating to contempt of court that are bedeviling whole the country. I am particularly worried as a lay person with no legal ackground at all.

The latest case of contempt involves the Asin North Member of Parliament, which is not worth repeating here since the matter is still before the courts of the republic. Again one recounts with an element of sadness and regrets when some political activists stormed a court in Kumasi the Ashanti Regional capital, and supposedly freed their colleagues, who were before a court for trial with the court in full session.

Our statute books have provided enough protection for our court system, and that needs to be respected. For example section 223 of the Criminal Code. 1960,(Act 29) states that: “Whoever with force, threats or tumult, hinders, interrupts, or disturbs the proceedings of any court, or willfully and unlawfully, with force, threats or tumult, hinders any person from entering or quitting any court or removes him there from or detains him therein shall be guilty of misdemeanor.”

Again the Criminal Code Act 29, goes on to state that: “Whoever in the presence of any court is guilty of contempt of Court by any insulting, opprobrious; or menacing acts or words is guilty of a misdemeanor”.

This therefore coming from our laws protects the courts in Ghana from any form of interference and show of disrespect in the form of contempt. There are sanctions associated with contempt of court but whether or not they are deterrent enough is a matter worth considering. Of late, disrespect for the courts of Ghana is becoming a huge problem than can ever be imagined.

The worrying aspect is that, disrespect for our court could be traced to rural Ghana, where the population resides, in a rather very subtle and in an unnoticed manner; disrespecting ruling of our courts is assuming a different dimension quite unnoticed.

I have earlier made reference to some cases relating to contempt of court but it is becoming a huge problem and if care is not taken, and deliberate measures put in place, it would lead to chaos and anarchy since the rule of law is being disrespected in Ghana.

Article 17(1) of the 1992 constitution states that: “All persons shall be equal before the law”. But clandestinely there is the mistreatment of this constitutional requirement as the courts are not being respected.

The idea to put this piece together comes from the back of a case in the Jirapa Municipality of the Upper West Region of Ghana where as a native and an ordinary observer, is privy to happenings here which is quite shocking and amusing to say the least.

As a friend of the court, I find it very convenient to sit in and watch proceedings of court. It is a habit I have cultivated over the years.

And what I have observed in the Jirapa Municipality, if something pragmatic is not done to save this country from outright and open lawlessness, due to disrespect for our court system, the democracy that we have so much cherished and nurtured up to this point will go down the drain.

I am going give a graphic account of what I have observed; typifying a situation of disrespect for our courts and it relates to a community called Tampala, where a civil case of a land dispute has been dragging since 2017, and the simple reason being that the enforcement of the court’s ruling is in limbo.

The plaintiffs, who lost the case, are not making any further appeal to the next level of adjudication, for example moving the case from the District Magistrate Court at Jirapa to say the High Court at Wa. But the plaintiffs who brought the case before the Magistrate Court are now resorting to physical violence to achieve their aim as their next line of action. I have seen the ruling of the judge.

The case in point involved Luke Dakurah, Alex Dakurah and Henry Dakurah versus Jeremiah Bontariba Tengan and Mathew Bamuroh on the other hand as defendants. The case involved the true owners of a land at Tampala within the Jirapa Municipality.

The findings of the courts were these:

“On the strength of the evidence available to the court, I find as a fact that the defendant’s case is more probable on the balance of probabilities”.

The Magistrate court at Jirapa in drawing its conclusion and final orders to the plaintiffs said:

“Per the position of the law in all the precedents cited above and on the strength of the evidence available to the court, I find the defendants case more probable and hereby enter judgment in their favor.

I hereby order that:

(1)Title to the land and recovery of possession of the land area measuring about 20 acres lying and situated at Tampala Kusiel that shares common boundaries with Suah and Dandielee; south with Dandielee land; East by Palee/Dandielee family and to the West Ngmaatonee to the defendants herein.

(2) I further permanently restrain the plaintiffs, their descendants, assigns, privies and workmen from entering onto the said land to have anything doing without the express permission of the bonafide owners who are defendants herein.

(3) Cost of Ghc1, 000.00 is awarded against each plaintiff in favor of defendants.

(4) Plaintiff’s claims are hereby dismissed.

This was the ruling of H/W Joseph Evans Anang Okropa of the District Magistrate Court of Jirapa.

As mentioned earlier instead of the plaintiff making an appeal to the next court of appeal they are now running amok by using the reign of terror on the defendants. They have defied the court and are putting up structures on the land that they have lost to the defendants in a law suit.

For example on the 2nd of August 2020 after the ruling, the plaintiffs attacked and beat up the brother of one of the witness from the defendants’ side and the matter was reported to the police. As if that was not enough, the plaintiffs mobilized and attacked the defendants’ family on 4th August 2020 at the wee hours of 1:00am, beating a deaf and dumb brother of one of the defendants. The police being the coercive arm of the law, came in to enforce the court ruling, they were also chased away until reinforcement was brought in from Wa, the regional capital to save the situation. When police reinforcement came around upon a report, they again attacked the police and broke the windscreen of the police van.

It is important to point out that, after the court’s ruling, the plaintiffs started putting up permanent structures on the land after having lost the case at the Jirapa Magistrate court. As part enforcing the court’s ruling the police intervened and took away building materials belonging to the plaintiff to the police station. For strange reasons, the police were ordered by the Municipal Chief Executive of Jirapa, Madam Christine Bombanye Amadu, to be release the building materials to them. And they had no choice but to obey her since she is the head of Municipal Security Council.

It later came out that, the MCE; Madam Christine Bombanye Amadu is closely related to the plaintiffs who lost the land dispute case at the Jirapa Magistrate Court. In fact they are her uncles. There are reports that after court’s ruling, she has been secretly meeting both sides saying she wants to settle the matter when the court has passed a final judgment on the matter. Strange, isn’t it? But it has happened!

The plaintiffs have also refused to pay the cost awarded by the court to the defendants. The lawyer for the plaintiffs one Lawyer Clement Eledi who is also the legal counsel for the Upper West Regional House of Chiefs is looking on with careless abandon. It is a widely held belief that the MCE for Jirapa Madam Christine Bombanye who is the government representative is also disrespecting the court’s ruling by using the Municipal Security Council to manipulate the entire process to the advantage of her uncles.

This write up is a special appeal to the Chief Justice as the fountain head of justice in Ghana and it is trite to quote article 125(1) that ‘justice emanates from the people and shall be administered in the name of the republic by the judiciary which shall be independent and subject only to this constitution”! Is this the situation at Jirapa Municipality? Therefore if the courts will give judgment and ordinary people will take the law into their own hands and do what they think fit, then I don’t know where we are heading towards in a country that is supposed to be under the rule of law and democracy.

My special appeal in concluding this piece goes to the Chief Justice, the President of the Republic His Excellency Nana Ado Dankwa Akufo Ado, The Chief Justice and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and all those connected to the enforcement of our laws so that decisions emanating out of our courts will be enforced to the letter, always when it comes to the administration of our laws and justice delivery through our court and their unquestioned decisions.

Writer: Peter Idi Kuubaare

Jirapa Yipaala.

Jirapa Municipality


Columnist: Peter Idi Kuubaare