The Herald Owes Nobody An Apology

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 Source: The Herald

The Herald, last Thursday September, 14, 2011, was served with a letter from the Chambers of Akufo-Addo, Prempeh & Co, signed by one lawyer Kwame Boafo Akufo, threatening it to make a public retraction and apologise for a story that it had published based on a ruling made by Justice Kwasi Dapaah, an Accra High Court, on the seizure of a building and its subsequent demolition by Mr. Sam Esson Jonah, one of the parties claiming ownership of the property, or be hauled before court for libeling the latter.

Sam Jonah is former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ashanti Gold Fields, and the former President of Anglo-Gold Ashanti. Currently he is the Chairman of Jonah Capital, an investment venture based in South Africa.

The letter addressed to the Managing Editor, Larry-Alans Dogbey, was headed: “Defamatory publication in Respect of Samuel Esson Jonah, KBE, OSG”.

It referred to The Herald’s story of September 2011, headlined: “Sam Jonah in Trouble for Demolishing One Million Dollar House”, saying the story referred to their (Akufo-Addo, Prempeh & Co) client, in which The Herald alleged that their client (Jonah) had procured a Supreme Court judgement, in a matter between him (Jonah) and one Lord Doudu-Kumi ‘by eliciting the services of the late Chief Justice E.K Wiredu.

The letter said: “You further described the execution of the High Court, which had been confirmed by the Supreme Court, by our client as ‘Rambo Style’ mis-adventure.

The letter also referred to The Herald’s publication of September 9, 2011, with the headline: ‘One Million Dollar House Demolition-SAM JONAH IS VICIOUS”.

According to it, “The second publication repeated the untidy ‘Rambo style’ that you attributed to our client.” The letter said that the Herald “insinuated in the second publication that our client is envious of successful people, and that at all material times, he had ‘paid’ journalists to libel the said Lord Doudu-Kumi”

The letter also said that The Herald “Claimed, in a rather absurd manner, that our client had taken over the ‘house’ of Lord Doudu-Kumi and razed same to the ground”.

It noted that a “Cursory search at the Lands Commission would have shown you that our client is the owner of the property”.

The letter pointed out that the entry onto the property “as well as the execution of the judgement, was carried out by officials of the Judicial Service in extreme good faith and on the basis of the judgement of the High Court.

“Needless to say, due process was followed. There was no order of the court restraining our client from executing the judgment of the Court”, it said.

Also referred to was the ruling of Justice Dapaah that the letter said The Herald strenuously quoted, and that this ruling was a subject matter of appeal.

“Perhaps if you were not so much imbued with malice, our client’s side of the story would have been sought,” the letter added.

It said that The Herald tried to create the impression that it tried to get to Jonah for his side of the story but failed, using the cell phone number 0244 989012, which did not belong to Mr. Jonah or anybody that he knew.

Lawyer Akufo’s letter also made the observation that The Herald, in amplifying its malice, referred to a matter in which a false claim was made that Mr. Jonah litigated over UTC property with one Dr. Nii Narku Quainor, when the fact was rather that Dr Quainor was thrown out of the facility by UTC Limited for not paying rent.

“Our client was not a party to this suit and yet the impression is created that he orchestrated the take-over of the property”, Mr. Akufo’s letter said, underscoring that, “it was UTC that evicted him (Dr. Quainor) on the basis of a court judgement, and not Sam Jonah”

“In the circumstances”, Mr. Akufo’s letter asserted, “our client requires from you, as a matter of urgency, a full and unequivocal public retraction and apology in terms to be approved by us, and an undertaking not to repeat these allegations.”

“We have also advised him”, the letter continued, “that he is entitled to substantial compensation for the injury to his reputation and feelings, as to which we invite your proposals”

“Our client will also require payment by you of all the legal costs he has incurred in this matter”, said the letter, concluding that a reply was expected from The Herald, within a week from the date of receipt of it (letter) or as instructed, issue a writ against The Herald.

The National Media Commission has been copied with the letter and Ghanaweb BV, a prominent news website, for carrying The Herald’s news on Sam Jonah.

The Herald wants to state in unequivocal terms that so far as its publication on the seizure of No 109 East Cantonments House, from Doudu-Kumi, and the subsequent demolition by Mr. Jonah, and the ruling in this matter, as delivered, by Justice Dapaah is concerned, it has not libeled or defamed Mr. Jonah, and therefore, does not owe him any apology or public retraction of the said story.

It must be clear to Mr. Jonah that he initiated a court action against Mr. Doudu-Kumi to claim the property in contention way back in 1995.

A court action transpires before the eyes and ears of the public, annulling any libelous or defamatory comments that might be hurled at each other by the combatants.

The Herald, for various reasons, has even been very charitable at reporting the so-called defamatory and libelous language, made against Mr. Jonah that the transcript and documents covering this matter, for over 15 years, contain.

Our enquiries indicate that for all these years that the matter has been dragged, Mr Jonah has been to court under five times, perhaps on that basis, he can be excused for not hearing the strong words used to describing him by Doudu-Kumi and his counsel, the legal gem, Mr. Adumoah Bossman. There are court records to demonstrate this.

Is it true that Mr. Jonah took over a property, in contention carted away the possessions of Mr. Doudu-Kumi to an unknown destination, and razed house down to the ground, collecting all the debris as if nothing had stood there previously, using an order that he has not properly obtained? Even if the property belonged to Mr. Jonah, an icon in the eyes of many Ghanaians and beyond, what anger might have driven the University of Cape Coast Vice-Chancellor to do what he did?

What is untidy with the word Rambo as compared with the operation Mr. Jonah carried out with respect to the No. 109 East Cantonments House?

Mr. Akufo referred to Justice Dapaah’s ruling. Is it true that the ruling said the order of execution obtained by Mr. Jonah to enter the property and take possession of it was unlawful and hence declared null and void, for that matter set aside?

Mr. Akufo, to The Herald, is very ignorant as far as this matter is concerned; a matter that started perhaps before he left Law School or entered it, requires some level of studying on his part before making declarations on it.

He has asked The Herald to make enquiries at The Lands Commission to see if the property in question does not belong to his client, when that very issue (entitlement) is what is in contention?

We hope Mr. Akufo is not just rushing into job-hunting or angling to be a solicitor for a rich client who most lawyers would desperately yearn to represent.

We on The Herald, out of our investigation, have discovered that Mr. Jonha’s counsel has been Mr. Stanley Amartefio, of Kudzawu Chambers, since this matter commenced, and yet, strangely, he is not speaking for his client now.

As for Dr. Nii Narku Quainor and the UTC property that Mr. Jonah said he has nothing to do with, The Herald can assure him that the world would sooner than later know the truth about how the property was acquired, and how libelous Mr. Akufo’s statements are about Dr. Quainor.

Columnist: The Herald