The Problem with the Judiciary,,
and the other two branches of government -
Was “NDC Statement (threats) Taken Out Of Context?
By: Kwaku A. Danso
The news reported that the NDC Chairman has made statements that can be considered threatening needs to be analyzed carefully. In Ghana today it will be very hard to say that a survey will find any of the three branches of government meeting the highest standards expected of them by society.
The reputation of the Judiciary became questionable long before the NDC2 took power. So we should not focus too much on what the NDC Chairman Dr. Kwabena Adjei said, even though it does not sound sensible and mature to suggest you will “clean up” the judiciary, especially a party that claims to be a continuation of the PNDC, which had Judges abducted and killed with no satisfactory justice ever rendered!
For reputation, how about an international report that said Ghana land cases take an average of 11 years. Who do our Judges think should pay taxes so people can be paid and not deliver justice on cases for 11 years whiles they are being paid!! This is one thing about Judges and the Judicial system in general that I don’t like! Engineers, Accountants, Doctors, and every professional is held accountable to deliver services or work on time. How about Judges also!!
There is much that the NDC as a government can do to reshape our judiciary, but it has to be done through parliament, and not through their whims or through patapaa principles. Yes, government can set the parameters for justice in society and make new laws to be followed by the judiciary. However, can the government in power hire and employ well paid and competent lawyers to work for the state before the courts? Yes, parliament can decide how many postponements are allowed, or how long it should take for services to be rendered to people in society, but the best thing is for the Judiciary, as also the legislature, to discipline itself through their own code of ethics. Period! Agreeing in Billion dollar loans and encumbrance on the nation, or sale of major state assets in the middle of the night rush traffic without much debate does not seem to enhance reputation of our MPs either!
Equal consideration -
The problem with the Judiciary is not that they may favor one political side or the other, but within their own chambers and halls to find something that serves the interest of the people as opposed to the rich and powerful only who hire top lawyers. I have been to court many times and observed the attitude of many Judges, and even in America I can say there is too much latitude in that profession and lack of independent critical thinking and decision making. The fact that they have to follow previous cases does not prevent them from using their own minds to cite references to the constitution and hence make decisions. Why was the pre-colonial justice in African society working and now the British or foreign ones not working! We have incurred billions of dollars in accumulated debt , exactly $8.1 billion as of January 2009, and yet where did the money go! These are important to the people of Ghana and we could care less who to blame - the Judiciary, the Legislature or the Executive branch that fail in their duties to seek social justice!
Poor people are seen to be sent to jail more often, whiles rich and powerful people, especially government officials and executives, never seem to see jail time, or are released within a short time or pardoned. Example is the group of taxi drivers during the latter part of the Kufuor administration in 2000, who were sent to jail and they were forgotten for months till right before the elections! The chief Justice gave an apology, but that was not good enough!
Was that justice?
What compensation did they give the people so wrongly jailed?
How about the Judge who was caught on tape giving instructions to the reporter on how the bribes should be paid directly to him and not to the police; and was later pleading for mercy! What kind of punishment was enacted?
Role Models -
Like it or not we all become role models as we get older. What happens to the young graduate who finds that Judges, Executives, Ministers, can get away with crimes, don’t have to work too hard, and even if caught will be freed due to some technicalities if they find a good lawyer?
Folks, these are what I find wrong with the judicial system –
1. Lack of responsiveness to the needs of the people in executing justice; e.g. nobody has to look in the constitution to tell a judge that a case has drawn on for too long and he has to make a decision. Within the Judiciary, why don’t they have a Code of ethics to monitor themselves in work delivery and performance.
2. Excessive latitude in rendering justice and ignoring the fact that the lives of the litigants, other human beings’ lives, may be on hold, such as the land litigation cases; Some of us have lost lands whiles overseas and who do we blame but the poor lands administration and judicial services! Don’t they know that these are factors in the decisions investors make when deciding to move to Ghana? Today on our GLU forum somebody said he met some executives of a company that has moved out of China and wanted to relocate to Africa, but when they came to Ghana they changed their mind. Why? Do we ever sit down and examine ourselves as a nation what others find about us? Is there a feedback card at the airport for visitors to fill out and tell us what they think about us?
3. Over-dependence on book knowledge and technicalities. The latter is debatable since there are always people who say that if a person is even caught red handed, who were the witnesses during the observation and how do we know they are not fabricating the charges. Can the legislature and judiciary ever do anything without the British books to look at that is more applicable to our ordinary people of Ghana? One could call that user-friendly justice system.
4. The influence of backroom deals is repulsive to many from other cultures who want service fees displayed upfront, and don’t like to bargain behind closed doors! In this age, Judicial forms and procedures should be available online for people to access if only our honorable men of the Judiciary will learn to use the computers.
Keeping Their Hand off -
Having said all that, I think Judges should be allowed to do their work and politicians should keep their dirty hands away and watch their own parliament and projects financing that never seem to be accounted for to deliver expected services and projects for the people of Ghana. The Judiciary is a third branch of government and if they want to ruin their reputation, so be it! We the ordinary people can criticize as we see fit and the parliamentarians, if they really represent our views, should then take some strategic action to make new laws. Parliament can pass laws and have the President sign to regulate the judiciary, but not one man thumping his chest and throwing words in the air. No!
In an explanation of the NDC Chairman’s statements the following was reported Modern Ghana.com and posted our GLU forum of August 19, 2010:
“The National Propaganda Secretary of the party, Mr Richard Quashigah, in a statement issued yesterday said the party’s concern about the judiciary dated back to the time the NDC was in opposition (2001-2008) when the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government “decided and embarked on a policy of manipulation of the judiciary to serve its political agenda, especially in the case of Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, Kwame Peprah and others, where justice was clearly subverted to service the whim and caprices of the NPP”.
It said when it happened the NDC raised concerns so did many other Ghanaians, adding that recent events had vindicated the concerns at that time over the packing of the Supreme and the High Courts, with new judges.
“The NDC believes that at this stage the sovereign people of Ghana have a right to use all other means open to them under the Constitution to ensure an impartial judiciary,” it said
The statement said when the chairman of the NDC said that he would cleanse the judiciary, it was in reference to the opportunities provided to the sovereign people of Ghana under the Constitution to ensure that the judiciary was fair, balanced, and dispensing equitable justice”
(Modern Ghana.com, 2010 August 18.
That is a good explanation even if we all don’t agree. If MPs had the love and care of the country, the first things they would do would not be to seek loans from outside, after they have taken from public coffers to buy their personal cars and secure their housing. They should not be selling services that can be done by their own people, but to scratch their heads and figure out how we can balance our accounts and seek financing within our own Ghana. Instead they borrow $300 million, letting $10 million vanish into some accounts they use for the campaigns, as some people have postulated, as is commonly known now in Ghanaian dirty politics! Or better still they borrow $603 million for water and $700 million for electricity and never get the projects done or completed; and then leave empty coffers and projects uncompleted!
To date has President Mills been able to call President Kufuor and the former Finance Minister to answer for the use of these huge loans?
He is also following protocol! And pass on the debts to the next generation!
So why blame only the judiciary! To me, solving our problems internally is the only long term solution we have as a nation. If we need $290 million to connect electricity to the 3 regions in the north, one can guess there must be at least 200,000 people from these regions who are overseas and/ or are capable in Ghana! Why not try the Community Spirit of old and sell Community Bonds to these people at average [$290 mil / 200,000] at $1,450 each at a decent return payable in 5 years of service. I sincerely believe we have the talent in or outside Ghana. I know one Ghanaian who does heavy installations for major utilities in North America. Contrary to what some people may think, there is no field that Ghana cannot find top talent at the executive level now! All the talk about being an Nkrumaist means nothing if we turn around and import Koreans to build houses for us and the Chinese to build electricity projects for us!!!
It’s a shame what our leadership has become and our Honorable members of parliament also. What do we expect of our Judiciary then!
Dr. Kwaku A. Danso,
President - Ghana Leadership Union (NGO) & Moderator-GLU Forum