Corruption spoils a nation. Corruption in Ghana is older than her independence. Corruption and mismanagement of public offices were some of the grounds for the successive military takeovers in our political history. Whenever a group of military officers was satisfied that a ruling government was nothing but an alliance to “create, loot and share” the proceeds from our public purse, that government was usually sacked from the high office in a coup d’état. That had been the remedy adopted by the military governments in the past to save the national cake from the hands of those merciless beneficiaries. The new government, like Heavenly Hosts, would give the serious assurances to end corruption but always with little or no difference at all. Corruption continued into the fourth Republic.
The fight against corruption in the fourth republic has taken a new dimension. Several individuals, groups and government agencies have launched and/or joined the campaign to reduce corruption to the lowest standard. We cannot forget the likes of Anas Aremeyaw Anas and Manasseh Azure Awuni who risk their lives to expose the rot that have been with us for centuries. Their heartbreaking investigations over the years have saved our public purse millions of Ghana cedis. We cannot equally forget our celebrated legal luminary Martin Amidu, popularly known as Citizen Vigilante, who, without fear or favor, risked his job or appointment and personal resources in a bit to fight against corruption. The list of anti-corruption crusaders in our beloved country is not exhausted. Now, as a democratic country coup d’état cannot be used to fight corruption. We need to do so in the light of the law.
It would be recalled that during the campaigns that led to the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections, one of the top promises of then candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the NPP was to establish an office of an Independent Special Prosecutor who will be “charged with the mandate to investigate and prosecute cases of alleged corruption under the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 63) and other corruption-related offenses implicating public officers, political office holders and their accomplices in the public sector. The Prosecutor will also be mandated to trace and recover the proceeds of corruption” from the looters.
Many thought that too was a ‘mere campaign promise’; after all this was not the first time a presidential aspirant gave assurances to put in place measures to reduce corruption to minimum or eliminate it. But after assuming the high office, the man (now president) appears to be a man of his words. In July last year (same year of assuming the presidency) the Bill to establish the office of the SP was introduced before the Lawmakers for their consideration and approval. After a clear friction from the Minority in parliament, especially the NDC, the Bill has become law known as The Special Prosecutor Act, 2018 (Act 959). Barely three days ago had the president appointed Former AG and Minister of Justice under Fmr President Mills, Mr. Martin A.B.K Amidu who, if approved by parliament, will serve as the first ever SP in our country.
Many people thought the appointment of the man with “the requisite integrity, competence, courage and independence of character to discharge the responsibilities of this challenging office” would come with joy, happiness and relief to the Ghanaian people. Yes we were right! Moments after the president announced the appointment during a short ceremony, many Ghanaians, both home and the diaspora could not suppress their excitement. Social media was flooded with congratulatory messages to the appointer and appointee. At least, everyone who believes corruption must be dealt with came out openly to jubilate. While others have been celebrating just the appointment of Amidu, the man within the anticipation of many to take up that mantle, others are celebrating the mere fact that a Special Prosecutor has been appointed regardless of who the appointee is.
In the wake of the news relating to Amidu’s appointment, some sections of Ghanaians, in fact majority of those who are conversant with the Woyome saga, have been saying that the onetime NDC Financier is in more trouble like never before. This is because we think Amidu now has a better locus standi to retrieve the Ghc 51.2m from Woyome. But the questions we ought to ask are these: Will the Office of the SP have jurisdiction to initiate or continue any action to recover our money from Woyome? Does the making of Amidu a SP gives him better chances than before to prosecute Woyome?
The rule of law is a sine qua non in every democratic dispensation like Ghana. Everyone is subject to the law. As a beacon of democracy in sub Saharan Africa, our nation should be governed by the law and not by decisions of individual government officials. The rule of law upholds several certain tenets of criminal justice. One of the tenets of the rule of law is the protection from retroactive legislation. Indeed, we cannot change the legal status or consequences of actions that were committed, or relationship that existed, before the enactment of the law. Doing so would be tantamount to the witch hunting that other people are concerned about. Such is prejudicial to the principle of democracy. Article 107 (b) of the 1992 Constitution states, “(b) Parliament shall have no power to pass any law which operates retrospectively to impose any limitations on, or to adversely affect the personal rights and liberties of any person or to impose a burden, obligation or liability on any person. The import from this constitutional provision is to the effect that we cannot use a new law to punish a person for alleged wrongs committed earlier.
It would be recalled that the controversy with Woyome started since 2011 when the NDC under President Mills fraudulently paid him Ghc 51.2m as judgement debt. Since then all efforts to retrieve the money from the onetime NDC Financier had been frustrated by him and his suspected accomplices. MR. Amidu has been one of the anti-corruption crusaders who led the fight to recover the money from the businessman. Ordinarily, it would have been the task of the Attorney General (AG) to do so. But the NDC AG refused to help Ghana recover the money. Amidu discontinued the action later last year against Woyome, with the belief that the new NPP government will retrieve the gargantuan amount from Woyome. Perhaps this is the reason why some of the NDC gurus have been ranting that the Special Prosecutor will witch hunt them. Woyome may not be alone. Several other public officials have been cited in a number of corruption scandals.
It therefore stands to reason that the Special Prosecutor and his office will be alien to the case of Woyome and other individuals for the one reason that it occurred in the past before the establishment of the Special Prosecutor Act. Any move will be clear indication that we are applying a retroactive legislation which is contrary to the principle of rule of law which is very fundamental in a democratic nation.
Moreover, the Woyome case is currently under the scrutiny of the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights. Whatever be the outcome, it is the Attorney General who has the legal capacity to follow it up and not Special Prosecutor. In effect, all the developments associated with the SP are ex post facto matters to the Woyome saga. So, why the needless fears? Who are those with the mixed feelings about Amidu’s appointment? Woyome said he is not scared. Kofi Adams said same. Asiedu Nketiah has made it clear the NDC is not bothered about the appointment of Amidu. Perhaps, they have done their homework well.
Our fears should rather be focused on those who are so addicted to the act of corruption that only death can do them apart. We are moving forward. Let’s focused on what the Prosecutor will do in future cases. The SP may not have anything to do with Woyome. In fact, the establishment of the office of the Special Prosecutor, The Act and the appointment of Martin Amidu is welcome news. The absence of corruption in a country is also a tenet of the rule of law. With the Special Prosecutor, the wheels of Justice will grind hard on any greedy and unpatriotic ‘spectator’ who cares less about the wellbeing Ghanaian ‘citizens’. Benjamin Disraeli, British politician and author once said, “If we were all pure, our laws would be useless. But once we have chosen to be corrupt, our laws will always be broken”. And to any damage there is a remedy.
God bless Mr. President Akufo-Addo, God bless Martin Amidu and God bless our homeland Ghana.