Martin Alamisi Burns Kaiser Amidu
The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) Members of Parliament (MPs) who planned grilling the hell out of the president’s nominee for the position of Special Prosecutor, Martin Alamisi Burns Kaiser Amidu, appeared to have met their match when he was vetted in parliament yesterday.
The way he answered questions posed by members of the Appointments Committee – and even parrying others for ethical reasons – suggested that he was not ready to be dragged into the political intrigues that characterised his days with the erstwhile Mills administration.
Mr Amidu said specifically that he was not coming into office just to pack the prisons with criminals, but would rather use the opportunity given him to retrieve stolen moneys from public officials for the benefit of the nation.
“We should go back and look at the offences the Special Prosecutor can prosecute. Out of the 10 offences listed with the general provision of other offences, six of them are misdemeanours, two are felonies, two are unclassified. So for me the issue is not necessarily wanting to fill Nsawam with people,” he said.
Justifying his position, he said, “What is the use imprisoning him if you can’t get the monies back? If he agrees to get the monies back only for a conviction and probation, I think that is better for the nation than imprisoning him 10 years, feed him 10 years, give him prison clothing; and if he is grown, he will have chronic conditions and be sending him to hospital. If you will bring part of the money back or all of it and it is reasonable, that is the thing I like about this section so that those who think that the office is just to be there locking people left, right and centre, will realise that the office will act reasonably.”
He pointed out, “It is only cases that are in the national interest after investigation to prosecute that will be prosecuted, but when people realise their faults and agree to pay reparation, why not? Even God forgives, how much more us?”
According to Mr Amidu, “This plea bargaining thing has a good incentive. If people want to make reparation for the consideration of the court and go and sin no more, the office will have to take into consideration all the grounds upon which reparation must be accepted and the reparation must be reasonable because it will come to the knowledge of the people of this country.”
The former Attorney General asserted that there is no room for criminals in his life, saying, “I can’t live in harmony with criminals and traitors. Decent people, I will live with them but criminals, I can’t.”
He sent a strong warning to corrupt and would-be corrupt officials that he would not spare anybody – not even his biological brother – who is brought before him for committing corruption offences.
He said the only thing he could do for his biological brother who falls foul of the law is to hire a lawyer for him and still go ahead and prosecute him for taking bribe or plundering state resources.
He indicated that for all his life, he had stood against corruption and that his integrity and professionalism could not be questioned, adding that those who engage in corruption must be seen as people who enrich themselves at the expense of the ‘down-trodden’ and the state.
“If I am fortunate to be approved by parliament, then all corrupt practices must cease or people who are thinking of engaging in that crime must abandon that idea,” he threatened.
Mr Martin Amidu said the posture of President Akufo-Addo towards the fight against corruption made him to accept the position and promised not to disappoint Ghanaians.
He commended the president for taking that bold decision to bring into existence an office that will help fight corruption in the country.
According to him, corruption must best be seen as structural violence that directly or indirectly kills millions of people, and said Ghanaians should help to fight it head-on so that it would not give any military adventurist the incentive to take up arms and overthrow a democratically elected government.
He told the committee that if the government was able to seal the leakages at the country’s ports, it would not depend on foreign aid for development.
“I want to be able to set up a credible institution and a credible culture and if I am able to do this, we will not need foreign aid,” Mr Amidu underscored.
He said because of his proven track record of believing in probity and accountability, former President J.J. Rawlings appointed him as chairman of the then Public Agreements Board that was charged to look into government contracts and conditions thereof from 1988 to 1993. He was made the Deputy Attorney General during the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) administration headed by Rawlings.
Breach Of Trust
He said that it was by the same principles that he decided to resign from the government of former President John Atta Mills – over a breach of trust between the two – but later the impression was created by government functionaries that he was sacked from the government for insubordination and so he took the government to court for breach of terms of contract.
He said he won the case at the Supreme Court but all his entitlements as ordered by the court, were yet to be paid to him by the out-gone NDC government.
The minority NDC members on the Appointments Committee tried very hard to pin the nominee down on his sour relationship with the political party that gave birth to his political career (the NDC) and the perception that having been appointed the Special Prosecutor under an opposing party, he would lead a witch-hunting campaign against former NDC appointees.
But the nominee said that as an astute lawyer, he would not pander to the whims and caprices of any political figure.
According to him, the moment he was nominated for the position of Special Prosecutor, he shed all his political colours and assumed an apolitical figure because in the public service, a public official does not have to show partisan consideration in the course of his duties, even though that person may belong to a political party.
Mr Amidu noted that the attempt by some people from the NDC to use his age to disqualify him is ill-fated because he had never been a public servant.
According to him, throughout his life, he had either been a political appointee or in private practice as a lawyer and therefore, the question of being above the retirement age of 60 years as a public servant does not arise.
He said he personally had his own reservation about the creation of the Office of the Special Prosecutor as the bill had it, but eventually, he had come to appreciate the fact that even though there might be problems with the bill itself, the fight against corruption must also start from somewhere as President Nana Akufo-Addo had demonstrated.
The former Attorney General and Minister for Justice indicated that he would bring his huge experience to bear on the new office as the first appointee to occupy the position.
He told the committee that all those people who would be recruited to work in the various departments of the Office would go through some form of vetting to ensure that they also do not have credibility problems.
He assured Ghanaians that the work that had been entrusted to him would be competently discharged under his leadership and that anybody who would try to influence his work or any of his workers would be charged for corruption and be prosecuted.
“I will discharge this work without fear or favour, ill-will or affection,” he told the Appointments Committee.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr