President Akufo-Addo and Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia with Justice Sophia Akuffo. INSET: Chief Justice Georgina Wood
The speculation as to who becomes the next Chief Justice after the exit of Justice Georgina Theodora Wood on June 8, 2017, came to an end yesterday following the nomination of Justice Sophia Abena Boafoa Akuffo as her likely successor.
President Akufo-Addo announced the nomination at a short press briefing at the Flagstaff House, saying, “In order to ensure smooth succession to the office and preserve the integrity of the judicial branch of government, I have decided to initiate the constitutional processes for the appointment of the successor, so as to preclude any undue vacuum in the office.”
It was at this point that the president dropped the name. “I have thus today, sought by letter, consultation with the Council of State in accordance with Article 144 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic in order to nominate for the approval of Parliament, the appointment of Justice Sophia Akuffo, a Justice of the Supreme Court and senior member of the court, as the new Chief Justice of the Republic.”
If the constitutional processes are concluded in a satisfactory manner, Justice Sophia Akuffo will be the 13th person to hold that important office of state.
Justice Akuffo beat three others, including Justice William Atuguba, who is due for retirement soon, for the coveted position.
The other two contenders were Justices Victor Jones Dotse and Kwasi Anin-Yeboah.
Talking about the incoming chief justice, President Akufo-Addo said he had known Justice Sophia Akuffo for well over 40 years and that she was her first junior in the practice [legal profession] as barristers call their work. Nana Addo admitted, “She impressed me considerably with her hardwork, her capacity for detailed research, her independence of mind and spirit, her honesty and integrity, her deep-seated respect for the rule of law and her abiding belief in the sovereignty of the Almighty God.”
He was of the firm belief that, “These are the qualities which sustained her brilliant career as a lawyer that propelled her to the notice of the first President of the Fourth Republic, His Excellency Jerry John Rawlings, who appointed her to the Supreme Court on 30th November, 1995 – some 22 years ago.”
“She has been one of the leading lights of the court since her appointment and her contribution for the courts’ work and the growth of our nation’s jurisprudence have been extensive,” he indicated.
President Akufo-Addo touted the selected chief justice’s exposure to the outside world, noting, “She has enriched her judicial experience by serving with credit on continental judicial bodies such as the African Court on Human and People’s Rights where she ended up as president of the court.
He therefore articulated with emphasis, “I have no doubt that Justice Akuffo will be a worthy successor to Chief Justice Wood and uphold jealously the independence of the Judiciary.”
“I expect discipline, fairness, integrity and the continuing modernisation of judicial activities to be the hallmarks of her tenure as chief justice, if she is so endorsed by the constitutional bodies,” he charged the nominee.
That, he said, was because “It is important for the development of our nation that we have a Judiciary that commands the respect of the nation by the quality of its justice delivery, as well as by the comportment of its judges.”
He talked of the stormy winds that had buffeted the Judiciary in recent years and the efforts by outing Chief Justice Wood to restore public confidence in the institution, insisting, “I expect Justice Akuffo to continue and intensify that work.”
Whiles he indicated that the Judiciary has the onerous responsibility of being the bulwark of the defence of the liberties and the rights of the nation, he noted, “It can only discharge that responsibility effectively if it has the unalloyed respect of the people.”
“We are determined to build a new Ghanaian civilisation, where the rule of law is not a slogan, but an operating principle for the development of our State, where the separation of powers is real and meaningful, where the liberties and rights of our people are fully protected, and where law and order provide a firm basis for our social and economic development, so that the dreams of prosperity that animated the great patriots, who are the founders of our nation, can find expression in our generation,” he assured the nation.
In that regard, he pledged, “I will be a genuine and trusted partner of the Judiciary so that together, the Executive and the Judiciary can co-operate in a spirit of mutual respect to attain this goal for the benefit and welfare of our people.”
He expressed confidence that “In Justice Sophia Akuffo, I will find a worthy collaborator in this noble endeavour,” and thus recommended her to the constitutional bodies – the Council of State and Parliament – for approval as Chief Justice of Ghana.
Justice Georgina Wood was the 12th occupant of the office – the first female to head the Judiciary and its longest serving leader who has been in office three days short of 10 years.
The president described her career as extraordinary; and could not but pay warm tribute to Ms Georgina Wood for her distinguished service to Ghana and wished her a well-earned retirement, even though her public service would not be over, as her place on the Council of State awaits her.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu, Presidential Correspondent