Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo
I am not a legal brain and I do not intend to behave like one. But the common sense in me always tells me that our 1992 constitution, in many ways, has outlived its relevance and therefore needs to be totally overhauled in order to be responsive to the dynamics of contemporary geopolitics. Indeed, this is a constitution written at the time our nation had been under ten years of brutal dictatorship during which a nation of about 20 million people, was pushed around by an infinitesimal bunch of self-acclaimed Marxists, who in reality, had absolutely no knowledge of any political ideology.
These were a bunch of characters that had no means by way of personal economic well-withal, but which they cleverly camouflaged as modesty, by walking around in sandals made of discarded caterpillar tires, wore tie-and-dye fabrics and spotted unkempt facial hairs because they could not even afford ordinary sanitary stuff. These people, in the open, preach unbridled Marxist ideals but secretly consume what the purest form of capitalism offers. They come into power as paupers but exit as Saudi Arabian oil Sheiks.
Back to my reservations about the relevance of our 1992 constitution: I am not going to be able to quote the relevant articles here but since these are captured in our statutes, I will proceed with my analysis as to three key aspects of our constitution which I believe if not done away with, our efforts to build a fair, prosperous and a happy nation with accountability as our bedrock, will continue to remain a mirage. And these are the three retrogressive insertions in our constitution:
- The power of the President to elect 50% of ministers from parliament
- The indemnity clause
- A former President cannot be prosecuted, 3years after leaving office.
Now, our current system of governance is purely based on separation of powers where the hierarchic strata of State Authorities are to operate independently in order to avoid undue interferences. However, with this clause where the President has his/her hands tied to appoint a whopping 50% of ministers from parliament, how in God’s name would anybody expect these parliamentarians who have had huge chunks of juicy meats thrown onto their laps by the Commander-in-Chief, like how zookeepers do to caged animals under their care, to be independent with their assessments of bills emanating from the Executive headed by the President? It is this weak-link in our constitution that brought us the debacles of STX, CNCTI and so on.
I do not think the constitution specifically says the President must appoint 50% parliamentarians who are members of his political party. But with the kind of dogmatically partisan manner we approach every issue of national interest, even if Jesus Christ was elected the President of Ghana, I can predictably predict with all precisely precise precision, that, He will never dare appoint a single parliamentarian from any of His bitterly opposing political parties.
In theory, therefore, the constitution does not tie the hands of the president but in practicality, both his/her hands and feet are in iron shackles.
Our constitution claims WE ARE ALL EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW, but, though we have people in our society who have committed heinous crimes by way of totally unjustified and notorious summarily executions of completely innocent Ghanaians, such criminals are today walking about with their chest out, chins raised to the skies and sermonizing on moralities, all because they are being protected by these indemnity clauses.
Murderous escapades of these people, where it has been well-chronicled that nearly 400 of our compatriots simply vanished into thin air, cannot be dealt with, all in the name of INDEMNITY CLAUSES. Educational progressions of children were cut-off because their parents were abducted in the middle of the night during curfew hours, ironically, and callously dispatched into the other world. Self-made and law-abiding Ghanaians were tied to the stakes and hot iron bullets pumped into their mortal flesh from AK-47 riffles, for the crime of legitimately securing loans to the tune of present-day GH¢5!!
Successful businessmen and highly-enterprising women had their businesses targeted and destroyed, with most of them dying prematurely out of shock. Others were chased out of their homeland and ended up dying in foreign lands as paupers. Spotting a pot-belly became a reason for you to be incarcerated without trial while having a bottle of beer in your refrigerator was tantamount to treason. People were subjected to all manner of inhumane treatments for completely non-existent offences; yet, the perpetrators of such heinous crimes are today living in a citadel of luxury under the protection of these obnoxious Indemnity Clauses.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, once the most popular President in Brazil’s recent history, has been sentenced to nine years and six months in prison after being found guilty on corruption and money-laundering charges. Although Lula, as he is universally known, will remain free pending an appeal, and his supporters denounced the sentence as political persecution, the ruling marks an extraordinary fall for a leader Barack Obama once called “the most popular politician on earth”.
Lula won two mandates as Brazil’s first president from the leftist Workers’ party and helped his hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff, win two subsequent elections before she was impeached last year for breaking budget rules amid a sprawling corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras. Passing sentence on the former president, Judge Sergio Moro said Lula took part in the corruption scheme, in which billions of dollars were paid to middlemen, executives and politicians for fat contracts.
Again, just last Friday, the decision in ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s year-long trial was delivered slowly, charge by charge, for more than an hour as the nation watched on live television and commented on social media. In the process, Chief Judge Kim Se-yoon’s calm voice itself became the trending topic on Twitter, with transfixed observers describing his tone as “sweet” and “gentle” but the court’s final judgment, however, was not.
The judges found the disgraced former leader guilty of 16 criminal charges, including bribery, coercion and abuse of power, which involved some of the nation’s largest companies. Park received a 24-year prison term that, at age 66, could be a life sentence. She also faces a hefty $16-million fine.
In places like China, Cuba and North Korea, where these Ghanaian pseudo-Marxists are always touting as where the best forms of governance can be found and therefore we must deal with them instead of America, such economic crimes are punished with swift exterminations.
Now, countries that are serious about protecting their national purse and therefore swift in holding politicians to account, are doing so by having in place laws that work, irrespective of the socioeconomic standing of culprits. But in Ghana, we have inserted some obnoxiously retrogressive clauses which insulate a former president from criminal prosecution, three years after leaving office. Meanwhile, it is also captured in our laws that crimes are not status-barred.
Parenthetically, the National Democratic Congress [NDC] is an offspring and sole beneficiary of the illegitimate Provisional National Defense Council’s [PNDC] murderous regime which inflicted notoriously heinous crimes on innocent Ghanaians for ten solid years, during which absolutely no account was rendered and looting of State coffers was officially-encouraged.
This constitution, which was orchestrated by the PNDC for the protection of plain-faced murderers and notorious economic gangsters, is loaded with contradictions, retrogressive clauses; discriminatory exemptions and provides escape-windows that enable many corrupt former government officials to walk free.
As a matter of fact, if the incident of a sitting-President receiving a Ford Expedition vehicle from a contractor/businessman who was later handed an extremely juicy-multi-million-dollar Government of Ghana [GoG] contract by this same President, had happened in places like Brazil or South Korea, former President John Mahama would have long been languishing in jail. John Mahama definitely would have been jointly held culpable and jailed, if it were in Brazil or South Korea, over those 44 dud-cheques, issued right under his nose, by his blood-brother.
A President, under whose watch as the head of the Economic Management Team, a whooping GH¢51m of Ghanaian taxpayers cash was dished out to Alfred Agbesi Woyome, for free, today has the effrontery to be embarking on useless ‘unity walks’ and standing on platforms to describe others as corrupt and incompetent, when in actual fact, he must be behind bars for unprecedented heights of naked corruption which himself, close family members and other assigns, brazenly perpetrated against the good people of Ghana
Unquestionably, the loopholes in our 1992 constitution are providing escape routes to heavyweight criminals and we must do something about it with alacrity!
By Justice Abeeku Newton-Offei