Sophia Akuffo Takes Charge
The Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood, yesterday stepped down as the President of the panel of Supreme Court Justices, hearing the contempt case brought against two radio panelists, owners of Accra-based Montie FM, and the host of the station’s ‘Pampaso’ programme, for threatening to deal with the judges handling the Abu Ramadan suit on the removal of those who used the National Health Insurance card to register as voters.
Justice Nasiru Sulemana Gbadegbe, also stepped down from the same panel.
The two judges, who were replaced by Justice Sophia Akuffo and Justice Julius Ansah, explained that they did so, because their names were specifically mentioned in the comments of the three people facing the contempt charges.
The Friday, June 24, 2016 edition of the Ghanaian Times Newspaper, quotes Chief Justice Wood as saying ‘ Ghanaians needed peace before, during and after elections and for that matter the court would not indulge in acts that could plunge the nation into bloodbath’.
“Time is running out and the Electoral Commission, should be open, transparent and forthright. We should all have the interest of the nation at heart since the judges want a credible, peaceful, transparent, free and fair elections in the country”, the Chief Justice is reported to have said
Justice Gbadegbe, was also quoted by the same newspaper as saying “We the Supreme Court Judges will not allow this country to go the way other countries have gone because of election”.
Justices Wood and Gbadegbe, made the comments on June 23, when the Court began to hear a motion filed by Abu Ramadan, a brother in-law of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) running mate, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, seeking clarification on the Supreme Court judgment that ordered the EC to clean the voters register by deleting names of unqualified persons.
The comments from Justices Wood and Gbadegbe, was what led to the belligerent vituperations, specifically targeted at the two judges by the two radio panelists; Alistair Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn, on the Montie FM’s ‘Pampaso’ programme, hosted by Salifu Maase, alias “Mugabe”.
The two panelists in the process, allegedly threatened to “finish” the Supreme Court judges, if they made any judgment against the Electoral Commission (EC) in the court case challenging the validity of the voters’ register.
Following this, the Supreme Court, had cited the owners of the radio station and the panelists for contempt and asked them in a letter to explain why they should not be “committed to prison for contempt of court, for scandalizing the court, defying and lowering the authority of the court, and bringing the authority of the court into disrepute.”
The two, who have since been widely chastised over the comments, have apologized publicly, while Montie FM, has also issued a public statement to apologize to the court and disclosed that, its management has taken sanctions against the host of the programme, while the two panelists, have since been taken off air in the meantime.
Announcing the decision, the Chief Justice yesterday, said one of the pillars on which justice relies on and is of fundamental importance is that, justice must not just be done, but manifestly seen to be done.
Since the two justices, were directly mentioned in the threats against the judges, it was only proper that they recuse themselves.
Meanwhile, the Court yesterday, questioned the failure of all the owners of the radio station to appear before them. This was despite the presence of one Edward Addo, who indicated that he was representing the rest of the owners of the company.
His announcement, did not go down well with the apex court justices, leading to the now presiding judge, Sophia Akuffo, indicating that, since the case was a quasi criminal one, it was odd to be seeing only a representative of the owners, instead of the persons themselves appearing before them.
Responding to the concerns of the Justices, Lawyer for the owners, Nana Ato Dadzie, explained that the owners of the station, Network Broadcasting Limited, and all the directors apart from Mr. Edward Addo, were all out of the country.
The court, therefore adjourned the case to July 18, 2016, for the rest of the directors to appear before them for the hearing to proceed.
The court in a letter last Thursday, asked the owners to explain why they should not be “committed to prison for contempt of court, for scandalizing the court, defying and lowering the authority of the court, and bringing the authority of the court into disrepute.”