As Wontumi Snubs Otumfuor’s Mediation Effort
Counsel for Ibrahim Mahama – yonger brother to President John Mahama – in the GH¢5 million defamation suit against the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Ashanti regional chairman, Bernard Antwi-Boasiako, has expressed surprise at the decision of the trial judge to sack their client from the courtroom on Monday.
The judge, Justice Edward K.B Apenkwah, ordered Mr. Mahama, to leave the courtroom as his witness mounted the dock to start giving her testimony. This, left Charles Zwennes, counsel for Mr. Mahama, in a huge shock, saying he had never witnessed a thing like this in his career as a lawyer of many years.
Antwi-Boasiako, popularly known as Chairman Wontumi, had accused Ibrahim Mahama of being a “thief and a dishonest man” who together with President Mahama, have been increasing fuel prices, stealing and hoarding the proceeds in some South African banks.
Ibrahim Mahama, therefore, sued Wontumi for a staggering GH¢5 million. However, attempt by Asantehene Otumfuor Osei Tutu II, to have the NPP Regional Chairman to apologise to Mr. Mahama and have the case settled out of court, fell on deaf ears, with the latter boasting in newspapers he was prepared to battle Ibrahim in court, until the case gets to its logical conclusion, stressing that he is not backing off from it.
In court on Monday, the Kumasi-based judge, surprisingly argued that it was improper for the plaintiff, who owns the mines and civil engineering company; Engineers and Planners (E&P), to be around when his witness is giving a testimony, even though he had allowed it in previous hearings.
The judge also insisted that Mr. Mahama, not be permitted to sit in court during the cross examination of his witness by Mr. Antwi-Boasiako, who is also a small scale miner. He hardly shows in court. Indeed, on Monday, he was not in court to witness the drama. He was represented by Riches Oscar.
However, Mr. Zwennes, counsel for Mr Mahama, had concerns with the decision of the judge arguing that, it was not the first time his client was staying in the courtroom, while his witness gave evidence.
A news editor, who is Mr. Mahama’s key witness in the defamation case, started giving her testimony on the matter on May 19, 2015, when Mr Mahama opened his case.
The judge subsequently adjourned the case sine dine, informing the parties that the court registrar will notify them on the next hearing date in due course.
Mr. Zwennes, later told the media, the judge’s decision was strange and unprecedented, adding that every person is allowed by the law and indeed, the 1992 Constitution, to act as counsel in his or her own case, and could stand in court to lead evidence from his own witnesses.
Mr. Mahama’s counsel, who looked visibly shocked, described the exclusion of his client from hearing his own case as unprecedented in his experience as a lawyer of many years.
To him, every person is allowed to act as counsel in his/her own case, and stand in court to lead evidence from his own witnesses, therefore, such a person should certainly be entitled to sit in court and hear proceedings, where questions are led by the party’s witness through the agency of his lawyer.
Mr. Mahama, opening his case on May 19, 2015, called his first witness, a news editor, to testify in his favour.
On that occasion, the witness gave extensive testimony in examination in-chief about the fact of the statements.
Throughout those proceedings, Mr. Mahama, sat in court to hear the testimony of his first witness and the court adjourned the case to Monday, June 1, for continuation.
But before the news editor could continue her testimony, in the presence of counsel for both Mr. Mahama and the NPP chairman, the judge on his own volition raised an objection to Mr. Mahama being present in court, whilst his witness continued with her testimony.
The judge further informed counsel for the parties that, although Mr. Mahama, had sat in on proceedings at the last date, he had since realised that he ought not to have allowed him to do so and had forgotten to apply the rule.
Mr Charles Zwennes, counsel for Mr. Mahama, enquired as to what rule was being applied, since he had personally not come across any such rule of practice or the precedent, explaining that the rule has always been that every party is entitled to sit in court to hear the entire proceedings.
Despite the judge acknowledging this position of the law to be the rule, he, however, said that he had nonetheless decided after consultation, to order Mr. Mahama, to leave the court, since he intends later on to give evidence in his own case.
The court, therefore, insisted that Mr. Mahama, leaves before his witness finished her evidence in-chief.
The Judge also insisted that Mr. Mahama, will not be permitted to sit in court during the cross examination by the NPP Bernard Antwi Bosiako’s counsel, Egbert Faibille Jnr.
Meanwhile, the indefinite (sine dine) adjournment of the case, has been explained by Justice E.K Apenkwa that, a new judge has been assigned to take over Court 5 to enable him move to his original Court 7.
Speaking to Ultimate FM in Kumasi, counsel for the defendant, Faibille Jnr, said the decision to adjourn the case is in the right course.