Former President of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), Benson Nutsukpui, is once again outraged by the continuous “alien and unknown” practices of High Court judge, Justice Aboagye Tandoh.
The lawyer, had accused the judge of virtually alienating them from a number of the court’s processes, a remarkable departure from known practices.
“We need to feel like we are officers of the court,” Mr Nutsukpui, asserted in court on Tuesday, November 14, 2023.
“I think that we as counsel for the accused persons should not be seen as not part of the process,” he told Justice Aboagye Tandoh.
Justice Aboagye Tandoh, has been hearing the highly sensitive COCOBOD trial since July, this year following the controversial transfer of the previous trial judge, Justice Anokye Gyimah to Kumasi in the Ashanti Region by Chief Justice Gertrude Torkonoo.
The former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, as well as Agricult Ghana Limited, have been facing 27 charges, including defrauding by pretense, willfully causing financial loss to the state, corruption by public officers and contravention of the Public Procurement Act in the purchase of Lithovit liquid fertiliser between 2014 and 2016.
They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 self-recognizance bail each.
Mr Nutsukpui, referred the court to his prayer a day before in which he told the court that it was “practically impossible” to give a subpoenaed witness less than 24 hours’ notice to appear in court but was not taken into consideration.
“Our plea was either ignored or rejected and we were told to appear [the following day at] 10:45am and we were here until 12noon when we were called to order,” he emphasized, adding, “The practice as we came to meet it, would be, as soon as we come, the court will inform us that the time has been rescheduled.”
Counsel, therefore, advised the court to be mindful of the impression being portrayed.
“Moreso, care must be taken in order that there is no impression created that we defending the accused persons are not needed in the process. If our presence wasn’t needed, the prosecution would have… And would have had their way long ago.
“Also, our submission be taken into consideration when dates are being fixed. For now, it appears that it is the prosecution that determines the dates.”
But the prosecution, led by Principal State Attorney Stella Ohene Appiah, parried the claims suggesting that the state has been dictating the sittings.
“Dates in this particular case have never been fixed by the prosecution,” she said, noting that the dates have been “rightly fixed by the court as mandated by law”.
Early on, counsel for Dr. Opuni, Samuel Codjoe was also not enthused by the treatment being meted out to them by the court.
“Even though you indicated the time was 10:45 am, we don’t have qualms with the time.
However, if this court had a change of mind or there was an emergency, then you should have sent us notices.
“This is because, by not doing that, we as applicants’ counsel are seriously disadvantaged with time management. Because this is not the only case we are looking at… The time being imposed by this court does not give us the time to make any input. Which is adversely affecting our practice.”