The Supreme Court Judge, sitting on the Opuni-Agongo case, has attained the Constitutional retirement age of 70 years for Justices of the Superior Courts of Ghana.
Born on September 4, 1952, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, clocked the anniversary milestone yesterday Sunday, September 4, setting him up for compulsory retirement after years of a successful rise on ‘the bench.’
Article 145 of the Constitution of Ghana, which deals with the ‘Retirement and Resignation of Justices of the Superior Courts and Chairmen of Regional Tribunals’, stipulates: “1. A Justice of a Superior Court or a Chairman of a Regional Tribunal may retire at any time after attaining the age of sixty years”.
“2. A Justice of a Superior Court or a Chairman of a Regional Tribunal shall vacate his office: – (a) in the case of a Justice of the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal, on attaining the age of seventy years; or (b) in the case of a Justice of the High Court or a Chairman of a Regional Tribunal, on attaining the age of sixty-five years; or (c) upon his removal from office in accordance with article 146 of this Constitution”.
The Supreme Court judge is particularly popular for presiding over the Opuni-Agongo trial, right from the start in 2017 till now, given the twists and turns that the case has endured in and outside court.
It is understood that Justice Honyenuga has been granted “limited time” to ‘clear his desk’ and pronounce judgment on pending cases, including the Opuni-Agongo case in line with Clause 3 of Article 145 of the 1992 Constitution.
The clause says: “A Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature or a Chairman of a Regional Tribunal may resign his office by writing, signed by him and addressed to the President” while Clause 4 says: “Notwithstanding that he has attained the age at which he is required by this article to vacate his office, a person holding office as a Justice of a Superior Court or Chairman of a Regional Tribunal, may continue in office for a period not exceeding six months after attaining that age, as may be necessary, to enable him to deliver judgment or do any other thing in relation to proceedings that were commenced before him previous to his attaining that age”.
Justice Honyenuga was nominated and sworn into office as a Supreme Court by President Akufo-Addo in May amidst protests from civil society groups, citizens and political parties over his public pronouncements.
Just before his last adjournment of the GHS 271-million case of causing financial loss against the ex-CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, and private businessman Alhaji Seidu Agongo, on Thursday, 28 July 2022, Justice Honyenuga told the court: “In pursuant to Article 112(2) of the Constitution, 1992, the Chief Justice has granted me a limited time to conclude this case”.
“In the circumstances, this court shall, in addition, sit on Tuesdays at 11 am for early disposal of this four-year-old case”, he announced, before adding: “In view of the pending vacation, the case is adjourned to October 3, 2022, at 10 am for continuation”.
During the period of hearing the case, Justice Honyenuga has come under public criticism for some comments he made both outside and inside the court.
Honyenuga Endorses Akufo-Addo for A Second Term
In late May 2020, Justice Honyenuga, who is also the Paramount Chief of the Nyagbo Traditional Area in the Oti Region, endorsed the candidature of President Nana Akufo-Addo when he delivered his welcome address to the President at a durbar of chiefs and people of the Afadjato South District.
“We wish to congratulate you for the excellent manner you are governing this dear country of ours, Ghana, and the significant gains made in the economy in your first term”, Torgbui Ashui Nyagasi V praised, adding: “It is true that you have won high admiration, not only in Africa but also in advanced democracies”.
“Your flagship programmes like the Free Senior High School, Planting for Food and Jobs – which has increased food production and has even led to exports; – One District-One Factory, among others, have increased food production and improved upon the standard of living of many Ghanaians”, the Court of Appeal Judge said in February 2020.
“Indeed”, he added: “For special mention is the Free SHS, which has broken boundaries and has greatly bridged the gap between the rich and the poor”, observing: “This programme has also broken the record, which was held by the first President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, who gave free education to our brothers and sisters in the northern part of Ghana”.
The chief continued thus: “Your Free SHS programme is unprecedented in the history of Ghana, in a first term, as it covers the whole country”.
Justice Honyenuga then called on Ghanaians to give President Akufo-Addo another term of office to implement his vision for the country.
“We wish to congratulate you for the excellent manner you are governing this dear country of ours; it is our hope that with your vision and the gains made in your first term, Ghanaians may consider giving you another four years,” he stated.
Justice Honyenuga was widely and heavily condemned for the endorsement, taking into consideration his position as a Court of Appeal Judge, who is barred from making such political endorsement per the code of their conduct.
Following the endorsement, a US-based lawyer and professor of accounting, Stephen Kwaku Asare (Kwaku Azar), said the action was a violation of the judicial code of conduct.
He expressed shock that a judge of the superior court could publicly endorse a candidate for political office in violation of the judicial code of conduct.
Prof Asare said on a Facebook post that: “Of course, we do not take our laws and codes seriously but judges should do a little better.”
“Of course, we do not take our laws and codes seriously but judges should do a little better. 128/1820 is a bona fide scam and sham. Da Yie!”
Also, Aide to Former President John Mahama, Mrs Joyce Bawah Motari, said the action was awful if a Court of Appeal’s Judge revealed the political colour of the judge.
The Volta Regional Secretariat of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) also described as “regrettable” and “unacceptable”, the endorsement of President Nana Akufo-Addo by Justice Honyenuga.
The NDC Secretariat, in a statement signed by the Regional Chairman, Henry Kwadzo Ametefe, said the chief’s endorsement violates the Judicial Code of Conduct.
“While taking due cognisance of the fact that Justice Honyenuga may have made those comments in his capacity as a traditional ruler, it is reprehensible and regrettable, especially for a man, who is supposed to know our laws better than any ordinary man and to uphold and respect same,” the statement said.
Code of Conduct For Judges Says
Rule 6 of the Code of Conduct for Judges and Magistrates, titled ‘Political and quasi-political activity’, states: “A judge should refrain from political activity inappropriate to his judicial office”.
Section A of Rule 6, which is in reference to the political conduct of judges, in general, says: “1. Notwithstanding Article 55(2) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, a judge or a candidate for appointment to judicial office should not: (a) Act as a leader or hold an office in a political organisation; (b) Publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for political office; (c) Make speeches on behalf of a political organisation; (d) Attend political gatherings; or (e) Solicit funds for a political organisation or candidate, or purchase tickets for political party dinners or other functions”.
As far as the chiefs are concerned, Section (1) of Article 276 of the 1992 Constitution states: “A chief shall not take part in active party politics, and any chief wishing to do so and seeking election to Parliament shall abdicate his stool or skin.”