It is a “violation of the Judicial Code of Conduct” for a judge of the Superior Court to have endorsed a political candidate ahead of the 7 December 2020 general elections, Professor Stephen Kwaku Asare, a D&D Fellow in Public Law and Justice at Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), has said.
The KPMG Professor in accounting at the Fisher School of Accounting, who is better-known in Ghana as a public intellectual and scholar-activist, made the comment in reference to a report by the state-owned Daily Graphic that the Paramount Chief of the Nyagbo Traditional Area, Torgbui Ashui Nyagasi V (known in judicial circles as Justice Clemence Honyenuga), the judge sitting on the case between the state, on the one hand; and the former CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, on the other hand, had endorsed President Nana Akufo-Addo’s second term bid – in his capacity as a chief.
“We wish to congratulate you for the excellent manner you are governing this dear country of ours”, the Daily Graphic quoted Torgbui Ashui Nyagasi V as saying at a durbar of chiefs and people held in honour of President Nana Akufo-Addo during his recent three-day tour of the Oti and Volta regions.
“It is our hope that with your vision and the gains made in your first term, Ghanaians may consider giving you another four years”, the chief said.
The paper also reported him as imploring President Nana Akufo-Addo to ensure that the forthcoming 7 December elections were peaceful.
However, Prof Asare, whose contributions and activism within the legal and constitutional fraternity – including as plaintiff in a number of precedent-setting cases before the Supreme Court of Ghana – are helping to push the frontiers of governance and the rule of law, particularly in the area of constitutional law and practice, vented on social media, thus: “I was utterly surprised to read that a judge of the superior court has publicly endorsed a candidate for political office in clear violation of the judicial code of conduct”.
“Of course”, he noted, “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”, he asserted on his Facebook wall.
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”.
Section C of Rule 6 of the Code of Conduct for Judges and Magistrates, which deals with ‘Permissible Political Activity for Incumbent Judges’, state that: “A judge shall not engage in any political activity except (1) on behalf of measures to improve the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice; or (2) as expressly authorised by law”.
Also, Ghana’s 1992 Constitution bars chiefs from taking part in partisan politics.
As far as the chiefs are concerned, Section (1) of Article 276 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.”
Section (2) of the same article, however, says: “Notwithstanding clause (1) of this article and paragraph (c) of clause (3) of Article 94 of this Constitution, a chief may be appointed to any public office for which he is otherwise qualified.”
The Opuni-Agongo case, which has been cited on several public platforms, among a plethora of others by President Nana Akufo-Addo, who is seeking a second term, is presided over by Justice Honyenuga, a Court of Appeal judge with additional responsibility as High Court Judge.
Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, are on trial for their alleged engagement in acts that resulted in a financial loss of GHS271.3 million to the state in a series of fertiliser deals.
They have been charged with 27 counts, including wilfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, defrauding by false pretence, money laundering and corruption of a public officer.
The two have pleaded not guilty to all the charges and are on self-recognisance bail of GHS300,000 each.