Friday, November 28, 2008

GBA Case Adjourned

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Friday, 28 November 2008

AN Accra Human Rights Court has fixed December 4 to rule whether or not to grant an interlocutory injunction to restrain the Ghana Bar Association from holding fresh election to elect a national president pending the final determination of a matter brought before it by three lawyers.

The court, presided over by Justice U.P Dery fixed the date yesterday after counsel for both parties had argued their case.

Nana Ato Dadzie,Chris Arcmann-Ackumey and James Abiaduka are asking the court to declare that the demand and the request by the National Executive Committee of the GBA on Nii Osah Mills to resign his position as president of the GBA were illegal and contrary to law.

The three further want the court to declare that comments which were purported to have been made by Mr Mills bordering on the incarceration of Tsatsu Tsikata were “lawful comments made in his legitimate position as national president of the GBA”.

However, the GBA is saying that the three do not have the capacity to institute the instant action and do not have a course of action to pursue, noting that Mr Dadzie and Mr. Abiaduka were not members in good standing.

At the court’s sitting yesterday, two journalists covering the proceedings were heckled and manhandled by two lawyers for their refusal to vacate their seat.

It all started when two young lawyers rudely asked journalists from the Ghana News Agency and Atlantis Radio to vacate their seat for two other lawyers.

When the courtroom, with a seating capacity of about 32 filled up, a lawyer asked the reporters in the room to vacate their seat for the lawyers some of whom did not have any case before the court.

The two journalists voluntarily gave their seats for the lawyers to occupy while they stood for well over 30 minutes before some seats became vacant for them to occupy.

Not too long afterward a lawyer who sat beside the two journalists, asked the reporter from Atlantis Radio to give his seat to another lawyer who had just entered. The reporter refused but was prevailed upon to do so.

The GNA reporter was also asked to leave her seat for a female lawyer but she declined and questioned why she should vacate her seat in a public gallery for a lawyer.

This, apparently, did not go down well with the lawyers who ordered her to “get up!”
Another reporter from the Daily Graphic who tried to intervene had her share of the heckling by another lawyer who sat behind her.

According to the reporters, the lawyers have no justification to ask them to vacate their seat in the public gallery.

The issue which dragged on even after the court proceedings attracted the attention of some senior lawyers who apologised to the media for the incident.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

$2.5m Agro-Inputs Dev. Projects Launched

By Stephen K. Effah
Thursday, 27 November 2008

A 2.5-million-dollar project to boost agricultural produc-tivity by increasing the availability, accessibility and affordability of quality agro-inputs in the rural parts of the country was launched in Accra on Tuesday.

The three-year project, known as the Ghana Agro-Dealer Development (GADD), would support 2,200 agro-dealers and 150 seed producers to make agro-inputs more accessible to 850,000 small-scale farmers in order to lift them out of poverty through productivity.

Under the project, being funded by the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), agro-dealers would be trained in business skills, safe handling and use of modern technology besides being linked to seed and fertilizer suppliers to be able to serve farmers effectively.

It would be implemented by the International Centre for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC) and the Ghana Agricultural Association Business and Information Centre.

Current statistics put the use of agro-inputs in the country at 10 per cent of the recommended levels due to the underdeveloped marketing system.

President of AGRA, Dr Namanga Ngongi, underscored the important role of agro-dealers in ensuring productivity noting, “nothing is more urgent than ensuring that farmers have access to the inputs they need to increase farm productivity”.

He said efforts to increase access to agro-inputs in Ghana and Africa in general has been a major challenge as a result of geographical locations, and therefore urged all stakeholders to ensure that it is addressed.

Dr. Ngongi urged Ghanaian small-scale farmers to significantly increase their use of improved seeds and other modern inputs so as to increase their crop yields and incomes.

Dr. Kofi Debra, IFDC Representative in Ghana, said the project would bring to an end the issue of late arrival of agro-inputs for farmers in the country.

He said to ensure that the agro-dealers stock up and expand their operation to the rural areas, 500,000 dollar credit guarantee to cushion commercial banks against losses and make more funds would be made available to them.

In a speech read on his behalf, Minister of Agriculture, Ernest Debrah, said that although Ghana depends on agriculture for economic development, it faces challenges arising from globalisation, climatic changes, increased petroleum and fertiliser process.

He said a draft seed, fertiliser and crop protection bills are being worked on by the ministry and would soon be placed cabinet, noting that the appropriate environment would be created to protect agro dealers, farmers and consumers alike when it is passed.

'Goodies' Jailed

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Thursday, 27 November 2008.

Music producer, Isaac Abeiku Aidoo, popularly known as “Goodies,” and his wife, could not hold back their tears yesterday when an Accra Circuit Court handed him a 13-year jail term in hard labour for narcotic related offences.

Aidoo was sentenced to 13 years on each of the two counts of attempted exportation and possession of narcotic drugs without lawful authority. The sentence which took retrospective effect from April 23, 2008, will run concurrently.

The “extempore judgment” by the judge Mr. Mahamadu Iddrissu, came shortly after Aidoo pleaded for leniency because “I did not know that the substance I swallowed was cocaine.”

“My lord, I’m not a drug dealer and I have never involved myself in any drug problem before. I don’t smoke and don’t drink. How on earth would I put myself in this situation,” he pleaded in a trembling voice and with bowed head.

“I have not even seen cocaine before. I am somebody I don’t involve myself in such things. I did not know what I was carrying in my stomach. I am very humble” Aidoo pointed out at the end of his defence.

His wife, who sat alone at the back of the court room dressed in a red pair of trousers and a red-and-white top could not control her emotions as she also broke down in tears.

Aidoo, who is the Chief Executive of Goodies Music Production was sneaked from the court cells by Prison officers to prevent waiting press photographers from taking shots of him.

Although in court Aidoo wore a white decorated T-shirt over a blue pair of trousers when he eventually emerged from the cells he was in a green shirt.

Before he was taken from the courtroom to the court cell, his armed escort warned journalists not to take pictures of Aidoo when he was brought out.

In his “unsworn defence” in court Aidoo said that he was surprised when officials of the Narcotic Board told him that the substance he expelled upon his arrest in April 23 was cocaine.

“I was surprised because I never knew it was cocaine. I am very sorry for putting myself in such a situation. I have three children and a wife that I love so much and I am sorry I have disappointed them,” he said.

He therefore pleaded with the court for leniency, saying “I am pleading with you to give me mercy”.

Throughout the 20 minute defence, Aidoo, who appeared remorseful could not speak up and occasionally looked in the direction of his wife and then wiped his face with his palms.

The judge urged him to “take heart and put yourself together”.
Aidoo, told the court that he lived in Ghana but also worked in London raising funds to support
Ghana’s delegation to the Beijing Olympics.

He said he was going for a meeting in London when a spiritualist friend of his in London, whom he named as William asked him to bring him “something whose contents he did not know.

According to Aidoo, William told him that the thing was for spiritual purposes and didn’t want people to see”. He said William offered to give him 3,000 pound sterling upon delivery of the substance.

He said he was so overwhelmed by the huge sum promised him that he did not bother to find out the nature of the substance and readily agreed to the deal.

He said that on April 23, when he got to the airport, the narcotic officials asked him to surrender his travelling documents since they suspected him of carrying drugs.

“I told them no and I suggested to them to take me for an X-ray because I knew I was not having drugs.”

He said he was then taken to the 37 Military Hospital for an X-ray after which he was told that he had foreign materials in his stomach to “which I replied yes, but it’s not narcotic drugs”.

He was then taken to the Narcotics Control Board office “where I expelled the suspected drugs”, later, the officials told him that the substances he expelled were found to be cocaine upon testing by the Ghana Standards Board.

Mr.William Kpobi, Chief State Attorney, who led the prosecution team yesterday, described Aidoo’s defence as “overwhelming” and reminded the judge of the minimum sentence under the law for narcotics.

Responding to the plea, Mr.Mahamadu said he was not going to give him the minimum sentence under the law, but “he’ll definitely get beyond 10 years. In the circumstances I’ll give him 13 years”.

He said that the accussed had opportunity at the initial stages of the trial to have pleaded guilty and asked for mitigation of sentence, but for dragging the issue on, there was no way he would give him the minimum sentence.

Mr. Mahamadu said that the sentence is to send a signal to all that narcotic drug deals would not be countenance, in the country regardless of the personality involved.

He advised lawyers to examine cases thoroughly and dispassionately before taking them, so that they would not take “unpalatable cases”.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Judges Prepare For Poll Disputes

By Stephen K.Effah & Doris A. Antwi
Tuesday, 18 November 2008

SIXTY-FIVE judges and 10 experts in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) are being prepared to effectively and expeditiously handle election related disputes that may arise from the December polls.

The two-day training workshop, which began yesterday for Court of Appeal and High Court judges, will expose the participants to the electoral process, as well as procedural and substantive laws governing the adjudication of electoral disputes and offences.

Chief Justice Georgina Wood who opened the workshop, noted that the specialized nature of electoral adjudication made it “absolutely imperative” that judges were sensitized on their role.

In view of the constitutional mandates of courts to resolve all electoral disputes arising from elections, she said, “it is crucial that judges are adequately prepared to meet the challenges of adjudicating petitions that may arise from the upcoming elections”.

Mrs. Wood said “non-violence is what Ghanaians are seeking, before, during and after the December 7, polls so that they can carry on with their legitimate business in a peaceful manner.

To this effect, she said “they are counting on all the agencies mandated to oversee the conduct of the elections to manage their affairs in such a manner as will promote and ensure free, fair and transparent elections.”

The Chief Justice said “Ghana has no option than to do everything within its power to consolidate and deepen its democracy, as well as build on the socio-economic gains made so far.

“Duty calls us to exercise our mandate competently, that is fairly, effectively and expeditiously in consonance with the mission statement of the judicial service,” she told the judges.

Mrs Wood said some people have understandably questioned the applicability of ADR in election adjudication but noted that “in the context of election related litigation, ADR is not about power sharing.

“Court-connected ADR is part of mainstream judicial practice and is already being patronized by willing parties at the District Courts in particular.

The Chief Justice said that the possibility that a dispute may revolve solely around computation of figures in which case ADR might prove a better alternative, should not be lost on them.

Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan lauded the judiciary for the workshop which he described as timely, as Ghana goes to the polls.

He said that the work of the Commission is subject to judicial review; hence, equipping the judges on the electoral processes is important.

Judge Slams 3 Investigators

By Stephen K. Effah & Doris Antwi
Thursday, 20 November 2008

A Circuit Court Judge yesterday reprimanded three police investigators for their lackadaisical attitude towards cases before him, saying their behaviour was affecting the speedy trial of the cases.

At the court’s sitting yesterday, the judge, Iddrisu Mahamadu, did not mince words in rebuking Detective Corporal Anokye Amaniampong, a police investigator with the Nima Police, for continuously holding two accused persons in police cells since August 2007.

Mr.Mahamadu said although the records in the case dockets indicated that the two accused persons were in prison custody, they were indeed being held at the Nima police station.

This was after counsel in one of the cases drew the judge’s attention to the fact that Cpl. Amaniampong was holding his client in the Nima Police cells instead of Prison custody and had failed to bring the accused to court.

This information infuriated the judge who asked the investigator, who had just brought the accused to court, why he was holding the accused in police custody instead of prison custody.
Cpl. Amaniapong answered that he was keeping the accused in police custody because of transportation difficulties. That explanation did not go down well with the judge who remarked: “How dare you!”

“You think we are joking here! Without shame you can come here to tell us because of transportation difficulties you are keeping the accused in police custody, instead of prison custody”, the judge queried.

Mr. Mahamadu enquired: “Is it because the family members of the accused would bring food and bring you your share? How on earth can you do that? You have decided to write your own laws and implement them in your own ways.”

He said such attitudes of some investigators often fueled the perception the public had of the judicial system. “The impression is that there is some kind of corruption,” he added.

Ghana, he said, has good laws but the attitude of its people “is what is creating all the mess”.
Similarly, the judge expressed concerns about the attitudes of Hans Addai and Edward Asante, both police investigators who were not in court yesterday, noting that they had failed to bring narcotics exhibits in the case they were handling to court for an order for their destruction.

He said he even doubted whether the exhibits were still in the custody of the police in view of the failure on the part of the two investigators to bring them for destruction as required by law.

Mr.Mahamadu said that by law, once the plea of accused persons were taken, a large quantity of the exhibits must be destroyed to leave just a little amount to be used as evidence in the case, especially in the likely event of an appeal.

He said that it was important to let the public see those narcotic drug exhibits destroyed all the time.

He expressed disgust at the disappearance of the two investigators from court room anytime they brought accused persons.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lotto Operators Press On With Legal Tussle

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The Ghana Lotto Operators Association (GLOA) appears to be unrelenting in its legal struggle to ensure that it remains in business in spite of the ban on private lotto business operation in the country.

It has initiated yet another action at the Court of Appeal to restrain the National Lottery Authority from implementing the Fast Track High Court’s ruling of August 20, which outlawed the operation of private lotto business.

The application, expected to be moved on December 3, is in view of a pending determination of an appeal against the Fast Track High Court’s ruling.

An initial application filed on August 21 to stay the execution of the court’s decision, was thrown out last Tuesday by another Fast Track High Court, presided over by Justice K.A. Ofori-Atta, for lack of proper assertion of their right to law of equity.

The legal tussle between the NLA and the GLOA resulted from the passage of the National Lotto Act 722, which received presidential assent on December 27, 2006, and established the NLA.

In an affidavit in support of the application, the GLOA described the dismissal of their earlier application for injunction pending an appeal, as “wrong, improper and ultra vires”.

It is praying the Court of Appeal to restrain the NLA from interfering in their work or property rights while they await the determination of the appeal.

The GLOA said the appeal has good grounds and has a great chance of succeeding, given the serious errors that culminated in the August 20 ruling of Justice Asante.

“The refusal of the instant application would render over 500,000 people jobless when no compensation has been available to cater for their redundancy,” it stated.

The GLOA said a decision of the appellate court reversing the ruling of the Fast Track Court would be rendered nulled if the enforcement of the said ruling is not injuncted pending the determination of their instant appeal.

The GLOA on August 13, 2007, began the action at the High Court and applied for an interlocutory injunction against the NLA, which was granted, until the determination of the matter.

However, since the NLA raised the issue of constitutionality, the matter went to the Supreme Court because the law required that proceedings concerning such matters should be stayed for determination by the Superior Court to serve as a guide to the trial court.

On March 14, 2008, the Accra High Court, presided over by Justice Anthony Abada, granted an interlocutory injunction filed by the GLOA to restrain the NLA from interfering with the property rights of lotto operating businesses of the plaintiffs.

According to the court, the outcome of the case at the Supreme Court would guide it in its decision in the case because the issue of constitutionality had been raised by the NLA.

On July 23, the Supreme Court unanimously declared that the National Lotto Act 722, in no way violates the Constitution, especially the fundamental human rights provisions and the Directive Principles of State Policy, as stated by the GLOA.

It said that the GLOA is not at the mercy of the state in seeking to participate in the state’s regulatory lottery industry and directed that the licensing regime required to participate in the business has to conform to the standards in Article 296 of the Constitution.

0.3m GH Cedis To Be Disbursed Under CISP

By Stephen K. Effah
Saturday, 01 November 2008

The Cultural Initiatives Support Programme (CISP), is to disburse GH¢300,000 as small grant to individuals, associations and organisations engaged in the country’s arts and culture business to undertake activities and projects aimed at enhancing the sector.

This was announced by the Programme Coordinator, Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, in Accra on Wednesday.

The CISP is a three-year programme prompted by the need for the country to make up for the shortfalls and weaknesses in the implementation of its cultural policy. The two million-euro grant is being provided by the European Union.

The programme in its first phase disbursed GH¢150,000 to 50 individuals and organisations in the sector for various programmes which sought to promote arts and culture as a means to fighting poverty.

With the launch, Mr.Gyan-Apenteng said, individuals and organisations in the sector have up to December 15, to submit proposals for consideration.

He said the grants to be disbursed were meant for activities and projects related to cultural heritage, performing and fine arts, crafts, film and audio-visual art, as well as language and literary arts.

He said the maximum grant to be given an individual, association or organisation under the second phase will be GH¢16,000, an increase over the GH¢5000 given under the first phase.

He said by January next year, all the processing and selection of beneficiaries would have been completed for contracts to be signed before disbursing the funds to them.

On eligibility, he said, the individuals or organisation applying must be recognised as being in the arts and culture field, either by registration with the Registrar General, the Centre for National Culture and District Assemblies among others.

The Coordinator said one of the main objectives of the programme was to create work and wealth in order to fight poverty through the undertaking of creative and artistic endeavours.

He said the first phase of the project was able to bring out the depth of talent and creative aspirations of the country; “but we are also equally aware of the extent to which lack of resources and support have stifled the nurturing of people’s creative talents.

“This is why this programme has come as a godsend for the creative sector and this fact is highlighted by the award of these grants,” he said.

Mr.Gyan-Apenteng said under the first phase, training workshops were organised for administrators of cultural institutions, theatre technicians, journalists reporting on culture, and craftsmen and women to equip them to be more effective.

He said such training workshops would be repeated in the second phase which he said was expected to attract an even bigger number of participants.

The co-ordinator said a monitoring and evaluation system had been put in place under the programme to ensure that the beneficiaries use the grants for its intended purpose and as well to put them on track in their projects.

A representative of the European Commission Delegation in Ghana, Ute Mohring, said the EU acknowledges the fundamental role of culture in societies, noting “Culture is recognised as an important part of EU cooperation with Africa”.

With CISP, she said, the EU intended supporting the National Cultural Strategy of Ghana by funding activities in the areas of human resource development, employment and income generation.

A member of the CISP Steering Committee, Diana Hopeson, described culture as the very fabric of life, hence its development should help the country’s development as well as its people.

She stressed the need to “preserve the country’s rich culture” so that our history will be preserved in that regard and urged all those in the sector to put in their proposal.

Two Lawyers Clash In Court

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Tempers flared up yesterday at an Accra Fast Track High Court between two lawyers over an alleged improper transfer of a case from one judge to another.

The case is between the National Lottery Authority (NLA) and the Ghana Lotto Operators Association (GLOA).

What initially started as an argument between Aurelius Awuku and Kizito Bayuo, counsel for the GLOA and NLA, respectively, almost degenerated into personal attacks.It all began when Mr. Awuku drew the attention of then presiding judge, Mr K.A. Ofori-Atta to the fact that the case before him was not properly laid as required by law.

He explained that the case was before another judge, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, as at the last adjourned date. “We just heard that the matter is before you.

My clients are not aware of how the case was brought before you”, he said.

Mr Awuku argued that there was nothing on record indicating that the case had been transferred from Justice Asante to Justice Ofori-Atta stressing, that “the (court) registrar has no power to transfer case. It’s only the Chief Justice” who can do so”.

He said he was not aware of whether or not there had been any such transfer by the Chief Justice, and prayed the court to ensure that due process was followed. “Justice should be seen to be done”.

He alleged that “somebody just made a phone call and the case was brought before Justice Ofori-Atta,” he advised the judge to wash his hands from it (the case) if proper procedure for case transfer is not done.

“I’m prepared to vouch. He said, adding that “there are other matters I do not want to say at the Bar”, Mr Awuku said.

“As far as we are aware, the case is before Court One (Justice Asante). There is no order from the Chief Justice that the case has been transferred to High Court Two (Justice Ofori Atta),” he pointed out.

But Mr.Bayuo, unhappy about the allegations by his colleague retorted: “How much are we getting from this case? What I have in this case is my reputation.”

He described Mr.Awuku’s attitude as “most reprehensible” and said, “That’s the end of our friendship”. With this, he angrily hit his table with his hands.

Mr. Bayuo said Mr Awuku’s action inferred that Justice Ofori-Atta was corrupted. “You should be bold to say he is corrupted.”

The development prompted Justice Ofori-Atta to calm down the nerves of the two lawyers who had otherwise, had cordial relationship. They then apologised for their actions after the court’s intervention.

Justice Ofori-Attah condemned the action by the two lawyers noting that it was the first time he had seen and heard them do that, adding “this is not proper,” and warned them not to let that happen again.

On how the case was brought before him, Justice Ofori-Atta said that it was brought to him in his chambers by the Court Registrar in view of the fact that Justice Asante was on his annual leave.

In the case, the GLOA is seeking an interlocutory injunction to stay the execution of a ruling by an Accra Fast Track High Court which outlawed the operations of private lotto in the country.

The GLOA and six others filed for stay of execution of the court’s decision pending the determination of an appeal against the ruling, but the court at yesterday’s sitting refused to grant the injunction.