Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Appeal Court jumps the gun—and Ghana suffers!!


Thursday, February 14, 2013
My good friends, the Woyome judgement debt scandal continues to remain what it is—a blot on the image of our government, the judiciary, and all others connected with the scandal.
It is certainly disturbing that even before the substantive case against Woyome could be tried to its logical conclusion, the Appeal Court, by a unanimous decision, has jumped the gun to order that accounts belonging to Woyome be released to him.

The Court ruled today that except the accounts held at the Agricultural Development Bank (through which the 51 million-Cedi judgement debt was channelled to him), all other accounts belonging to Woyome must be returned.


His accounts were frozen by the Economic and Organized Crimes Office following allegations that he defrauded the state by false pretense in the judgement debt scandal that rocked the country early 2011 (Myjoyonline, February 14, 2013).

We are alarmed at this turn of events, not necessarily because we want to judge Woyome at the bar of public opinion and crucify him. We are so alarmed by the fact that the case itself occurred in inexplicable circumstances and its trial has been mired in disturbing inefficiency and “hidden motives” on the part of State Prosecution. We are alarmed that the Appeal Court’s ruling came at a time that the real case hasn’t been concluded.
It is so because the State Prosecution has played a huge part in it by not prosecuting the case with the expected degree of competence and honesty. A cover-up? Or tacit complicity in stalling the trial?
How about the countless adjournments because the State Prosecutors have so far not been able to produce witnesses to help the court deal with the case as scheduled? We recall Woyome’s own open expression of anger about two weeks ago when the case was adjourned again!
We take note also that Woyome was hauled to court under worrisome circumstances. First, the Attorney-General’s Department had failed to prosecute him because it felt the “state had no case,” which was what Barton-Odro, then, Deputy Minister of Justice and Attorney-General had said.
But following negative public reaction—and the single-handed attempts by Martin Amidu, former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General to expose the complicity of officialdom in the scandal—the case was revived and sent to court only for it to be turned into a “go-and-come” syndrome.
This case hasn’t been dealt with yet for us to know the real truth behind the Woyome scandal.
Rather mysteriously, the Appeal Court has made a ruling that has virtually whitewashed Woyome and immediately absolved him.
Now that this pre-emptive decision has been made by the Appeal Court de-freezing his accounts and blessing his business interests, how can the lower court go ahead any more to deal with the substantive case? So, it is clear: CASE CLOSED in the middle of the trial!!
You see, in Ghana, when matters of this sort enter the judicial maze, they turn out to go this way. I am not surprised at all that the Appeal Court has jumped the gun to free Woyome of this burden of proving to Ghanaians how he came to take away that huge chunk of the national cake.
I have a hunch that there is a thick conspiracy for the truth to be hidden under the rug. Those in officialdom who have all along been fingered as the brains behind the scandal know how to pull strings; and the Appeal Court has only danced to the tune called for it. I don’t trust anybody connected with this case.
Had the Appeal Court given us the reason(s) for its ruling, we might have something to factor into the equation. But it hasn’t, which leaves us to continue scratching our heads.
Where did the Economic and organized Crimes Office (EOCO) go wrong in freezing Woyome’s accounts (and other assets?) while the case against him is still being tried?
I have said it several times already, and will continue to say so that happenings of this sort go a long way to demoralize the citizens. They erode public confidence in the government itself and will continue to hurt those whose sweat, toil, and blood nourishes the national coffers.
The reality is that while the poor Ghanaian workers kill themselves to sustain the economy, those who know the ropes of bribery, corruption, and plain thievery turn round to capitalize on the loopholes in the system to live fat on the system.
Woyome may be thumping his chest at this stage that he has been vindicated, but to some of us, he stands tainted. He is no role model to anybody like me. Until the real case is determined and the truth brought out into the open, he remains a villain to me.
With this current turn of events, the government stands equally culpable and will have it tough cleansing its public image as far as the judgement debt scandal is concerned. No amount of pontification by the President (claiming that he abhors corruption and will not tolerate it among his appointees) will salve any conscience so tainted by this Woyome case.
The rub is that we can’t continue to gloss over such a blatant display of incompetence or calculated thieving habits and hope to rebuild our country. That’s the more reason why the conduct of the Attorney-General’s department and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in this judgement debt issue deserves much scrutiny with the view to plugging all the loopholes.
One might think that the trial of Woyome would help expose those loopholes and measures to seal them to prevent future recurrences. Unfortunately, it was not to be so.
Do we honestly think that we can tackle bribery and corruption with our currently weak institutions of state that continue to be weakened by factors beyond their control?
It is a pity that those charged with the responsibilities for strengthening those institutions are themselves the first to start weakening them from within. So weakened, what can they do to fulfill our aspirations?
I have been one of the fiercest critics of this Woyome scandal ever since it broke out. I haven't ceased to condemn whatever happened to give Woyome that benefit. I still do, whether the Appeal Court has reversed the decision of the EOCO or not.
In Ghana, where the institutions of state are part of the problems that we have to solve instead of their solving our problems, what has happened shouldn't strike me as strange!! I condemn it outright. Let the Judiciary know that its acts of commission or omission constitute a major national disaster!!
I have had my say, and will come back with more as and when new developments crop up.
I shall return…
·         E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com
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