Justice in the midst of a ‘Chamber Pot’

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson

When the head of an institution pays a working visit to his or her subordinates, the last thing one will expect to dominate the discussion is a chamber pot.

Chamber pot should not even be mentioned especially if that institution is the Judiciary, with the Chief Justice and the fourth most powerful person in the country as its head.

But on July 10, 2018, the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, witnessed a shocking incident when she was shown a chamber pot during an official visit to the Kasoa District Court in the Central Region.

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Apparently, the chamber pot was what the district magistrate, Ms Felicia Gandezi, uses when she needs to attend the nature’s call due to the absence of a private place of convenience for the magistrate in the court building.

An accused dock in one of the courtrooms (pictured above)

The story was the banner story on the July 11, 2018 issue of the Daily Graphic, the nation’s most circulated newspaper.

The reaction to the story was that of disdain, with expressions such as ‘aaa’ ‘eeeewww’ and ‘Graphic paa’ from some people.

A lawyer friend asked me why on earth the Daily Graphic used the ‘chamber pot’ angle with a story related to the Chief Justice.

“You guys could have managed the information and presented the story without the chamber pot aspect,’’ he told me.

I just laughed and replied that with the deplorable nature of some of the court premises in the country, management of information would not be in the interest of justice.

Accra Central District Court

Indeed, it will be a grave injustice if the story of the state of the Accra Central District Court complex is managed and written in a manner that is devoid of any ‘chamber pot’.

The court complex which houses eight district courts is located just behind the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in the heart of Accra.

But its appalling and unjustifiable state makes it a place not fit to carry out any business of the state, much more the dispensation of justice.

The deplorable road that leads to the Accra Central District Court Complex

Potholes and manholes

The first ‘injustice’ about the court premises is the state of the road that leads there.

Potholes are normal features of the road network in the country, but the holes that are scattered on the road that leads to the Accra Central District Court are not potholes, maybe six feet potholes, or better still manholes.

The road starts from the traffic light just opposite the Supreme Court Complex and passes through the Baiden Powell Hall, but from start to finish, it is an unpleasant ride made up of the shaking of the entire body and ending with damage to one’s car.

If you don’t want to damage your car, kindly park the car and walk, using the route that passes through the Arts Centre.

But if you decide to walk using the Baiden Powell route, then be prepared to embrace the dust because the dusty nature of the road turns a well-dressed court patron into a ‘galamseyer’.

Rain means no justice

Built in 1992 as a regional tribunal, the Accra Central District Court has not undergone any major renovation.

With its close proximity to the sea and years of neglect, the three-storey structure and its adjacent two-storey building is gradually peeling off and losing its form.

There are cracks all over the building, exposing the iron rods, a situation, which if not addressed, could bring the whole structure tumbling down like a pack of cards.

And yes, some of the court rooms become unusable during a downpour. This is because the roof was destroyed during a heavy storm, making the courtrooms, especially those at the top floor, flood when it rains.

“Just look at the place where people come to seek justice. Do you think they will have confidence in the justice delivery system when we operate in such structures?’’ a court clerk who wanted to remain anonymous said.

Cracks in the building that could lead to its total collapse

Chief Justice

Sources at the court have revealed that the Chief Justice has already paid a visit to the Accra Central District Court and has pledged to do everything within her power to fix the numerous challenges.

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), which has the mandate to maintain the structure, has also sent a number of officers to inspect the structure and has promised to renovate the dilapidated structure, but the myriad of problems facing the court still persist.

Under the Local Governance Act, 2016 (Act 936), assemblies are required to provide and maintain court buildings.

Ms Justice Akuffo has made the upgrading of court structures one of her priorities and has tasked the assemblies to up their game and provide more resources for the construction and maintenance of court structures.

Failure by the assemblies to do that, she says, will force her to close down what she describes as ‘abominable’ court buildings.

“We will close down courts that are in abominable buildings. The judiciary will not continue to accept horrible working environments,’’ she said at a swearing–in ceremony for newly appointed magistrates in Accra.

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Iron rods exposed as a result of the deteriorating nature of the building