The vetting of the President’s nominee for the position of Special Prosecutor, Mr Martin Alamisi Burns Kaiser Amidu, on Tuesday lived up to its billing as the mother of all vettings.
In no time when the vetting got underway, the nominee allayed fears of bias when given the nod, indicating that corruption had no political party colours.
Right after his swearing in at 11:20 a.m., Mr Amidu effortlessly began fielding a series of questions by members of the Appointments Committee of Parliament, giving an early indication that he was very ready for the novel post of Special Prosecutor created by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government.
Mr Amidu’s nomination by the President generated mixed reactions from both the Majority and the Minority in Parliament. While some Members of Parliament (MPs) were excited about his nomination, others were not too pleased and were, therefore, ready with tough questions for him at the vetting.
However, the demeanour of Mr Amidu, a former Deputy Attorney-General and Minister of the Interior, who entered the vetting room spotting a brown hat, showed that he was more than ready to face the bullet.
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Answering questions during his over seven-hour vetting, the nominee said repeatedly that when given the nod, his office would go after anyone who had embezzled state funds without consideration to political colouration.
Mr Amidu gave the first signal when responding to a question by the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, on the role he (Amidu) had played as the Chairman of the Public Agreements Board during the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) era, as stated in his curriculum vitae.
Mr Amidu drew an uproar from the audience at the vetting when he stated: “If you want anybody who will be meticulous in investigations and prosecution, the President has made the best choice for you. If you want somebody who will look the other way, just disapprove me.”
On the question of legal mutual assistance, as posed by the MP for Nsawam, Mr Osei Bonsu Amoah, he responded that it “gives us opportunity for those who think they are smart enough to put their money abroad and go through the Kotoka International Airport because they are exempted from very critical screening and deposit it abroad”.
“We will trace them and they will have to decide whether they will come and pay reparation, bring the money back or we deal with it.
“So those who think they have hidden something abroad, maybe they don’t need to approve me because if they do, I will find it. I have the capability; I have done it before and if you approve me it will be done,” he stated.
Responding to a question on fairness as posed by the MP for Hohoe, Dr Bernice Adiku Heloo, he said: “I can’t be bias. I am fair. Even if you are my brother, I will hire a lawyer for you.
“If anyone steals money, he will be considered a criminal, not a member of a political party.”
Mr Amidu said one of the reasons given for the various coup d’états in Ghana was corruption, which constituted slippages and leakages.
“So if in the past there were those slippages and leakages resulting in people being shot at the firing squad by no less a regime but the June 4 regime, which later metamorphosed into the PNDC under which I served and whose ideals I am to protect, I am committed to what I started as a young man and served until January 2003,” he said.
On ways that he would employ to fight corruption, he said it would not be prudent to talk about the steps he would take and divisions he would set up for that cause when he had not been approved.
He, however, added that when he, his deputies and the board had been appointed and approved, with the complement of staff, “I will lead them to explore ways of catching every thief, so that if my employees are taking bribe, I will have a way of knowing that they are.”
“We have to give this office a trial. We have to set up strong institutions if we must succeed,” he added, cautioning that “if we don’t set up a strong institutions, we are going to replicate the office of the special prosecutor as we did with other institutions and we will have a problem”.
Act 2017: Office of the Special Prosecutor
Asked how he would work with the Attorney-General (A-G) to realise the objectives of the act that established the Special Prosecutor’s Office, Mr Amidu said: “The Special Prosecutor’s Office Act will not be constitutional unless the Special Prosecutor works under the authority of the A-G.”
He, however, noted that it did not mean the Special Prosecutor had lost his independence, adding that although Article 88 of the 1992 Constitution gave the A-G certain powers, the Special Prosecutor could still work independently under the A-G.
Speaking on how independent the Special Prosecutor would be, Mr Amidu said “even under the code of ethics of lawyers in Ghana, every lawyer is an independent contractor”.
“If you sell your conscience to your colleague lawyer, you are subject to discipline by the disciplinary committee,” he explained.
He said he got amazed when he heard that lawyers had been directed by the A-G, adding: “Any lawyer who takes blind instructions from the A-G I will call a ‘zombie’ because you are acting contrary to the ethics of the legal profession in Ghana.”
Answering a question posed by the MP for Bawku Central, Mr Mahama Ayariga, on the significance of the Special Prosecutor, Mr Amidu said while he had recommended that the A-G’s office and that of the Special Prosecutor be strengthened, once the President had given his word to set up a Special Prosecutor’s Office, he had a moral obligation to fulfill the promise and he should do it within the confines of the 1992 Constitution.
He said he accepted the nomination to the office because it was a new office and that he had already been committed to fighting corruption.
“Corruption has done so much damage to this country; in conflict resolution, it is called structural violence – it is an invisible violence that kills millions without anybody seeing it.
“Taking millions for oneself under illegal circumstances deprives people of good health, education and all the developmental facilities,” he explained.
He told the committee that he wanted to set up a credible institution with a credible culture to seal leakages and seepages, adding: “If we succeed, we won’t need foreign aid. If leakages at the ports are sealed, we won’t need to go for foreign aid.”