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CJ orders closure of Adjaben District Court 2, says it poses health, environmental threat

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo (right), the Chief Justice, interacting with Ms Sedinam Awo Baloka (left), a Magistrate at the Teshie Nungua District Court.
Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo (right), the Chief Justice, interacting with Ms Sedinam Awo Baloka (left), a Magistrate at the Teshie Nungua District Court.

The Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, has ordered the closure of the Adjaben District Court 2, near the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) Head Office in Accra Central, because it does not provide a sound environment for justice delivery.

She also said that the building posed a health and environmental threat and, accordingly, directed the Judicial Secretary to start the process which would formally lead to the closure of the court.

The court was constructed with asbestos, a heat-resistant material which is harmful to humans.

Its fibre, when inhaled, can lead to serious health conditions such as mesothelioma, a type of cancer that affects the lung, heart and abdomen.

The Chief Justice gave the directive yesterday when she visited the two Adjaben District courts as part of her tour of courts in some parts of Accra.

She chastised the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), which used to have jurisdiction over the area, and the Korley Klottey Municipal Assembly, the new assembly in charge of the area, for allowing the building to stand all these years.

“People should not have operated from this building and I am surprised the assembly allowed it to happen.

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If this building is not pulled down, I will sue the assembly as a private individual for not providing a safe working environment for people,” she said.

The Korley Klottey Municipal Chief Executive (MCE), Nii Adjei Tawiah, promised the Chief Justice that the assembly would look for temporary premises for the court, while it worked towards putting up a new court building.

Closure of courts

This is not the first time Justice Akuffo has closed a court which is not conducive for justice delivery.

In March this year, she ordered the closure of the Accra Central District Court Complex, which contained eight courts, due to the dilapidated nature of the building.

Under the Local Governance Act, 2016 (Act 936), metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) are required to provide and maintain court buildings in their localities.

Justice Akuffo has made the upgrading of court structures one of her priorities and 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 said, would force her to close down what she described 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 when she recently swore in newly appointed magistrates in Accra.

Tour

During yesterday’s tour, the Chief Justice also visited the Teshie-Nungua District Court in the Ledzokuku municipality, the La District Court in the La-Dadekotopon municipality and the Abeka District Court in the Okaikoi North municipality.

She was accompanied on the tour by the Judicial Secretary, Ms Cynthia Pamela Akotoaa Addo; the President of the Association of Magistrates and Judges Ghana (AMJG), Mr Justice Senyo Dzamefe, and some directors of the Judicial Service.

Justice Akuffo started the tour by first visiting the Accra Circuit Court Complex, made up of 11 courts and located within the Supreme Court Complex, and the headquarters of the Judicial Service.

At the circuit court, it was discovered that only one of the 11 courts had a functioning airconditioner, while most of the pieces of furniture were either spoilt or in a bad state.

It was also discovered that the roof of some of the courtrooms leaked, a situation which made the courts uninhabitable when it rained.

Teshie-Nungua District Court

The Chief Justice descended heavily on officials of the Ledzokuku Municipal Assembly when she visited the Teshie-Nungua District Court due to its many structural defects and what she described as the lack of standards.

She was also not happy about the failure of the assembly to get a suitable place of abode for the magistrate, Ms Sedinam Awo Balokah, and directed the assembly to do that as quickly as possible.

She gave an order to the assembly to come up with a plan to build a befitting court within one month, else the Judicial Service would close down the court.

The Teshie District Court has a leaking roof which turns the courtroom into a flood zone when it rains. In such circumstances, court sittings have to be abandoned, a situation which the Chief Justice described as unacceptable and an affront to justice delivery.

She also said the court did not meet the standard of a court because of inadequate offices and the lack of space.

Such a problem, she said, did not allow services rendered by the court, such as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), to be done in confidentiality.

Justice Akuffo, accordingly, directed officials of the assembly to link up with the Judicial Service for the prototype of a standard court premises, as approved by the Judicial Service, before embarking on the construction of a new court.

“I am not happy with what I have seen. This place is not suitable for a court because it does not adequately serve the purpose of a court. Before the end of July you should give us a programme for the construction of a suitable court, else it will be closed down,” she directed.