Johnson Asiedu Nketia — National Chairman of the NDC, Frank Davies  —  NPP legal practitioner
Johnson Asiedu Nketia — National Chairman of the NDC, Frank Davies — NPP legal practitioner
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NPP, NDC in tussle over ambulance case

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) has rejected calls for the resignation of the Attorney-General (A-G) and Minister of Justice, Godfred Dame, describing the calls as misplaced and unwarranted.

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At a news conference in Accra Tuesday [May 28, 2024], the NPP, led by Frank Davies, a legal practitioner, said the Attorney-General would remain resolute in the discharge of his work. The NPP’s vehement stance was in reaction to a call by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) for the immediate and unconditional resignation or dismissal of the Attorney-General (A-G) and Minister of Justice, Godfred Dame, for bringing the high office into disrepute and public opprobrium.

The party said Mr Dame was not fit to hold himself out as the A-G and Minister of Justice, as well as the leader of the Ghana Bar for inducing a third party to testify falsely against the Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, in the ongoing ambulance trial.

Additionally, the party also demanded the immediate prosecution of the A-G for multiple violations of the laws of Ghana. “We wish to make it clear that should President Akufo-Addo fail to prosecute him, a future NDC government will prosecute Godfred Dame for this heinous crime of fabrication of evidence,” it warned.

Court hearing

However, the judge hearing the case in which a former Deputy Finance Minister and Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, and one other person are standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss of €2.37 million to the state over an ambulance deal, has urged parties to be responsible in their comments on the case.

Her advice followed the public discourse on the case after the businessman in the case, Richard Jakpa, alleged on Thursday that the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice had been calling him at odd hours during cross-examination.

Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, who adjourned the matter to Tuesday, June 4, this year, to rule on an application filed by lawyers of Dr Ato Forson observed that there was too much public commentary on the matter.

“If anyone will make any commentary which looks like it will scandalise the court in any way, it will not be well,” she said, cautioning both parties from the defence and the prosecution sides. 

NPP reaction

“If it is the firm belief of the NDC and Ato Forson that no loss had occasioned the state from his conduct, then they should remain faithful to our judicial system and cease these malicious orchestrations targeted at bastardising our judicial system to prevent him from standing trial to its conclusion.

“We are clear in our minds that the calls for the resignation of the Attorney General is misplaced, unwarranted and this would not put any spokes in the prosecution of Dr Forson and his associates,” he said.

Mr Davies added that since the assumption of the case, the NDC had made several attempts to stultify his work by spending what he described as the longest periods in vetting him with the hope of impeaching him and a motion of censure to remove him.

He said since the commencement of the trial, the NDC had made several attempts to cajole the Attorney-General in order for him to discontinue the prosecution, citing what he described as pressure from every angle, including former President Mahama, the leadership of the Minority in Parliament, clergy and business friends of Ato Forson.

“This pressure stems from some warped and baseless logic of the NDC that Ato Forson’s prosecution is politically motivated and its leader in Parliament should be immune from prosecution even when the facts indicate conduct resulting in financial loss to the state,” he said.

He described the allegation by Mr Jakpa as only a further ploy contrived to curtail the prosecution of Ato Forson and smear the Attorney-General’s integrity and reputation.  He, however, said the plot would also not see the light of day as the NPP believed firmly that public officials, regardless of social standing, needed to be equally accountable for their use of public resources, adding, “Needless to say that the law is no respecter of persons.”

Disciplinary action

Speaking at a press conference in Accra yesterday on the alleged unprofessional and criminal conduct by the A-G in the ambulance case, the National Chairman of the NDC, , further urged the General Legal Council to commence disciplinary proceedings against Mr Dame and his disbarment for conduct unbecoming of a lawyer and more importantly, the leader of the Ghana Bar.

“We demand a publicly televised parliamentary enquiry into this and other reports of judicial manipulations by Godfred Dame to censure Mr Dame to prevent the recurrence of such judicial manipulations,” he said.

Alleged conversation

Mr Nketia said the NDC had in its possession, a series of recordings in which the A-G was heard “goading, urging, impressing upon and coaching Mr Jakpa to bear false testimony against Dr Forson”.

He subsequently requested for the 16-minute and five-second telephone conversation between the A-G and Richard Jakpa, the third accused in the ambulance purchase trial, and a local representative of Big Sea General Trading Limited, a company based in Dubai to be played.

The conversation took place on April 9, 2024, a day before Mr Jakpa was due to testify in the ongoing case. The event, which was also used to display on a screen WhatsApp chats between the A-G and Mr Jakpa, attracted some NDC bigwigs, including former Attorney-Generals and Ministers of Justice-Betty Mould-Iddrisu and Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, as well as the Minority Chief Whip, Kwame Governs Agbodza.

Court proceedings

The judge, who told the lawyers that she had so far not heard anything prejudicial about discourses on the matter, said it was important for persons making comments on the matter to be careful.

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“We live in a country where a lot of us don’t understand the workings of the law and the most educated people may not understand the workings of the law and the court.  “At the end of the day, the public does not have a decision to make, the only person who has a decision to make is yours truly (me) so please allow me to have peace of mind to be able to make a decision,” she said.

She added that the legal profession depended heavily on reputation and that judges were people appointed based on sound moral character and proven integrity,  saying “Nobody should go about casting a slur on the judiciary”.

“We are not interested in your politics, we’re not politicians and we don’t want to be. We are not politicians and we don’t want to be, stay in your arena and let us stay in ours,” the judge said. 

Comment

Meanwhile, the National Communications Officer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was cautioned over his comments on the trial. The judge drew the court’s attention to a comment to the effect that an accused person could call a judge.

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Justice Asare-Botwe, who was not comfortable with the comment, cautioned the parties about the public commentary on the matter. However, Sammy Gyamfi, owned up to the exact statement the presiding judge was referring to.

According to him, he said; “If somebody can call an accused person without his lawyer then that person can call a judge”, emphasising that he was not referring to the judge in the matter. The judge said the statement was of no relevance, urging him never to forget that he was a lawyer. 

Background

The two have been accused of causing a financial loss of €2.37 million to the state in a deal to purchase 200 ambulances for the country between 2014 and 2016. They have pleaded not guilty to counts of wilfully causing financial loss to the state, abetment to wilfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procurement Act and intentionally misapplying public property. 

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