The Director of Communications at the Presidency, Mr Eugene Arhin has explained that the Presidency cannot be blamed, if there was an error in Wednesday’s announcement of the suspension of some four High Court justices, in relation to bribery and corruption allegations against them.
Responding to a suggestion that the four High Court justices had already been suspended in 2015, Mr Arhin said, on April 28, 2018, the Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo wrote a letter to the President on the matter advising that the said four justices be suspended.
He said the President “did not act in a vacuum” and that he rather acted on the advice of the Judicial Council which was communicated to him through the Chief Justice."
A lawyer for the judges, Nii Kpakpo Samoa Addo had insisted that the judges had been suspended in 2015 and that the latest development amounts to “double suspension.”
This, he said was not proper and faulted the Presidency for not crosschecking before issuing a statement on the matter.
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To him, "what Eugene [Arhin] fails to understand is that when he receives the correspondence from the Chief Justice, the first thing that should have occurred to him is that this particular matter did not start from this particular President.
“It started from the former President and former Chief Justice so due diligence requires of him [Eugene] that he would have gone through the records to find out whether there was any correspondence in respect of these four judges from the former President or from the former Chief Justice because these two, the current Chief Justice and the current President cannot in good faith and good conscience be abreast with all the matters that are pertaining to this particular issue,” Nii Addo said in a radio interview on Accra based Joy FM, Wednesday evening.
According Nii Samoa Addo, even if the originating advice from the CJ “was in error, you [Presidency] were not bound by the error, that is why the Presidency has institutional memory, they should have gone through the archives and when I gave him [Eugene Arhin] a copy of the letter [Ayisi Addo’s earlier suspension] and drew his attention to it, rather than being humble and admit that I could have made a mistake, he claimed that the President just acted on the advice of the Judicial Council.
“Who told him that the President is bound by the advice of the Judicial Council. The President must make the ultimate decision whether to suspend or not and therefore when it comes out that these people are already on suspension… what he should have done was to have held on and go and check."
He said what has happened amounts to unconstitutionality, “you cannot suspend a judge twice.”
“The second part of the statement which was wrong that he did not even seem to appreciate is that when you look at Article 146, the Chief Justice is the one that makes the prima facie determination, it is not the committee, so how do you put in your statement and that one you cannot say it came from the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice never wrote in her letter that it was the committee, so that error too is it applicable to the Chief Justice”, he questioned. That is why I say this whole statement is full of mistakes.”
He subsequently called on Mr Arhin to “withdraw the statement” of May 9, 2018 announcing the suspension.
He said the Chief Justice was complying with the orders of the ECOWAS Court and “as we speak, the committee that is supposed to have sat on this impeachment proceedings, they have stopped and are awaiting the decision on the 30th, so this his statement is needless, if the people are already on suspension, what is the point.”
Eugene Arhin's response to Nii Kpakpo Samoa Addo
But responding to the lawyer, however, in a radio interview on Accra based Joy FM, Wednesday evening, Mr Arhin said he was “at a loss as to why Nii Kpakpo Samoa Addo is saying that I have to withdraw the statement and that it was made in an error, bla-bla-bla.”
“I can't in no way be blamed for that decision, that decision was taken by the Judicial Council and not by President Akufo-Addo, so at the end of the day, if anybody has any qualms with it, I mean you know where to go to.
“In the statement, I issued sometime this [Wednesday] afternoon, I made it clear that the decision by the President to suspend the four justices of the High Court was made as a result of an advice given to the President by the Judicial Council.
“The President on his own cannot get up and say he is suspending justices of High Court, he can’t do that. The constitution makes it clear that if you want to suspend any High Court judge, or a justice of a court, he [President] has to do that based on the advice of the Judicial Council."
Mr Arhin said: “In all honesty, I don’t know, this is much ado about nothing. If he has any issue with regard to what has been done, the Chief Justice signed that letter, he can easily go and vent his frustration on the Chief Justice and not on me or not on the President."
He insisted the President’s action was based on a decision taken by the Judicial Council “and so if you are frustrated, you can’t be frustrated at me [Eugene Arhin] or you can’t be frustrated at President Akufo-Addo.
Below is a copy of the Chief Justice's letter to the Presidency.