Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo has been petitioned to expedite investigations into impeachable allegations made against chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC) Charlotte Osei and her two deputies.
Civil society group, Center for National Affairs (CNA), which presented the petition to the CJ on Monday held a press conference in Accra urging Madam Akuffo to provide some assurances about when finality will be brought to the investigations.
Drawing comparisons with the 2013 election petition which challenged the EC’s declaration of President John Mahama as the winner of the 2012 presidential elections, CNA Executive Director Samuel Lartey said, even that petition which had graver consequences on Ghana’s democracy, economy, and diplomatic relations were completed within nine months.
“This petition before the CJ is not bigger than the election petition by any stretch of the imagination, it is not more serious or dire for our democracy than that gruesome legal battle yet nine months was enough to wrap it up”.
The 2013 election petition involved the EC, the President, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and several boxes of pink sheets and several hours of very laborious cross-examination.
“Why is it taking more than nine months to finish investigations against one state institutions?”, the Executive Director said and encouraged the Chief Justice to expedite work to end the “confusion” at the commission.
“Speed is not a virtue in justice delivery but a delay is also a vice”, he said.
The Center is convinced the delay is partly because the constitution gives discretionary powers to judges investigating the allegations.
The CNA, therefore, called on the Judicial Council to put together a Constitutional Instrument to provide guidelines and timelines to help the committee in the future event of another such petition against Electoral Commissioners.
“It is time for a CI to reduce discretion and create a greater level of certainty and predictability in the investigative process. Pass a Constitutional Instrument as soon as possible. Pass it to pass on the lessons of this unique experience. Our democracy needs it, let’s pass it”.
The Executive Director expressed worry that the Commissioners have not used the petition against them as an opportunity to mend relations and make peace despite the threat of impeachments.
Samuel Lartey said the Center is reliably informed that no meetings involving Charlotte Osei and her embattled deputies have been held to steer affairs at the Commission and staff are working under anxiety.
“Ghana’s democracy is on auto-pilot because of this so that while the world plays games in Russia, the Electoral Commission is playing games with our democracy. This must stop,” he said.
READ FULL PETITION
A Petition to hasten the Investigation ongoing on the Commissioners of the Electoral Commission
Her Ladyship the Chief Justice,
Fully aware of the enormous responsibility associated with your office in supervising compliance with democratic tenets enshrined in our 1992 constitution,
Aware of the current novelty before Her Ladyship in determining the fate of commissioners at the Electoral Commissioner following a petition for their removal,
Being a civil society organization with a key interest in governance,
We at the Centre for National Affairs do hereby request your esteemed office to consider this petition as a barometer of public interest in seeing a closure to protracted leadership crisis at the Electoral Commission and urge your expedition.
A petition was received by the Presidency on the 19th day of July 2017 from a concerned staff of the Electoral Commission, requesting the Chairperson, Madam Charlotte Osei be impeached based on a number of accusations leveled against her. A concerned citizen, Emmanuel Korsi Senyo, also submitted two petitions dated 25th July 2017 to the Presidency concerning the two Deputy Commissioners of The Electoral Commission
The President is following the provisions laid down in Article 146(3) of the 1992 Constitution, referred the petition to her Ladyship for the establishment of a prima facie case. Her Ladyship established a prima facie case against the Electoral Commission Chairperson and Deputies and constituted a Committee to investigate the concerns stated out in the petitions in accordance with Article 146.
As we gradually approach a year after the process was initiated, we as concerned citizens are still yet to know the finality of the matter due to the prolonged periods of investigation and reporting of recommendations by the sitting Committee.
Considering the following:
- A national referendum for the election of Metropolitan Municipal and District Chief Executives in 2019
- A referendum for the creation of the new Regions in 2019 and
- A National election for President and Members of Parliament in 2020;
which are issues of great national concern and critical indicators of our democratic progress? It remains important that the processes that are ongoing be expedited to bring finality to the matter. There is the need to also take into consideration the tendency for the prolonged nature of the matter to cause political tensions. It is a point worth noting that these proceedings if not duly expedited are capable of affecting our whole democratic setup.
We at Centre for National Affairs believe this delay is a result of the “exercise of discretionary powers” by the Chief Justice and the Commission set up to investigate the complaints. Where the Constitution under Article 146 provides the necessary procedure to handle petitions against Justices of a Superior Court, of which the Chairperson and her deputies fall under based on provisions in Article 44 Section 2 and 3, it fails to provide timelines for the completion of the various procedures. The timelines for these procedures are therefore wholly discretional in nature and wholly subject to the dictates of the authority in play.
Article 296(3) allows for judges to exercise discretionary powers without publishing a Constitutional Instrument or Statutory Instrument to govern the exercise of this power. However, Article 159 empowers the Chief Justice, acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Council and with the approval of the President, to enact Constitutional Instruments that provide regulations for the efficient performance of the functions of the Judicial Service and Council.
Using the above as a basis, we call on Her Ladyship to expedite the process that is currently ongoing concerning the Electoral Commission Chairpersons and to also enact a Constitutional Instrument that would serve as regulations for any such inquiries that may be brought before the Chief Justice’s Office in the future.
All well-meaning citizens of our beloved country, Ghana, would be provided with some air of relief if the investigations are expedited and the recommendations forwarded to the President for the pronouncement on the matter to be made. This would go a long way in helping the Electoral Commission function effectively after several months of what has been observed as a dysfunctional state of affairs at the election management body.