By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015
Folks, some of us have over the years written off our judicial service as a “mafia system”— a can of rotten worms—operating to the advantage of the pipers paying its officials. We have called for action to be taken to rid the service of bad nuts; but nothing significant has been done beyond the rhetoric from the Judicial Service, the General Legal Council, the Ghana Bar Association, and other analogous groups inclined toward justice delivery (Association of Judges and Magistrates—or something like that) which irritates us.
We haven’t relented. Lo and behold, the moment of contrition has come and there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth by those who couldn’t keep their guard up. And we are enthusiastically monitoring the situation, seeing their plight unfold all the more, and wondering whether the end of the beginning has come to shape up our judiciary.
The ground-shaking revelation of corruption in the judiciary by Anas Aremeyaw Anas is, indeed, taking its toll on the 34 judges/magistrates and over 100 officials of the Judicial Service caught on tape indulging in impropriety to subvert the law and morality. We hear some of them have collapsed while others have contracted a mild stroke and are in hospital. Some are said to have begun returning official property in their custody, preparatory to leaving the service on account of their being caught pants down indulging in the very acts for which they have jailed culprits appearing before them.
The revelation is stomach-churning also. It confirms long-held allegations of rot in the judiciary. It also reinforces demands for drastic action to clean such an arm of government. But who is to bell the cat?
Even though we hear that the Chief Justice and the Judicial Council have initiated measures to investigate the matter, we are not persuaded that such a move will solve the systemic problems facing the judiciary. After all, who in that arm of government can we trust now that Anas has shown what the judges have all along been denying? And how many more of the judges/magistrates and officials of the Judicial Service not featured in Anas’ records are out there, operating to our blind side?
We have our plates really full at this point. The significance of the revelation of this rot in the judiciary goes beyond the mere punitive measures to be taken against the culprits. After all, the culprits already have their back to the wall and know deep down their hearts that they can’t escape punishment. But what purposes will the punishment serve? To deter others from indulging in such practices? Or to motivate them to adopt more sophisticated means to perpetrate such acts of impropriety?
Merely punishing the judges and magistrates or the over 100 officials of the judicial service implicated in the recordings won’t solve the problem facing the judiciary. It will only leave us with more worries. In the interim, the justice delivery process will be disrupted as replacements for the punished culprits aren’t easily available to deal with cases at the courts. It means more dragging of cases and the deterioration of the situation, which may even catalyze worse attempts at influencing the judges and officials. If the gap isn’t filled soon, what should we expect?
We note also that the entire judicial system is rotten to the core, meaning that the strategies used by the culprits aren’t new. They have been in operation all these years and attracted negative public reaction only to be parried away by high-ranking officials of the judiciary or the General Legal Council as calculated attempts at discrediting the judiciary.
We recall the allegations made by Dr. Raymond Atuguba, Amaliba, Chris Ackumey, and the late Larry Bimi, which brought them into serious disrepute before the General Legal Council. Serious observers of the situation knew that the General Legal Council was being over-protective and that it sought to hide the truth in a vain attempt to whitewash the judicial service and itself. Now that incontrovertible evidence has been adduced to prove the Council wrong, I hope its officials are bowing their heads in shame. A drastic overhaul of the judicial service is long overdue; but who is to do so, and how will that overhauling be done?
The significance of the revelation also underscores a lot more to highlight serious concerns about the systemic problems detracting from efforts to develop our country on the basis of patriotism, good conscience, and probity. The Chief Justices that have presided over the judicial service all these years have been quick to make public pronouncements regarding cleansing the judiciary of bad nuts tarnishing its image. Some have even gone ahead to take on deviants while others are known for implementing measures for self-monitoring and corrective steps. But the situation hasn’t improved. Why so? It has a lot to do with the apparatus itself.
How do the judges and magistrates get to be appointed and how is their work monitored by the judicial service itself? Based on the persistent pointing of fingers against those judges and magistrates or officials involved in the justice delivery process, one expected the current Chief Justice (Georgina Wood) to act more decisively long ago by teaming up with those with the capability to secretly monitor the conduct of the judges and magistrates. Nothing of the sort happened, which is an indictment on the Chief Justice herself. In effect, then, she has been presiding over a rotten system, which is why some voices are vehemently calling for her resignation. But she won’t resign because that move isn’t part of our democratic ideals. The conscience of public officials in this regard is heavily seared with a hot, branding iron such that they feel no public shame when so confronted. No compunction to act on moral grounds!
On a larger scale, the significance of this sordidness in the judiciary washes with the country’s security and intelligence services too. They have woefully failed to do their duties and should be roundly ashamed. What Anas and StarrFM did should have been done long ago by them (especially the BNI), more so when allegations of corruption against the judiciary have been rife and become a major political conundrum. Instead, they chose to look elsewhere. Irresponsible service to country!!
We wait to see what happens next. Will the Chief Justice be bold and determined enough to use this revelation as the stepping stone to clean her own house? Or will President Mahama step in to use it as a springboard to launch his anti-corruption efforts? How will such a move be interpreted?
For as long as the judiciary remains corrupt, there is no way justice delivery can be smooth in the country. I recall the boasts of some NPP politicians that they have friends in the judiciary to fight their cause for them. Can we be proud of such a system? How sad for Ghana!!
Nobody can persuade me that the judges and magistrates indulge in bribery and corruption because of bad service conditions (especially low salaries) and that the government must be blamed as such. Nowhere in the world will any public service holder claim to be fully satisfied with his/her take-home pay; but the rigours of the system ensure that anybody indulging in malfeasance is easily tracked, exposed, and dealt with. In our country, there is so much laxity that anything goes. What Anas has done is eye-opening and should be adapted to every sector in our national life.
The pace has been set and more needs to be done across-the-board to expose wrongdoers in public office. Only then can we be assured that we are safe in the hands of those empowered to administer affairs. Otherwise, nothing but doom awaits us all.
I shall return…
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