Former President John Agyekum Kufuor is advocating for the need to revisit the appointment process for judges and make possible changes.
His comment comes in the wake of startling revelations of bribery and corruption involving some judges captured in an investigative piece by journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas.
Some 22 lower court judges are currently serving a suspension placed on them by the Judicial Council, after they were captured in the said video, allegedly taking bribes to influence judgment.
12 other High Court judges have also been implicated and have been queried after which appropriate sanctions would be taken against them; together with over 100 judicial service staff also believed to have played various roles in the bribery scandal.
Speaking on the exposé at this year’s Ghana Bar Conference in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, former President Kufuor said “nothing is more detrimental to the security of a nation than a compromised judiciary”.
The former President, a lawyer of many years experience, who has been criticized before for some appointments he made to the bench during his tenure, suggested there is the need to revisit the appointment process.
“The movement from the Bar to the bench should be revisited and not come as a matter of course. The selection for elevation should be made so critically as to ensure that the chosen will bring honour both to the bench and to the Bar. Judges are expected to live almost hermetic lifestyles and be of the best conduct. In times past, they were not even expected to socialize and mingle too easily within the community. The disgrace befallen our nation, our bench and profession through the exposure, should give all of us very rude shock and awakening. The solution should not lie in any superficial piecemeal and orphan treatment even as we contemplate arresting and eradicating the cancerous tumor.
Although the implicated judges have come into focus on the subject of corruption, the former President said much of the larger Ghanaian populace is guilty of the canker hence the need to tackle it holistically.
“The entire nation should cast the net wider to the other organs of state; the executive, the legislature and indeed the entire public sector. The search should aim at thorough purging of the public sector of the society. This is crucial and necessary for the cleansing and rebranding of our national image especially our profession and the judiciary which is the oracle of the constitution which defines our nation and its institutions.
Mr. Agyekum Kufuor wants the justice delivery system reformed to improve transparency and accessibility to all.
He also urged civil society organizations to play their oversight roles on the judiciary effectively.
“It is essential for our society to find effective ways to reform the court processes to reduce the backlog of cases; remove the hurdles for the poor to access justice; provide legal aid, simplify court process and procedures, offer transparent court processes, offer effective alternative dispute resolution procedures and for the various institutions like the GBA to be on the lookout to uphold the rights of those left behind through programmes like pro-bono services.”
He called on Civil Society Organisations (CSO) to step up and offer more oversight of the judicial system as well as heighten legal awareness in the society.