17 June 2014

Ghana: Judiciary Is Broke - Court of Appeal Forced to Shut Down

Takoradi — THE COURT of Appeal set up by the Chief Justice, Her Ladyship Justice Georgina Wood, at Cape Coast in the Central Region to ensure the speedy adjudication of cases, has been closed down for lack of funds. The Appellate Court was serving both the Central and Western regions, and was established in 2013.

Pieces of information pieced together by The Chronicle indicate that since March last year, the government has not given the Judiciary its subvention, thus making it difficult for the smooth administration of the service. According to sources, the Judicial Service, currently has only GH¢19,000 sitting in its account, which is woefully inadequate to take care of administrative expenditures.

The Chronicle established that the Judicial Service had already written a letter to the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) to inform it of the decision to close down the Court of Appeal in Cape Coast. The GBA Chairman for the Western Region, Mr. Kofi Diaba, upon receipt of the letter, sent text messages to his colleagues to inform them.

The text reads: "The Judicial Service announces for your information, the closure of the Appeal Court in Cape Coast as a result of challenges. Henceforth, cases pending before it have been transferred to Accra." Investigations revealed that after the receipt of the text messages, lawyers in the Western Region met with the National President of the Ghana Bar Association, Nene Amegatcher, to discuss the issue.

At the meeting, which was held last Friday, the lawyers expressed worry over the closure of the court. They noted that it was a sign of disrespect, because they were not given prior notice. However, Nene Amegatcher reportedly told his colleagues that he was not surprised at the decision, as his checks had revealed that since March last year, the subvention for the judiciary had not been given to them, and that the judiciary has only GH¢19,000 sitting in its account to carry out operations.

Mr. Amegetcher reportedly told the meeting that due to the seriousness of the situation, the GBA had booked an appointment with President John Dramani Mahama to discuss the need to pay special attention to the judiciary. A Sekondi-based veteran lawyer, Mr. Derrick Gwira, speaking in a telephone interview with The Chronicle, rubbished the decision by the service to close down the court.

According to him, the claim of lack of money being made by the judiciary had no basis. Mr. Gwira, who has 44 years of legal experience, and twice declined to serve as a Supreme Court judge, believes the decision to close down the court, in his own words, was 'nonsense.'

Though 85% of the Judicial Service's internal generated fund goes into the Consolidated Fund (CF), the government is not paying much attention to the service. Other lawyers at the meeting raised issues with the dilapidated nature of the Takoradi Circuit Court, as well as the road leading to the court. The lawyer, who raised the issue, believes the dilapidated nature of the Circuit Court was an indictment on the Judiciary.

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