SC throws out contempt case against Pres Akufo-Addo

The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday dismissed a motion in which a private Ghanaian citizen is seeking the court to commit President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for contempt over the demolition of government bungalows to make way for the construction of a national cathedral.

Mr Jonathan Holm, the applicant, argued that the conduct of the President to order the demolition of state property, while a suit relating to the construction of the cathedral was pending, amounted to interference of the court process.

The plaintiff joined the Attorney General, government’s legal advisor, and the Lands Commission, the institution responsible for state land, to the suit.

In making a case for the court to commit President Akufo-Addo for contempt, counsel for the applicant, Mr Bright Akwetey, told the apex court that when the President knowingly offends the constitution, he must suffer the penalty.

He stated that the conduct of President Akufo-Addo amounted to abuse of office, and that he should not go scot-free.

Mrs Dorothy Afriyie Ansah, a Chief State Attorney, contended that per Article 57(4) and (5), the President is immune from both criminal and civil action.

Ruling on the matter, a seven-member panel of judges, presided by Justice Jones Dotse, held that Article 57(4) and (5) grants immunity to the President.

They said that the application is against the letter and spirit of the 1992 Constitution.

According to the court, the application is grossly incompetent and without merit.

It is recalled that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, announced in August, 2019, the relocation of the passport office for the construction of the cathedral to begin.

Following that, other properties including residential apartments for judges had been demolished.

This action by the government, the plaintiff held, was disrespectful to the apex court, as the controversy surrounding the project was still pending.

The applicant stated that a national cathedral as conceived by the President would not inure to the benefit of Muslims, Atheists and other non-Christian religions in Ghana, and therefore a national cathedral is not a project in the public interest. 

 The plaintiff further urged the court to hold that it would constitute a violation of the fundamental rights of the people of Osu to be denied the first option to re-acquire the land under Article 20 (6) of the 1992 Constitution if a national cathedral is compulsorily constructed on the land.

He urged the court to state that the conduct of the President in having the bungalows demolished during the pendency of the suit constitutes a brazen disrespect for the constitution and the laws of Ghana, and, thus, undermines the authority of the SC.

The applicant wanted the SC to declare that all public lands allocated by the Lands Commission to private persons, bodies and institutions were done in violation of Section 1 of Act 125 of 1962, Regulations N0. 9 of L.I 230 of 1962 and Article 20(5) and (6) of the 1992 Constitution and such allocations are therefore null and void.

Mr Holm prayed the court to perpetually injuct the Lands Commission from allocating any portion of the land compulsorily acquired by virtue of the certificate of title, dated November 29, 1910 to the Attorney General or any other branch of the Executive, body of persons or institutions for any purposes other than the public purpose for which the land was acquired. 

BY MALIK SULLEMANA          

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