UNDERCOVER – ‘GHANA IN THE EYES OF GOD’ (1) by Anas Aremeyaw Anas
… Scandal Of Our Time Judiciary Neck-Deep in Corruption
… over 180 Judges And Judicial Staff Involved
Anas Aremeyaw Anas Reports,
Supreme Court, Accra-Ghana
A festering sore, raw to the core, inciting drums of war
They pose majestically with proud dimples
Leading others to swear by their Qurans and Bibles
To uphold the truth and moral principles
But soon do they themselves lose all scruples
And to the law and scriptures become false disciples
Shamelessly defying common decency
They trade their nobility for miserable currency
Strip the judiciary of its sanctity and potency
Also its ability to firmly anchor our democracy
Thus plunging the nation into needless emergency
Before the eyes of God, this is no fallacy
Neither an idle prophecy
Nor a case of journalistic fantasy
Facts they are, documented in strict accuracy
Narrated in the coming series with honest poignancy
Without any hint of tongue-in-cheek diplomacy
The above is not just for academic appreciation, nor for the purpose of sheer literary recreation. Far beyond this; it is a critical indictment on some of our highly esteemed judges who indulge in degrading acts of corruption, thereby not only shamelessly trading their respectability for ephemeral gain, but also endangering the security, the rights and the lives of the very people they are supposed to protect.
It chronicles the hard facts of judges violating their sacred oaths, shattering the solemn trust and confidence of a whole nation by allowing themselves to sink knee-deep into the quagmire of corruption.
The New Crusading GUIDE, together with the Tiger Eye investigative team, has uncovered massive corruption in this critical arm of Government. The least is that, staff of the Judicial Service have been found to be charging bloated sums for services against the approved charges, while clerks and registrars negotiate bribes for themselves and on behalf of their bosses.
While these may seem commonplace, the more alarming situation is that we have concrete evidence that judges themselves have been grabbing monies in their chambers and giving false rulings. The very nadir of our noble judges’ nosedive into dishonor is the fact that they actually chase investigators for lucre and even livestock, while revealing top judicial secrets too sensitive to recount here, all for a mess of pottage.
In the coming days, over 170 judges and staff of the judicial service would be unmasked for various acts of corruption that they have been engaged in.
This particular investigation lasted over a year and half, as the team combed through the length and breadth of Ghana. The nationwide operation covered comprehensively, the northern sector (Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions) the middle sector (Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Eastern and Volta Regions) and the southern sector (Western, Central and Greater Accra Regions)
In short, the investigations straddled the whole country in stages, and the facts are really jolting.
From judges’ drivers, ushers, interpreters, bailiffs, through CID officials, prosecutors, investigators to clerks and registrars, almost everybody was unabashedly eager to take bribes to facilitate dubious meetings with judges and magistrates.
These different categories of people were all caught on hidden cameras, and recorded on audio- tapes, taking varying sums of money and gifts from desperate clients.
The Judicial Service Mafia
The courts are supposed to be places where people go in search of justice and fairness. On the dark recesses of injustice and inequity, the courts are supposed to turn the light of truth and freedom.
Ironically however, Tiger Eye investigations of the Ghana Judicial Service have rather beamed the light on the dark operations of a mafia within the courts.
These are the very powerful clique of staff within the judicial service who ally with some judges to perpetuate the corrupt system.
Our investigations prove that some among the clique even write judgments on all manner of cases and sign motions on behalf of registrars and judges when they realize that they cannot corrupt them.
We discovered that they were so powerful that only a few truly upright judges could resist them.
In the coming days, we will expose such characters who make mockery of the judicial process day in and out.
It must be noted that the mafia are not always successful. Their failure usually occurs where a judge or magistrate is strict and principled. For some courts that we visited, our request ‘to see the judge’ was met with an emphatic gesture of rejection by the clerks. They tell us point blank to the face that “the judge is not that type”, invariably adding they did not want any trouble. That usually left us with inward smiles – ‘Ghana is not lost to criminals’.
The Lonely Judge
In essence, most judges are lawyers, who through training and the desire to adjudicate, step up to join the bench. When they do this and take the oath in the name of God to be fair, they forfeit their social and political liberties. Theirs is a noble calling which demands a lot of personal sacrifices.
For new judges in particular, one of the sacrifices they have to endure is ‘loneliness’. It is often said that the top is a lonely spot to be and that saying rings true in their case. They cannot make friends and have to be circumspect even with old friends. When they are posted to stations that are far away from anything and anyone they know, this phenomenon takes on a harsh reality. They are indeed, terribly lonely!
Supervising High Court Judges who are supposed to supervise them are hardly able to do their job, not because they do not want to, but because they usually have many cases and other official commitments on their desks to deal with.
This is how the mafia gets the needed opening to step in. They are mainly staff of the courts. They know the system and the judges – both past and present. Thus the new judge is more relaxed when dealing with them. In time, they ‘initiate’ the ‘lonely’ judges into the mafia. They indoctrinate them to feel it is normal to receive gifts from litigants prior to, during and after the pendency of cases. They make them believe that litigants themselves do not expect justice ‘just like that.’ Slowly, like is done to a fish, they dangle the worm of corruption in front of the judge or magistrate, enticing them to take a bite.
Some fall prey to them and soon become ensconced in the mafia with time. This continues for the rest of their lives on the bench. Others refuse. Yet even when such judges try to respect their oath and adjudicate fairly, the “sharks” do everything possible to undermine them. They do so by forging their letterheads, signing and stamping documents and collecting bribes in their names, all on their blindside. The catch phrase they use is, ‘If you are a fool to refuse bribes, we (Mafia) will take it in your name’.
Though a bribe is taken without the judge’s knowledge, he still is inexorably exposed to the perception of corruption. If his judgment goes in favour of the bribe givers, they assume that the judgment was influenced by the package they had offered. In the reverse case, the bribe givers are convinced that the other party must have offered a juicier package. This is how the mafia has managed over the years to reduce justice to a package for sale to the highest bidder.
Thus insidiously, even an innocent judge’s name becomes soiled. The judge here is trapped in a situation described by Ahmed Deedat (the South African scholar of comparative religion) as: “Heads I win, tails you lose”, meaning whichever way, judges cannot escape being perceived as corrupt. If they refuse to take the bribe, the mafia would be ready to take it on their behalf and if they dare to take it themselves, it goes a long way not only to deepen the perception of corruption but also to turn it into a pulsating reality.
Lowering The Bar
The bar (lawyers/prosecutors) is the interface between parties to a case and the judge (bench). The meeting between lawyers in the court is an occasion that keeps lawyers on their toes, looking into and critically analyzing facts of respective cases and aspiring to put forth a convincing case in court.
The crass corruption occasioned by the judicial service mafia however has, in a large measure, contributed to instances where lawyers do little or nothing about cases, knowing well that judgment could and would be secured outside the court room.
Some lawyers connive with clients and the ‘mafia’ within the courts to create a short cut to secure an unjust justice, with little or no work at all. The days when lawyers intellectually engaged one another with wit and verve are therefore dying out.
It is sad to state that corruption has effectively lowered the bar. Legal dexterity is being washed down the drain and in its place is the ‘who-you-know’ syndrome. Consequently, today, most lawyers take more time building connections than building their cases and strengthening their briefs.
However, the good news is, we encountered also some lawyers whose hard work, integrity and dedication to duty have enhanced the quick and effective delivery of justice in Ghana. They are like soldiers matching to war who would not be distracted by any enticement.
The Unofficial Amici Curiae – ‘Friends of the Court’
The court is largely an open place except in cases where hearings are done in-camera for one reason or the other. Ordinarily, the court is a place for magistrates, judges, the judicial service staff, media and interested parties in particular cases.
There however is a last group of people, who are interested parties in all cases, in all judges and in all staff of the judicial service. They are ‘the friends of the court’, hangers-on around the courts, some having ‘worked’ from within and around the courts for decades. They refer to themselves secretly as retired Supreme Court Judges though they have never been to any Law School or sworn any oath.
These friends of the court are very much the core of the judicial corruptibility scandal.
They are not officials of the court yet have a dossier on every judge. They can profile which judge could be posted to particular courts, they know the private lives of most judges and seldom go wrong when they give assurances.
They are not lawyers but can stand toe-to-toe with any lawyer within the courts. The potency of their ‘legal’ counsel and direction is the envy of any legal brain. They file cases, facilitate speedy trials and of course, take their ‘management and consultancy’ fees duly.
Some are good and of help to anyone who can’t find their way around the courts, most however are so audacious to pose as lawyers even dressed in their traditional attires and swindle people, sometimes of very huge sums of money.
The story of one Alhaji we interacted with at the Cocoa Affairs court in Accra makes interesting following:
Tiger: If you can help me see her (Justice Audrey Kokuvi-Tay)
Alhaji: You want to see her, do you have money?
Alhaji: What I will tell you is that, you will bring some money, it is late today so I will give a correct time tomorrow for you to come. I will lead you to the other end (that’s at the supreme court premise). What is the nature of the case?
Tiger: It’s an assault case, he had an issue with a certain lady, my grandma didn’t brief me well so when I heard it, I had to rush to Accra. Please give me your number.
Alhaji: 02441382 ….
Tiger: Your name?
Alhaji: Alhaji Osman,
Tiger: Alhaji Osman?
Alhaji: Yeah, we do it for lots of people.
Tiger: I thought she would be very difficult dealing with.
Alhaji: Oh we call her half-cast- Chinese, we were all here together; you understand?
Tiger: Yes haha, iron sharpens iron.
Alhaji: So you bring what (money) you have now, by God’s grace we can go tomorrow. Call me so that I can have your number.
Tiger: Alhaji, you have to take this for now, since we have not met her yet.
Alhaji: Is that your number?
***Tiger: Yes! (
Alhaji: Ah what’s this? I thought you were to give me about 1 (that’s 100 cedis)
Tiger: Take this for now.
Alhaji: You add something to it; I will use this for transport and spend this. I will pick a car so you come at round 11 to 12 noon thereabout. You have to keep mute on this case oh!
Alhaji: It’s an underground work we are going to do so that no problem should come up, I have already warned you.
Tiger: Ok, so I will call you.
Alhaji: What’s your name again?
Alhaji: Abdul what?
Tiger: Abdul Razak
Alhaji: Which area do you stay?
Tiger: Pig farm.
Alhaji: So which police station is the case at now?
Tiger: I just got back; I have to ask him for the details.
Alhaji: So give me a call.
Tiger: Looks like he (the accused) has been granted bail, I just want him to be acquitted and discharged
Alhaji: Don’t worry, just call me, I have been here for five years, so no fears, and you just have to keep quiet on this case.
We found the same phenomenon in the Ashanti Region.
The focus of our investigation was on the bad nuts within the judicial service. Ghana is lauded as having one of the best judicial systems in Africa. This is so because over the years, our judges and magistrates have worked tirelessly to ensure that justice is a reality, not a mirage. Yet, there are a few of their colleagues who have other ideas; their oath is not to protect the constitution and ensure justice independently without fear, bias or favour. Nay; their oath is to benefit from their godly office personally by ensuring the least amount of justice is done and to ultimately soil the hard work and reputation of the judiciary which others have sacrificed their lives for.
THIS IS EYES OF GOD!
WHEN THE FIRST QUALIFICATION FOR A JOB IS THAT THE PERSON MUST BE OF HIGH MORAL CHARACTER AND PROVEN INTEGRITY, then without a shred of doubt,
one knows that it is an essential and sensitive position. Judges and magistrates are essential to Ghana. When all else fail, they are the last hope for justice. Their position is sensitive, because without them, a nation or community easily descends into anarchy and brutishness.
It is for these reasons that every citizen must ensure that the judiciary remains sacrosanct and its sanctity is preserved no matter the cost. Ghanaian judges and Magistrates command high respect in the country and in the world. If it must remain so, then we must at all times remain vigilant and stamp out the morally crass and integrity-bankrupt ones from among the many who are of high moral character and proven integrity.
My Name Is Anas Aremeyaw Anas. I Am An Investigative Journalist. Today, My Focus Is On The Judicial Service In Ghana.
My Aim Is To Have The Bad Ones Out. When The Bad Ones Are Weeded Out, The Good And Fruitful Can Work In Peace For Mother Ghana. Ghana At All Times Deserves The Best In The Most Sacrosanct And Sensitive Arm Of Government.
The First Culprit Is Ajet Nassam J.
God Save Our Homeland Ghana