Opuni’s case: SC review panel committed factual errors – NDC

Justice Honyenuga

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has rejected the Supreme Court ruling asking Justice Clemence Honyenuga to resume hearing of the case involving former Cocoa Board Chief Executive, Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo who have been accused of causing financial loss to the state.

According to the largest opposition party, the decision of the review panel of the Supreme Court contained ‘worrying and bizarre’ factual errors.

The apex court on Tuesday October 26, 2021, reinstated Justice Honyenuga as the judge for the hearing.

A seven-member review panel in a 4-3 majority decision overturned an earlier decision by the court stopping Honyenuga from presiding over the case.

That was after the court upheld a review application by the Attorney-General (A-G), Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame.

The NDC in a statement on Sunday November 11 said “Unfortunately, an enhanced panel of seven judges, including two (2) additional judges to the original panel of five (5), granted the application of the Republic on 26th October 2021, by 4 to 3 majority decision, and reversed the ruling of the ordinary bench. This meant that the Supreme Court had affirmed and endorsed the exclusion of the 18 exhibits and further given judicial approval for the Judge to continue with the hearing of the Opuni case in spite of the prejudicial comments he made which is referenced in paragraph 2 above.

“It is worthy of note that the ruling of the enhanced panel was preceded by its own drama. Despite the rules of ethics of the Bar that parties to an action must avoid ex-parte communication with judges sitting on matters in which they are involved, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame paid a visit to Justice Jones Dotse, the presiding Judge in the review application, to “discuss Ghana School of Law matters” on 11th October 2021. While we cannot confirm what was indeed discussed at the meeting, the conduct of the Attorney General in visiting Justice Jones Dotse exhibits poor judgment of the highest order and casts a cloud of suspicion over what was discussed at the said meeting.

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“In another example of poor judgment, the Attorney General, after the delivery of the ruling of the review panel, described the majority ruling of the ordinary bench that ruled in favour of Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni as “an aberration of justice” and that Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni was running away from ‘Judgment Day’.

” The question that needs to be asked is whether the Attorney General is privy to the eventual conviction and imprisonment of Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni by Justice Clemence Jackson Hoeyenuga on ‘Judgment Day’. And if we may ask, of all the judges in Ghana, why should Justice Clemence Jackson Hoeyenuga be the only judge to hear the criminal trial involving Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, Seidu Agongo and Agricult.

“We in the NDC are confident that if the words uttered by the Attorney General had been said by other lawyers they would have earned an invitation to the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council for breaches of the ethical rules of the Bar.

“As a party, we are vehemently opposed to the ruling by the Majority of the review panel of the Supreme Court dated 26th October, 2021. There are certain features of the majority’s ruling that cause us great concern. In the first place, the characterization by the majority of the prejudicial statements made by the Judge as referenced above as constituting the Judge’s evaluation of the evidence and his expression of opinion on the quality of the evidence before him beggars belief and raises more questions than answers.

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“We are at a loss as to why the Supreme Court would prohibit a High Court Judge from hearing the Kennedy Agyapong Contempt Case on the basis of real likelihood of bias just because the Judge had used the expression ‘severely punished’ while the same Court did not see a real likelihood of bias against the accused persons from the clear prejudicial statements of    the presiding Judge in the Opuni case stated above. Strangely, the review majority failed or neglected to make any reference to its ruling in the Kennedy Agyapong contempt case, the most recent Supreme Court authority on judicial bias.

Even more bizarre and worrying, is the fact that the review majority committed patent and avoidable factual errors in their ruling of 26th October, 2021. As has been said about the US Supreme Court and we believe this holds true also for our Supreme Court, ‘We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final’. The finality of Supreme Court judgments, of necessity, casts a duty on the Court to avoid errors that could easily be avoided upon a close scrutiny of the record of a case.

“It is unfortunate that the review majority committed an avoidable factual error when it stated at page 11 of the ruling that: ‘ It must be remembered that the only question brought to the court was whether the trial judge had committed a jurisdictional error by failing to call on the accused person to speak to the excluded exhibits before ruling that the exhibits could be excluded, and not whether the exhibits were admissible or inadmissible per se’.  In our humble view, this is patently incorrect since the grounds of review of Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni challenging the Judge’s ruling on the submission of no case make no reference to ‘jurisdictional error’.”  

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By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana