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We are gathered here this afternoon to perform one of the most significant acts in the life of our nation – the induction into office of a new Chief Justice of the Republic. It has been a simple, solemn ceremony of investiture of the head of the Judiciary, the third arm of government.
To that end, I am grateful for the presence of all of you, many of you current or past holders of high public or other office, especially for the presence of two of my predecessors, the former Presidents of the Republic, their Excellencies Jerry John Rawlings and John Agyekum Kufuor. My immediate predecessor, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, is, as the lawyers say, absent from the jurisdiction. Their participation in these proceedings speaks not only of the continuity of the institutions of the Fourth Republic, for which we thank God, but testifies also to the national character of this event.
The Ghanaian people, on Tuesday, 28th April, 1992, adopted, by an overwhelming margin, the provisions of the Constitution of the Fourth Republic in the Referendum of that day, and resolved, thereby, to build, under God, a nation with a functioning democracy founded on the rule of law. The commitment they made still resounds strongly twenty five years later, and one of the most important actors in the preservation of this is the Chief Justice.
The decision in favour of multi-party democracy, based on the separation of powers, was guided by their belief that this was the surest path to progress and prosperity for our nation. They did so, in the words of the Preamble of the Constitution, which, with your indulgence, I shall quote in extenso on this appropriate occasion,
“IN EXERCISE of our natural and inalienable right to establish a framework of government, which shall secure for ourselves, and posterity the blessings of liberty, equality of opportunity and prosperity;
IN A SPIRIT of friendship and peace with all peoples of the world;
AND IN SOLEMN declaration and affirmation of our commitment to;
Freedom, Justice, Probity and Accountability;
The Principle that all powers of Government spring from the Sovereign Will of the People;
The Principle of Universal Adult Suffrage;
The Rule of Law;
The protection and preservation of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms, Unity and Stability for our Nation.
These brave words capture the essence of much of our history, our unhappy experience with authoritarian rule, and our determination to enter into a new era of freedom, justice, probity and accountability. They have provided the platform for the Fourth Republic ushering us into the longest, uninterrupted, stable, constitutional governance of independent Ghana. Long may that continue.
So it is that final judicial power in the State, under our Constitution, is vested solely in the Judiciary, and not in any other agency or organ of the State, be it the Presidency or the Parliament. The Judiciary has jurisdiction in all matters of the breach of the law, civil and criminal, including matters relating to the interpretation and enforcement of the Constitution. It has, thus, onerous responsibilities to protect the individual liberties and fundamental human rights of citizens, to act as the arbiter in disputes between the State and the citizen, to act as the arbiter in disputes between citizens, and to serve as the bulwark for the promotion of the orderly development of our nation, and for the defence of the liberties and the rights of our people.
Thus far, the Judiciary can be said, generally, to have discharged, in the Fourth Republic, its duties creditably and responsibly, even though I was on the wrong end of the decision in the famous election petition of 2013. A favourable decision on the day could have meant, perhaps, that this was my second term in office, rather than the commencement of my mandate. The attachment of the Ghanaian people to the rule of law made it possible for us, in the New Patriotic Party, to entrust our fate to the highest court in the land in the aftermath of the disputed elections of 2012. It also enabled the country to move on, in unity and stability, after the Court handed down its verdict.
Ghanaian democracy was enhanced by the decision of then Chief Justice Georgina Wood to broadcast the proceedings of the petition on television. It helped in the process of demystifying judicial proceedings, and helped send the clear message from the majority on the Court that the controlling principle of judicial intervention in elections was the result delivered at the polling station, which would not be easily reversed by a Court. It is a salutary message.
Eleven days ago, and three days short of ten years as Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood stepped down from office into retirement, as the twelfth Chief Justice, the first female to head the Judiciary, and its longest serving leader. Her career has been extraordinary, truly historic, and, amongst others, she has the enviable record of having sworn into office three Presidents of the Republic. The ultimate test of her leadership came two years ago, during the dramatic exposé of corruption in the Judiciary by one of the nation’s leading investigative journalists. We have not yet lived down the trauma of the excruciating shock and embarrassment of seeing officers of our courts in such compromising situations. She, however, quickly rose to the challenge, and introduced reforms to restore some dignity to the Judiciary and re-establish the confidence of Ghanaians in it. I pay warm tribute to her distinguished service to our nation, and wish her a well-earned retirement, even though her public service is still not over, as she has now to take her place on the Council of State as a former Chief Justice. President Kufuor’s judgement, in selecting her for the office, has been roundly vindicated.
It is critical for the growth of our nation that we have a Judiciary that commands the respect of the people by the nature of its delivery of justice, as well as by the comportment of its judges. It is vitally important that we have judges who are honest, possess integrity and a sound knowledge of the law. The situation, where judges proffer judgements on the basis of decisions from lower courts and cite them as law, is not acceptable, and even less so, when judges cite no authority at all for their rulings, and give orders without reasons. Our judges must be learned, know their case law and ensure that their judgements are properly motivated. That is the only way the rule of precedent, the principle of stare decisis, can operate, which, according to the well-known common law doctrine, “promotes the even-handed, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process”.
I am confident that Justice Sophia Abena Boafoa Akuffo will be an effective leader of the Judiciary, and will guard jealously its independence. She will bring honour to the Judiciary and to our country. Her attributes, befitting the offspring of a prominent Presbyterian priest – hard work, discipline, capacity for detailed research, intimate knowledge of the law, independence of mind and spirit, honesty and integrity, deep-seated respect for the rule of law and for the best traditions of the legal profession, abiding belief in the sovereignty of Almighty God – will serve her well. These are the characteristics which sustained her brilliant career as a lawyer, and which propelled her to the notice of the 1st President of the 4th Republic, His Excellency Jerry John Rawlings, who appointed her to the Supreme Court on 30th November, 1995, some 22 years ago. Justice Akuffo, since then, has been one of the leading lights of the Court, and her contribution to the Court’s work and the growth of our nation’s jurisprudence has been extensive. She has justified the confidence reposed in her by President Rawlings. She has now to justify the confidence I am reposing in her as Chief Justice. I congratulate her very much on her well-deserved appointment. She will be walking in the footsteps of the twelve previous occupants of the office, whose names read like a veritable Who’s-Who of Ghana’s legal profession – Arku Korsah, Julius Sarkodee Addo, Edward Akufo-Addo, E.A. Lankwei Bannerman, Samuel Azu Crabbe, Fred Apaloo, E.N.P Sowah, Philip Archer, Isaac Abban, Edward Wiredu, George Acquah and Gerogina Wood.
I have no doubt, however, that, in her, we have a worthy successor to Chief Justice Wood and the others who have gone before her. I am certain that she will continue with Chief Justice Wood’s agenda – redeeming the image of the Judiciary and strengthening its accountability, proceeding with the modernisation of judicial activities, and establishing more specialist courts to improve the quality of judicial administration. These should be the hallmarks of her tenure as Chief Justice. I assure her of the full co-operation of my government as a genuine and trusted partner so that, together, the Executive and the Judiciary can co-operate, in a spirit of mutual respect, to realise the welfare and progress of our people. I thank the leadership and members of the Legislature, Parliament, for the expeditious manner in which the parliamentary process of approval was undertaken in her case.
I use this occasion to assure the country that my government will not shield anyone found to have broken the laws of this country. Application of the laws of the land must occur, in the words of the judicial oath, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, and, therefore, without recourse to the political, religious or ethnic affiliations of any citizen of the land. When you fall foul of the law, you must be dealt with accordingly, and the law enforcement agencies, including the Judiciary, must ensure this is done. To persons perpetrating acts of lawlessness in the name of being members of the ruling party, let me make it clear to you that you will find no shield in my government from the law. Recent disturbances in Savelugu, for example, where, allegedly, a handful of party executives and youth are trying to prevent the Municipal Chief Executive, who has been duly appointed with the requisite approval of the Municipal Assembly, from working, are obviously unacceptable. I urge the Police to do everything in their power to bring to book all those who fall foul of the law. We cannot have development, which will bring jobs to our youth, without order. With the Office of the Special Prosecutor in the offing, to ensure the prosecution of public officials, past and present, who engage in acts of corruption and financial malfeasance, it is my expectation that the Judiciary will help facilitate the work of this body.
Let me extend my appreciation to Justice William Atuguba for holding the fort, even if briefly, as Acting Chief Justice, during the period of the retirement of Chief Justice Georgina Wood and the swearing into office today of Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo. I observed that, during the vetting process of Justice Sophia Akuffo in Parliament, on Friday, June 16, he, together with other members of the Supreme Court, were present in Parliament to lend their support to her nomination. This was a highly commendable gesture. I am hopeful that this same level of support will be extended as she assumes the mantle of head of the Judiciary. To her colleagues on the Bench, and to members of the Bar, I urge your continued solidarity and co-operation with the new Chief Justice to promote the rule of law. That will be in line with the finest traditions of the Bench and the Bar, and will help advance the welfare of our people.
We are determined to build a new Ghanaian civilisation, where the rule of law is not a slogan, but an operating principle for the development of our State, where the separation of powers is real and meaningful, where public officials behave with honesty and integrity, where the liberties and rights of our people are fully protected, and where law and order provide a firm basis for our social and economic development, so that the dreams of freedom and prosperity that animated the great patriots, who founded our nation, can find expression in our generation.
All of us, from the public sector, the security agencies, the private sector, the political parties, the civil society, the religious bodies, and the traditional authorities, have a joint responsibility to work together, with our different views and our different perspectives, for the Ghana project – a united Ghana, governed according to the rule of law, respect for individual liberties, human rights and the principles of democratic accountability; a Ghana that meets fundamental requirements of social justice and solidarity; and a Ghana where we look past commodities to position our country in the global marketplace. We should all work to free ourselves from a mindset of dependence, aid, charity and hand-outs, and rather concentrate on mobilising Ghana’s own considerable resources to resolve Ghana’s problems. It is a collective enterprise to which we should all commit ourselves, in unity and in sincerity. For my part, I have an unshakeable faith in the boundless prospects of Ghana’s future and will work for it, the radiance of the Black Star.
I wish Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo well, and God’s guidance in the discharge of her great functions.
Thank you, and may God bless us all and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.