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“SOME MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT TAKE BRIBE”: THAT’S NO LAUGHING MATTER

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

*By Ace A Ankomah (First published in the Daily Graphic Newspaper in March 2014)

Introduction

It is a contempt of Parliament
(a) for a person to endeavour, by means of bribery, fraud or the infliction or threatened infliction of violence, restraint or spiritual or temporal injury, to influence a Member [of Parliament] in the performance of functions…
(c) for a Member to accept, or procure for personal gain or for any other person, a benefit in return for undertaking to perform any of the functions of the Member in a particular manner or by reason of anything done or omitted to be done by the Member in the performance of functions.
Parliament Act, 1965 (Act 300), section 27(2)

By far the most topical and potentially explosive issue in Ghana today is the news report, carried on the front page and page 3 of the Daily Graphic of 10th March 2014, that the former Minority Leader, former Majority Leader and former minister of state, Alban S. K. Bagbin, MP, had stated that MPs receive bribes. The statement, captured in an audio recording and its transcript, is widely available on the internet and on social media.

This article examines what Mr. Bagbin is recorded to have said, recounts a bit of social attitudes to gifts, reviews the law on corruption and extortion, and shows that corrupting an MP also amounts to Contempt of Parliament. At the end, I will make some suggestions or proposals aimed at strengthening the existing laws on corruption.

What Did Mr. Bagbin Say?
From the recording, a questioner first informed Mr. Bagbin of “a perception that MPs take bribe before a bill is even passed, especially when the bill is under the certificate of urgency.” The questioner then asked a specific question: “Do MPs take money?”

Mr. Bagbin’s response was a clear, unambiguous and unequivocal “Yes.” Having made that candid admission he then took his audience on an excursion that is worth following. He said that bribery of MPs occurs in two ways. First, according to him, MPs are bribed to canvass certain positions in Parliament. He said “there is some evidence that some MPs take bribe, and they come to the floor and try to articulate the views of their sponsors.” He then sought to distinguish between “bribery” and “lobbying,” stating that Ghana has not developed rules to govern lobbying, “and so we think that lobbying is taking money to go and give to some MPs and writing pieces for them to articulate on the floor. That is bribery.” He was emphatic!

Second, Mr. Bagbin revealed that MPs are also bribed by governments to vote for unpopular government policies. He pulled no punches and minced no words: “at least there are some members who take bribe. And sometimes some governments, both sides, they are coming with some policies to the House that are very, very controversial; that even their members disagree with them. And they have had to influence the members through this bribery.” He then gave the example of the allegation by former NPP MP, P. C. Appiah-Ofori that certain MPs were bribed with US$5,000 to pass the Ghana Telecom privatisation deal. He then gave another, and rather curious, example where he and “a team… were called to be given the full details” of the Merchant Bank transaction. He said they were given all the relevant information and “all the story.” Then he says “we were fed; food and that kind of thing. Ok? We were given T&T.” [“T&T” is an acronym for ‘Telecommunications and Transportation’ expenses, but is now generally accepted as monies distributed to cover the perceived cost of travel and ‘fuel’.] Although Mr. Bagbin denied receiving dollars, he said that “that team came to the House and led the caucus to try and debate it.”

Having stated this, Mr. Bagbin then meandered into what some might consider a red herring, a deliberate deviation. But I don’t think so. I think that Mr. Bagbin, by a subtle and obviously studied use of euphemisms, tells us that MPs are susceptible to bribery simply because they are not paid sufficiently well and thus do not have the resources to do what is expected or required of them. His chosen euphemism for that was “No Releases,” and his exact words were: “we want to do a lot of work, but No Releases.” He then tells us of four effects of the “No Releases” phenomenon.

First, “No Releases” means that MPs do not have office spaces in Parliament and that even if rooms ordinarily reserved for Committee meetings are available, MPs cannot afford to provide even “water.” By the use of another euphemism, “water,” Mr. Bagbin tells us that if an MP holds a meeting, he/she is expected to provide something edible and/or drinkable for the persons who will attend the meeting. “You can’t even buy that”, he is heard to complain.

Second, “No Releases” means that MPs are unable to meet the constant pressure from their constituents to attend (and presumably finance) funerals and festivals, and pay for vacation classes (obviously for students.) He said “the man is being pressurised from his constituency… they expect you to give them money to motivate them. They don’t say pay them, but they say ‘motivate us.’” This drew laughter from the audience.

Third, the MPs Common Fund is inadequate, and as is typical of the “No Releases” phenomenon, even that has not been paid since the first quarter of 2013. He said “now you think the MP can use common fund to do all this? No, he won’t get that.”

Fourth, “No Releases” means that MPs are not equipped with the personal capacity or tools for their work. He says “you need to have these resources to be able to get the MPs together, to be able to build their capacities to do what you want them to do.” He then elaborates this dearth of “capacity building” because of “No releases” argument, further by giving two instances, where he required the intervention of either outside help and the use of his personal resources in “capacity building.”

In the first instance, he stated that he had to educate himself on matters that were not within his area of learning. He stated that even “as a lawyer,” he had to equip himself for the work that he was required to do in Parliament, particularly in areas of the law that were not taught to him in school, such as intellectual property. MPs, according to him, are compelled to rely and depend on external help. He said “and so when you take us through your subject area, you improve our capacity, then we can handle the policy or the business in Parliament better.” What I understand Mr. Bagbin to be saying is that the phenomenon of “No Releases” compels MPs to rely on their personal resources and resources provided by others, to be equipped for their work. This obviously exposes MPs to bribery.

In the second instance, and almost as a corollary to the first instance, Mr. Bagbin stated he also needed to be equipped to contend with a “very strong” opposition NPP. In a back-handed compliment to the opposition NPP, particularly its presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, Mr. Bagbin said that as chairman of the Legal Committee of Parliament between 1997 and 2000, he had to contend with and debate Nana Akufo-Addo, who was the “ranking member” of that committee. He said “you know the NPP is mostly lawyers because of their value-system, aristocrats.” To do this, Mr. Bagbin had to do a lot of reading. “I took time to read. That is how I built my capacity to be able to lead that committee. If not, the other side were very strong, ok?” Mr. Bagbin’s “reading” could not have come for free; he must have incurred expenses to purchase the materials that he read, the acquisition of which must have been difficult because of “No Releases.”

These statements raise a very fundamental issue as to what is bribery and what is not. Can the “food”, “T&T”, ‘per diems’ funded by organisations, and even cash donations made or provided to MPs amount to bribery? When is a thing a bribe and when is it just a gift? We now turn to a discussion of these matters.

Social Perspectives
It is important to consider these questions also from a societal perspective. There is no denial that by some pervading customary or traditional practices, persons in authority receive gifts from others, and also give generously to people who come their way. This practice has transcended into modern day Ghana. For example, when the policeman at the barrier or checkpoint stops your vehicle, smiles at and salutes you, and calls you “Honourable,” he does so in expectation of a gift. You are riding in a car. He is contending with either the hot sun or the cold night. He has done nothing for you and you have done nothing wrong. But on the sheer account of him being in a position of authority, he expects you to make a “dash”. The obviously practised forlorn and disappointed look on his face, if you prepare to drive away without a tip, can compel you to look for a five-cedi note for him. Actually, you may sometimes even feel guilty if you don’t find some money for them. By the same token, if he had stopped your vehicle because you have violated some traffic regulation, then the expectation of a “gift” is even heightened.

In his new book on the ancient town of Anomabo, titled Where the Negroes Are Masters: An African Port in the Era of the Slave Trade, and published by the Harvard University Press, Randy J. Sparks, refers to near-comical records allegedly compiled by the British occupants of the Anomabo Fort in the 18th Century, and which showed that they had to routinely make officially sanctioned “dashes” to members of the ruling “Corrantee” family under numerous, different circumstances.

The fort’s account books reveal the quantities of goods that went into the town every month as payments to Corrantee’s family and to the townspeople for a range of goods and services. Dashes or gifts went to Corrantee’s three wives and to his sons George Banishee and Quasah. Dashes might be given on almost any imaginable occasion, or for no apparent reason at all. The British dashed George Banishee because he was paying a visit to Cape Coast and to allow him to entertain a visiting “Mulatto Relation.” Both William Ansah and Quasah received gifts for building new houses. Corrantee received gifts “on coming home from Brafo Town & his wife who attended him on going.” Corrantee received a gallon of rum because he was “Complaining of its being a Cold Day,” a half gallon of rum because he wanted to “wash himself,” and more rum and brandy for the New Yam harvest festival. From November to December 1755, for example, Corrantee received nineteen gallons of rum in dashes. The entire town received rum for the New Yam Festival, “a great day with them.” They dashed George Banishee’s wife because she was “with child & Longing for it.” The pynins of the Upper Town and those of the Lower Town were also paid.

During the negotiations with the Asante in 1768, the British made payments to pynins from other towns who came to Annamaboe to discuss those issues, and to the “principal men among soldiers” in the town “to induce them to settle the Ashante Business.” They gave dashes to the “Townspeople for clearing the paths above the Town (as usual),” and to “a Mulattoe for making a New Flagg” for the fort. Dashes went to Corrantee’s Chicko (or Chickee, a messenger identified as his “public cryer”) and to his “Wenches.” In July and August 1768, for example, the fort made sixty-four payments to Corrantee’s “favorite wives.”

As almost hilarious, and probably patronising, as these “records” may be or read, they speak to the matters that we grapple with today, that persons in authority expect gifts from others. What is worse, we “the others” do expect to give such gifts, and are sometimes embarrassed when the gifts are turned down.

The issue of giving gifts to persons of authority engaged the mind of the ancient writer and third King of Israel, Solomon, who is recorded in Proverbs 18:16 of the New International Version of the Bible as saying that “a gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” And in Proverbs 17:8, the same writer stated that “a bribe is seen as a charm by the one who gives it; they think success will come at every turn.” Indeed on account of there being many versions of the Holy Writ, the words “gift” and “bribe” are sometimes used as if they are synonyms of each other. But whether or not Solomon said these things with his tongue stuck firmly in his cheek, what he is recorded to have written, are facts. Gifts or bribes do indeed open doors, make room and probably bring “success.”

The modern day MP occupies a very important societal position, which involves wide-ranging interaction with various persons at different levels of society. As stated above, it is a known (and even accepted) fact that in the course of such interactions, many “gifts” and “donations” are made to and by MPs (and indeed all persons in authority). But where then, do we draw the line between what is a “gift” and what is a “bribe”? The answer, I respectfully submit, lies within the laws of the land, and it is to a discussion of this that I now turn.

Corruption and Extortion
Article 35(8) of the Constitution imposes a duty on the state to work to eliminate corruption. It simply says that “the State shall take steps to eradicate corrupt practices…” Under section 42 of the Interpretation Act, 2009 (Act 792), the word “shall” is construed “as imperative and mandatory.” In other words, Ghana has an obligation to take steps to eliminate corruption. The constitutional provision does not define “corrupt practices” or “corruption.” However, there is some definition and explanation under the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), section 239 of which makes it an offence for a public officer to commit Corruption or Extortion; and a person who corrupts another in respect of that other person’s duty as a public officer, is also guilty of the offence of corruption.

Under the combined effect of section 3(1) of the Criminal Offences Act and article 295 of the Constitution, the term “public officer” is to be construed by referring to the constitutional definition of the term “public office”. It “includes a person holding an office by election or appointment under an enactment or under powers conferred by an enactment.” A “public office” includes “an office the emoluments attached to which are paid directly from the Consolidated Fund or directly out of monies provided by Parliament and an office in a public corporation established entirely out of public funds or monies provided by Parliament.”

There is therefore no doubt that a Member of Parliament is a public officer.

According to section 240 of the Criminal Offences Act, a public officer commits the offence of Corruption where in respect of his/her duties of a public office, the following occur:
• directly or indirectly agrees or offers to permit his/her conduct as a public officer to be influenced,
• by gift, promise or prospect of a “valuable consideration”,
• to be received by him/her or by any other person, from any other person.

A person is guilty of Corrupting a public officer where he/she:
• endeavours, directly or indirectly, to influence the conduct of the public officer in respect of the duties of office,
• by gift, promise or prospect of a “valuable consideration”,
• to be received by the public officer or any other person, from any other person.

From the above, the offence of Corruption is only committed when there has been an attempt or effort to influence the conduct of the recipient of a gift, as a public officer, and in respect of his/her duties as such. It is therefore not sufficient to simply show that an MP has received a gift. It must be shown that the gift was part of an endeavour to manipulate his/her conduct as an MP.

Further, what the MP received must be a gift or some assurance, hope or expectation of “valuable consideration.” This refers to some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to him/her and at the same time some forbearance, detriment, loss or responsibility given, suffered or undertaken by the other person. By law, this needs not be translated into cedis and pesewas, but it is sufficient if it consists of performance or promise of performance, which the promissor treats and considers of value to him.

The law is also careful to distinguish between what one may call “pre-paid bribes” and “post-paid bribes”. Thus an MP would be held to have received a “pre-paid” bribe even where the payment is made to him/her in the hope, anticipation, belief, prospect or probability of his/her election. It is immaterial that the person is not yet an MP as at the time of the making of it, if the endeavour, agreement or offer is made in the expectation that he/she will or may become an MP. It is also immaterial, whether the act to be done by a person in consideration or in pursuance of the gift, promise, prospect, agreement or offer is criminal or wrongful otherwise than by reason of any other law. This covers a corrupt agreement for lawful consideration. But it is critical to note that if you make a payment to a candidate in an election, as part of an agreement or endeavour to influence his/her conduct if elected, both you and the candidate are guilty of the offence of corruption, even if the candidate loses the election!

With respect to what may be called ‘post-paid’ bribes, the offence is committed where after an MP does an act, he/she secretly accepts or agrees or offers to secretly accept for personal gain or for any other person, valuable consideration on account of the act. Here, the law presumes that until the contrary is shown, the MP acted corruptly before doing the act. In like manner, the offence is also committed where after an MP does an act, any other person secretly agrees or offers to give or to procure for the MP or any other person, valuable consideration on account of that act. Here too, the presumption is also that the person so agreeing or offering, corrupted the MP before the doing of the act.

Thus in the case of Republic v. Hagan [1968] GLR 607, the court held that for the purpose of committing the offence of accepting a bribe to influence a public officer, whatever public office is held by the accused is irrelevant, for no question of the colour of the offender’s office arises. His position would be the same whether he holds public office or not. The accused must have acted under pretence or under colour of having influenced or being able to influence. One acts “under colour” if he represents or misrepresents that he has influenced or is in a position to influence. Such a representation or misrepresentation may even be made through an intermediary.

It is also important to consider the related offence of Extortion. It is committed by a public officer who, under colour of office, demands or obtains (whether for public purposes or private gain or for any other person) money or valuable consideration which he/she knows is not lawfully authorised. There are 3 decided cases that explain this principle very well.

First, in Motayo v. COP (1950) 13 WACA 114, the court was emphatic that “to constitute an offence under that section there must… not only be a corrupt demand, but also a pretence that the party making it is lawfully empowered to do so by reason of his employment. It is immaterial whether he pretends that the money is to be paid into the funds of the public authority that employs him or whether it is a perquisite for himself; it suffices if he conveys the impression to his victim, whether directly or by implication, that by virtue of his employment he is entitled to demand it.”

Second, in Republic v. Hagan (supra.), the court distinguished between bribery and extortion, and held that where a public officer demands or obtains a bribe, this did not ipso facto amount to extortion, merely because the recipient happens to hold a public office. The demand or obtaining must have some reference to the particular public office held by the accused, and there should be an act or conduct which amounts to the representation or misrepresentation of the duties of his office.

And third, in Appiah v. The Republic [1989-88] 2 GLR 377, it was held that the offence of extortion as defined is in the alternative, “demand” or “obtain.” The demand might be either directly or indirectly made. If indirect, proof of the demand might well nigh be impossible without other enabling statutory provisions. “Obtaining” lends itself to readier proof and readier defences. It is the suspicious end result that flows from a representation that must be explained and is capable of explanation if an innocent one existed. Accordingly, a posture of an ability to deliver under colour of office, whether positively or impliedly, might amount to a constructive representation if the other limb of the offence, namely “obtaining” is proved. Consequently, provided there is representation, demand or obtaining, the offence is committed even when the payment secures no returns.

Thus the offence of Extortion is committed, for instance, where MPs, as members of a committee of Parliament, adopt a posture that delays or frustrates the consideration and approval of a budget or agreement in such a way that compels a person to send “brown envelopes” to them. Once the benefit is obtained, the demand for it would be implied by law, and the offence of extortion would have been committed.

Contempt of Parliament
The general position under article 122 of the Constitution and section 26 of the Parliament Act, 1965 (Act 300) is that acts that impede or tend to impede Parliament in the performance of its functions, or affront its dignity, amount to Contempt of Parliament.

The Parliament Act then sets out specific acts that would amount to Contempt of Parliament. Under section 27, a person commits Contempt of Parliament if he/she endeavours to influence an MP’s official functions by means of bribery, among others. An MP commits Contempt of Parliament where he/she accepts, or procures for personal gain or for any other person, a benefit in return for undertaking to perform any of the functions of an MP in a particular manner, or by reason of anything done or omitted to be done by the MP in the performance of functions.

In other words bribing an MP and an MP accepting a bribe are acts considered as contemptuous of Parliament because they obstruct, hinder or hamper Parliament in the performance of its functions, and are also an affront on the dignity of Parliament. A person who engages in them is guilty of Contempt of Parliament.

An MP who is found guilty of Contempt of Parliament may be reprimanded, suspended or even expelled from Parliament, depending on the gravity of the matter. A non-MP in Contempt of Parliament may be excluded from coming within the precincts of Parliament for a period not exceeding 9 months, reprimanded or subjected to criminal prosecution that may lead to a fine not exceeding 250 penalty units (i.e. GH¢3,000) and/or a term of imprisonment for one year. It is important to note that while the severest sanction that may be meted out to an MP for being in Contempt of Parliament is his/her expulsion from Parliament, the punishment of criminal prosecution with the prospect of imprisonment is reserved for non-MPs!

Recommendations & Concluding Comments
I hear politicians and social actors speak of the “perception” of corruption. But I think that anyone who still thinks that corruption is just a “perception” thing, probably just arrived on earth from Mars. Corruption is real, and we call it a “perception” simply because either we are too cowardly to speak to it frontally and expose those involved it in, or we are guilty of it ourselves. That is why Mr. Bagbin’s statements have serious legal implications and consequences that cannot be trivialized, laughed at or wished away. If it is true that our lawmakers are themselves lawbreakers, then there is an urgent need to tackle this situation headlong, and take the constitutionally mandated steps to eradicate such corrupt practices in Parliament. We may never succeed in completely eliminating corruption, and on that I tend to agree, in part, with the reported statement of President John Kufuor, that “corruption has been with us from Adam.” But what he failed or neglected to add is that his declared “zero tolerance for corruption” also meant that we have to continue the fight against it, and that even if all we succeed in doing is making corruption less attractive and potentially more painful than it has been, we would have some success to fall on and refer to. Win the battles. Chalk up small victories. Take steps towards eliminating corruption, even if we never achieve full elimination.

An MP who takes money to promote a bill or other process (or forbear to do same) in Parliament is guilty of the offence of corruption. If Appiah-Ofori’s allegation is true, then all the MPs who took money to vote on the Ghana Telecom privatisation are guilty of the offence of corruption. Even Mr. Bagbin’s curious Merchant Bank example is problematic. An MP who is fed, given “T&T” and/or “per diem” commits the offence if the food and monies were given to him/her as part of a deal to influence his/her actions (or inactions) in Parliament. It is curious that Mr. Bagbin did not reveal how much money was distributed as “T&T” to the members of “the team” who attended the meeting. However, the current Minority Leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, stated on Oman FM, on the morning of 10th March 2014 when the news broke, that the alleged “T&T” was only given to the members of one political party, and that the amount was GH¢5,000. If true, that could raise red flags especially if the meeting was held in Accra. So that what is described as “just T&T” could trigger criminal prosecution if the amount of it is so out of tune with how much an MP is reasonably expected to have spent to attend the meeting or seminar, and if the other elements of the offence exist.

Whatever the figure was, Mr. Bagbin stated that “that team came to the House and led the caucus to try and debate it.” If it is proved that the position of members of the team in subsequently “leading the caucus to debate the matter,” was influenced by the food that they were fed with and money that they received as “T&T,” then they would be guilty of the offence of corruption. In both of this instance and the Appiah-Ofori’s alleged instance, the MPs involved would also be guilty of the offence of extortion if they actually demanded those items, directly or indirectly. This is because all of those acts done after the alleged receipt of food and money, were things that Parliamentarians are required to do by law, such as advocating positions, making speeches and voting. To the extent that any of those acts was or were thus influenced, offences would have been committed. That is why a full public inquiry into the allegations would be welcome. The people of Ghana deserve to know where the truth lies in this matter.

I would also like to make the following points and recommendations in conclusion.

First, Mr. Bagbin says that there are no rules governing lobbying in Ghana. I respectfully disagree. Lobbying an MP by simply seeking to influence or convince him/her to take a position on a matter is no offence. But an offence is committed if that lobbying involves any gift, or the promise or prospect of some valuable consideration. The scope of Ghana’s anti-bribery and corruption law, rustic though it may appear, is so wide that what might be accepted in other countries as mere “lobbying” would constitute an offence here. If we want to change it, then we should introduce formal legislation on lobbying MPs, for instance by amending the Parliament Act, to provide for the maximum value of gifts that MPs are allowed to receive, the circumstances under which such gifts may be received and strict declaration of and accounting for them.

Second, the offences of corruption and extortion should no longer be classified as “misdemeanours” under our law. (Extortion may however be tried as a second degree felony if it is accompanied by threats.) The Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) Act makes special provision that punishment for corruption and extortion may be imprisonment for up to 25 years. However, their technical categorization as “misdemeanors,” is still problematic, as misdemeanours are the lowest category of offences under our criminal law. There is no reason why corruption and extortion should be classified any lower than say, stealing, which is a second degree felony.

Third, I would also advocate specific provisions in legislation, which would empower a court that convicts a person of Corruption or Extortion to order that person to forfeit the benefit received to the state. There is already precedent in what I consider the most ignored, but probably the most potent, anti-corruption statute in Ghana, the Government Contracts (Protection) Act, 1979 (AFRCD 58). That statute provides that a contractor who wrongly receives payment under a government contract may be ordered by the court to refund those monies to the government. And upon conviction for corruption under those circumstances, the court, in addition to imposing a sentence of between five and fifteen years imprisonment on both the contractor and the government official who certified the contract, may impose fines of up to three times the amount of money improperly paid, on those persons. It is time to dig up and dust up that statute, breathe life into it, give it teeth, and incorporate some of its provisions into our general law on bribery and corruption.

Fourth, it would appear from the law that the offences of Corruption and Extortion are only committed if they involve the official acts of public officers. That would mean private acts of corruption and extortion are not offences. In effect, and for instance, while a headteacher of a public school may go to jail for engaging in a corrupt act, the headteacher of a private school may only lose his/her job for engaging in the same act with no prospect of prosecution, let alone jail time. It is time to review the law so that the offences cover both public and private acts of corruption and extortion. In this, there is no shame in borrowing from the provisions of the recent UK Bribery Act, which extends to private acts of corruption. Indeed, it might be time to consider a stand-alone Bribery and Corruption Act, to deal specifically with this canker, because currently, our laws on Corruption are scattered in nearly 10 separate pieces of legislation.

Fifth, simplify government processes. Long, drawn-out procedures for getting anything done by government, is a prime and fertile ground for corruption. It is unacceptable, nay, criminal, for it to take five years to register title to land, and that system compels anxious land owners to pay monies just to speed the process up. Persons who travel to and drive in the US, obey the speed limits not because they suddenly become angels, but because they know that if they are caught, they cannot simply dish out a twenty dollar bill to the arresting officer and then go scot free. If you are caught, you are given a ticket that imposes a fine. You are required to pay within a specified time or you are liable to be arrested. It beats my mind why we cannot do this in Ghana. Today, if you are caught speeding by the now notorious speeding gun used by the police between Cape Coast and Takoradi, and you know that you would have to travel to court in Takoradi from Accra, for about 5 adjournments (each spread over two weeks) before you are declared “not guilty” or fined, your ‘angelic self’ is likely to take a back seat if you know that a single mauve note will send you along your merry way with no record of your arrest, let alone a speeding ticket.

Sixth, as crime and criminals get more and more sophisticated with time, it is to be expected that persons engaged in acts of Corruption and Extortion are also getting more sophisticated. That is why institutions such as the CID of the Ghana Police Service, the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) and the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) require more empowerment and resources to carry out their respective mandates properly and in tune with the changing times.

Seventh, there is the need to engage in continuous public education and discourse on Bribery and Corruption. The logic that “exposure” kills Corruption is pretty unassailable. And in this regard, our religious bodies can play a key and leading role, because we all need to be reminded, constantly, of the cost of Corruption to both the totality of our beings and the nation as a whole. I am pretty certain that Charles Wesley will forgive me if I adopt and adapt the words of his hymn I Want A Principle Within, that we need a “sensibility of corruption, a pain to feel it near.”

In conclusion, let me state that I do not think that Mr. Alban Bagbin was lying, even if he was card-stacking at some point in his delivery. He is too experienced a man and professional to have spoken amiss. Yet he stands at a critical crossroad, and what he says or does in the coming days will either give a booster shot to the fight against corruption or simply send us back. He can tell it all and let the chips fall where they may, or he can simply backtrack to save his skin. But for now, I believe that when the history of the fight against corruption in Ghana comes to be written, it will record the day when a political insider stood up and gave voice to the hitherto loud whispers that “some MPs take bribe.” What happened thereafter is something that we all have to wait to see.

SIX (6) THINGS I WISH I KNEW [MORE ABOUT] BEFORE TURNING 30

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

SIX (6) THINGS I WISH I KNEW [MORE ABOUT] BEFORE TURNING 30

(Presentation delivered to the 1st Eagles Conference for Men, held/organised by Joyful Way Incorporated on 30th May 2015)

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this maiden Eagles Conference, organised by the group that I absolutely love with all that I am and have within me, Joyful Way, the last standing epitome of true music evangelism.

It is certainly by your design that my wife spoke, last year, at the maiden Arete Conference that you organised for young women. I understand that it was pretty no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoner session. I haven’t summoned sufficient courage to listen to the recording, and I will NOT encourage you to do that! Trust me, I know what I am talking about.

Today, I am privileged to be speaking after two truly great men. First, is the current President of Joyful Way, Michael Charway, who spoke on “How A Young Man Can Keep His Way Pure,” and then my own friend and brother Albert Ocran who I have known for 40 out of my 47 years on earth, who spoke to you on “How To Cultivate Multiple Income Streams.” You could not have chosen better men to speak on these topics, as the messages they delivered, I know, reflect their very lives. The messenger is the best message. I can only hope and pray that at the end of my presentation, I would be considered worthy of being associated with the path that these men have so skillfully blazed here to day.

My presentation is in two parts. The first part is the introduction to the topic. The second part is a list, just a list of 6 things I which I had known (better) some 17 years ago, when I turned 30.

INTRODUCTION

What is it about the age 30, and why is it significant? Isn’t age just a number? Or is it because the number looks and sounds nice?

Since this Conference is organised by a Christian organisation, this presentation is anchored and rooted in your source

Let’s go the the Good Book, Book of Books, the Ancient Script, penned by human hands, yet inspired by the Spirit of the life-creating, life-changing and life-sustaining Force called “God”. I have found in that book, 6 significant things that happened to 6 significant people at the age 30.

1. Joseph was 30 when he was appointed to put in place in Egypt, an economic policy that would mark that country as a world giant and ultimately a super power. (Gen 41:46). In 30 years, God has raised him from being a spoilt son of a rich man, a sissy and dreamer, thrust into management as a teen with no experience and not even the ability to interpret his own dreams, God rescued him
* from Papa’s loving and overbearing Protection,
* from the Pit of dashed hope and Despair,
* from Potiphar’s House of Temptation and Seduction,
* from Prison, living on others’ dreams, a place Unjust and Unfair,
* to the Palace and Power and Position.

2. In ancient Israel, Priests were officially commissioned into service at the age of 30 (Num 4:3). Thus although they had been born in the tribe of Levi and were destined to become priest, they required 3 decades of training to assume that high office for 2 decades. They had to retire at 50. Note however that that age was subsequently reduced to 25 (Num 4:24-25) and to to 20 in the time of David (I Ch 23:24-27, 2 Ch 31:17), but the retirement age appears to have been kept at 50.

3. David became King at age 30, and he ruled for 40 years (2 Sam 5:4). Doing the math, he could was 18- 20 when he killed Goliath. That is confirmed by Num 1:18-45 where the age of being “numbered” for military service was 20.

4. Ezekiel received his prophetic and unmatched vision-seeing ministry when he was 30 (Ez 1:1). He remembered the actual date of his 30th year (4 months and 5 days) and exactly where he was (by river Chebar) when “the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.”

5. The Lord Christ Himself started his work at age 30. Lk 3:23 – “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.” God HIMSELF, needed 3 decades of preparation for what was effectively 3 years of ministry!!

6. John the Baptist must have started his work at age 30. How do we know? He was only 6 months older than the Lord Christ. Luke 1:26 says that 6 months after angel Gabriel returned to heaven from the “divine impregnation” mission effected on the old and barren Elisabeth in Judaea, the same angel was sent on another of such missions, this time to a city of Galilee called Nazareth and this time to a virgin! In v.36, Gabriel confidently informs Mary that her cousin Elisabeth is 6 months pregnant already, and that she is about to go through the same miraculous procedure, and that with God, nothing was impossible. And in fact, it was only upon this testimony that Mary believed and said “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word.”

30 is therefore significant as the age of maturity. Life may “begin” at 40, but we step into maturity 10 years before beginning life. In other words, we mature before we live.

Our topic today is therefore asking about what we should have known before maturity, before becoming of age. In other words, what should I have known when I was still YOUTH?

The 6 ‘Paulian’ Standards

Paul says to a young Timothy “Let no man DESPISE thy youth; BUT be thou an EXAMPLE of the believer, in WORD, in CONVERSATION, in CHARITY, in SPIRIT, in FAITH, in PURITY.” (1 TIM 4:12)

“LET NO MAN” means do not allow any person, do not give grounds, room, reason, justification or basis.

To “LET” means to allow, permit, give permission to, give leave to, authorize, sanction, grant, grant the right to, warrant, license, empower, enable or entitle. Used with the negative adverb,”no,” gives it an opposite meaning, force and effect: “Do Not!”

It means that you are the only person who can allow the time of your youth to be despised by men. In other words, the time of your youth will be judged, weighed at some point in your life. Did it build you up for anything? In other words, even when you are no longer youth, the things you do will let others judge the kind of youth you were or upbringing you received.

You have heard it said, “ofri fie,” (he/she comes from a home); or “onyaa nteteɛ pa,” (he/she is of a good upbringing); or “ye tetee no, y’an nyɛn no sɛ akokɔ” (he/she was carefully raised, not simply kept like a chicken); or “na opanin nni ne fie?” (was there no elder person in his/her house/family?)

It may be true that you should not consider, too seriously, what others think about you. But Paul something different here. He says that what others think about you (especially during your time as youth), may be influenced by who you are, what you do and what you have become. In short, WHAT FOUNDATION DID YOU RECEIVE AS YOUTH? In other words, WHAT SHOULD I HAVE KNOWN AND DONE WHEN I WAS STILL YOUTH, I.E. BEFORE I BECAME AN ADULT?

Speaking of Foundations, the Lord Christ told the parable of Foundations. According to Matthew the Jewish Zealot, the story was very simple, and indeed simplistic. The wiseman built on a rock and the foolish man build it sand. When the tempests came, the building of the wise prevailed, while that of the foolish was torn down “and great was the fall.” (Mt 7:24-27)

Luke, the Doctor and intellectual tells the same parable, with a deeper insight. He says that the first man did not simply find a rock and build a house on it. Luke says the man “digged deep and laid the foundation on a rock.” The other man “without foundation, built an house upon the earth.” (Lk 6:47-49)

I side with the intellectual version or recount. Building a solid foundation for your future involves DIGGING DEEP to find A ROCK, and then LAYING THE FOUNDATION UPON THAT ROCK. Digging deep requires hard work, sacrifice, pain and endurance, and DEFERRED GRATIFICATION. You will see your friends just settle on any patch of earth, but you want more, you want better. You are unwilling unable and unprepared to compromise on your foundation. You are prepared to pay the price, take the pain today, deny yourself of today’s pleasure in the knowledge that when you finally HIT THAT ROCK, only God can stop you. Even the sky will not be your limit.

And so in Lam 3:27, the weeping prophet takes a break from his ‘jeremiad’ and affirms that “It is GOOD for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” That is where and when you pay the price, in your YOUTH.

Wise Solomon tells us in Eccl 12:1 that you should remember the Creator “in the days of your youth.” Because “evil days and years” will come, those last days when you have no pleasure in even continuing to live.

Thus any “man” will only have the ability to DESPISE your youth, if you LET him do so. The NIV says “look down on you.” NLT says “think less of you.” Another version says “thing slightingly of you.”

DESPISE itself means to “feel contempt or a deep repugnance for.”

It is synonymous with detest, hate, loathe, abhor, regard with contempt, feel contempt for, shrink from, be repelled by, not be able to bear/stand/stomach, find intolerable, deplore, dislike.

Your youth therefore provides the foundation of what you will be or become in adulthood. If you don’t build the right foundation, you allow or permit others to be repelled by what you become, because you did not get or attain the proper foundation.

BUT: Paul uses this conjunction in its natural meaning, used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned. It is synonymous with “yet,” nevertheless,” “nonetheless,” “however,” “despite that,” and “in spite of that.” eg “he stumbled but didn’t fall.”

Thus Paul is saying that the opposite or contrast to your youth being despised, is you attaining the 6 standards that he lays down or sets up after the use of the ‘disjunctive conjunction’ BUT. In other words, if you do not attain these standards YOU will LET others despise your youth.

And so my father’s people the Borbor Mfanste would call you “aambobra sansanyi,” a simile that compares the one with no achievement with the duiker bird.

The song “sansa aboa, mennyi beebi a mowu ma da” speaks of the wondering, restless soul of the homeless, jobless, lazy loafer of a duiker, whose only pleasure is feeding and feasting on hapless little chicks; hence the song “sansa akroma, ne na ewu o, ɔkyeke nkokɔ mba, ɔse ɔnkɛyɛ edwuma. w’akyinkyin, ekyinkin, ekyinkyin…”

Thus you are the only person who can invite despising towards your youth. NO ONE CAN LOOK DOWN ON SOMETHING THAT IS GREATER THAN HIM.

Back to Paul and his sometimes somewhat cryptic writing style, after setting up the PRE-TEXT in just 3 words, he then identifies 6 critical areas where youth must excel, so as not to attract societal opprobrium. But before then, the provides the CONTEXT, saying that you just must not be show them, you must be an EXAMPLE. A mere pass mark in a thing isn’t an example.

An example is “a thing characteristic of its kind or illustrating a general rule.” It is “a person or thing regarded in terms of their fitness to be imitated.” And so here, Paul’s context speaks to, not mere participants, but to that person who can truly and properly be regarded as a specimen, exemplification, representative case, a case in point, an illustration, a precedent, guide, model, pattern, blueprint, template, paradigm, the ideal, THE STANDARD.

This is what informs my personal mantras: If others sit, STAMD. If others stand, STAND OUT. If others stand out, be OUTSTANDING. If others are outstanding, be THE STANDARD.

And so in which areas of life are you to be THE STANDARD that Paul speaks about?

1. SPEECH
In word, in what you say. If ‘the Word WAS God’, then the message and the messenger are one! You must be what you say.

2. CONDUCT
– The way you live
– Way of life
– Manner of life
– Conversation
– Behaviour
– Deportment/Comportment

3. CHARITY
– Love. A verb. A doing word. It is when it is done that it becomes a noun.
Are you a hateful and spiteful person, or are you a loving and considerate person?

4. SPIRIT
This attribute appears in only the King James Version. It could refer to how yielded you are to the Holy Spirit in all of your life and conduct. But it could also mean the manner and disposition in which you do all things, i.e. your human spirit.

5. FAITH
Actually faithfulness. Are you dependable? Are you loyal? Do you have constancy, trueness, true-heartednes, dedication, and commitment? Can I bet my life on you? Or are you the one that we can bet and count on to fail.

6. PURITY
– Chastity (Here, I borrow from the wise words of superior court judges when they write a concurring opinion. In a situation like this, they would have said something like this: :”I have had the privilege of seeing and reading aforehand, the erudite opinion and presentation of your President, Michael Charway. I completely and wholeheartedly concur with what he has had to say, and I have nothing useful to add.”)

But the key thing about these STANDARDS is that there must be a balance. A false balance is an abomination, the Script says. You must be an EXAMPLE in each of these 6 areas, in your youth. If you fail at any in your youth, you weaken your foundation for adulthood, and you invite others to despise your youth, either in the time of your youth or even when you are an adult.

Thus at the end of considering these, may I suggest to you that these are not 6 separate and distinct standards, but altogether, they form ONE STANDARD. There may be 6 components of the whole, but we are required to be an “EXAMPLE”, one example or all 6, rolled into one. If we slack or fall short in even one, we have failed in all. Then we invite the despising that Paul spoke to Timothy about.

May the Lord forbid that your children will one day curse the day that you were born.

The ‘Youthful’ Christ

But we serve a Christ who retains his youth. When God the Father invites God the Son in Ps 110:1 to sit at His right hand “until I make thine enemies thy footstool”, the Father assures the son in v.3 that “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: THOU HAST THE DEW OF THY YOUTH.”

That is what must have inspired the songwriter to write “let the Dew of Heaven bring us a refreshing….”

Youthfulness is supposed as be as fresh and as nourishing as the dew, pure and beautiful, born from the womb of morning. That is why the same Psalmist penned that “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” And surely, this is what inspired me to write in my song “Me Twɛn Yehowa” that “Nti sɛ nusuo bɛsoɛ me anadwo a, Nanso ade kyeɛ ne anigye n’ɛnam…”

Alas, the Dew of Heaven is a person, the Lord Christ. He, who has retained the dew of his Youth, assures us in Ps. 103 that if we live a life that blesses the Lord, he will (1) forgive iniquities, (2) heal diseases, (3) redeem from destruction, (5) crown with lovingkindness and tender mercies, and (5) satisfy our mouths with good things. The sum total of these blessings is that “so that your youth is renewed like that of the eagle”.

No one knows how long eagles live. But some eagles in captivity have been known to live for over 100 years. This is because every year, eagles go through a natural process called “moulting” when they cast off old feathers and receive new ones, which come with renewed strength and energy to soar and reach heights that no other creature can reach with natural strength.

May our youth be renewed each morning by the Dew of Heaven. May the weepings of the ‘night’ disappear when morning breaks. May we gather the strength to tap into the Dew of Heaven so that we remain fresh each day. May we moult like the eagle so that we can soar the heights. May our feet become like hinds’ feet so that we can capture our heights.

My List of Six

And so all of that I have said before, is my introduction to the list of six (6) things that I wish I knew [more about] before turning 30, and I simply want to invite you, in the light of what we have shared before to think and meditate on these, as I come to a close.

1. Me
2. Life
3. Work
4. Friendship
5. Marriage
6. Wisdom

Pr. 30:24-28 Roll Cal of The Little but Exceedingly Wise
* Ants: weak – prepare meat in the summer
* Rock Badgers: feeble – but has homes in the rocks
* Locusts: no king – but go forth in formations that can make any army jealous
* Spiders: can be held in the hands – but the spider and its web can found in the palace

Sapientia et Doctrina Stabilitas: “Wisdom and Knowledge Shall be the Stability of Thy Times” – Isaiah 33:6 and the motto of the second university that I attended, Queen’s University. Wisdom alone isn’t enough. Knowledge alone isn’t enough. It is wisdom PLUS knowledge that provide stability in all times.

In sum, I wish I knew THEN, what I know NOW, especially that “You will have to keep your mouth open for a very long time, before a roasted partridge flies into it.”

20 YEARS ON… (I would do the same thing all over again)

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

May I reminisce?

11th July 1994 was a Monday. I was still 26, bright-eyed, and a tad confused about life and its twists and turns. At 10:00am, it was definitely a nervous me who was ushered into the room where I was to defend my masters thesis with a long title: THE DESIGN AND OPERATION OF TAX INCENTIVES FOR FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT IN LESS DEVELOPED COUNTRIES.

You see, for the preceding 11 months I had been a student at the Faculty of Law, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada studying and writing, in an attempt to acquire a Master of Laws degree in International Taxation Law. The course itself was not stressful. Earlier in February, I had indicated to my supervisor, the late Professor Alec Easson (an extremely pleasant Englishman, Oxford and LSE grad), that I thought that I was ready to defend the thesis. He patiently explained to me that my course had a three-semester residency requirement, and that although he agreed that I was ready, I simply had to wait. I absolutely admired and adored Alec. He was the first law teacher to tell me “Ace, my name is Alec, not Prof Easson.” Another time, he said to me, when I was busily regurgitating law, “Ace, I am not really interested in how much law you know. I am more interested in what you think about the law you know.” Alec shaped my life and thinking in more ways than he ever knew, and I quietly mourned him when he died in January 2007.

Thus between March and July, I just had fun. I worked for Alec as his Research Assistant to make some extra money. And then I watched loads of TV. I also spent time discovering the more interesting aspects of Canadian life with my key buddies, Tanzanian lawyer Hamudi Majamba (now Professor of Law at the University of Dar es Salaam) and Barbadian engineer Robert Bascom. And there was fun-loving Camerounian lawyer Nicoline Ambe (who still looks like she is 16), and Ghanaian MBA Aba Cato Andah, who was my movie-watching mate (yeah, Tuesdays were cheap nights). Ah, there was that Christmas 9-hour drive from Kingston to Philadelphia with American human rights lawyer Alan Clark (He has never stopped reminding me we got lost at some point because I couldn’t read, and then I left my passport in his car!!) But easily my ‘classleader’ was Andrea Timoll, whose thesis was on deconstructing Antigone and had coined the word “phallologocentrism.” And the encouragement of Prof Rosemary Ofei-Aboagye King. I wrote, arranged old Joyful Way songs, and did sequencing and pre-production of the songs that ended up on Joyful Way’s 1994 Osabarima album. And I did a lot of “church”, helping to organise a gospel music concert at my church. Incidentally, I am struggling to contact the church now. It seems to have disappeared. Yes, it was months of fun. But I digress.

When I entered the room, the law professors were there, some seated, and others grabbing a cup of coffee. Of course, Prof Easson was there. I also remember that Prof Venkata Raman (whose Foreign Investment/NAFTA course I had audited in the First Semester) was seated. I think the Dean of the Faculty, Prof Don Carter, was also there. And then there was the external examiner, Prof Vern Krishna, International Taxation expert from the University of Ottawa. and the then Executive Director of the National Committee on Accreditation of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada

I was directed to sit in a chair at the head of the table, my heart beating, but at the same time confident. For the next two hours, I thoroughly enjoyed the banter, question and answer, a unique opportunity to joust with my betters, my superiors and established academics in my area of study. At the end of it I was asked to leave the room for the panel to confer. When I was called back, Prof Krishna announced that I had passed, and that all I had to do was to fix some typos and formatting.

As was the tradition, the panel took me to lunch in some flashy restaurant in downtown Kingston. I was seated next to Prof Krishna. In the course of lunch he asked what my next plans were, and I said that although I had gained admission to do further grad work in Michigan, I was going back home to Ghana. He could not believe it. He calmly advised that I stay and apply to University of Ottawa to do the doctorate programme in international taxation law. He added that he would also recommend me for accreditation so that I could write the Bar exam and qualify to practice in Canada. He turned to Prof Easson and said to him, “this gentleman should not be going back to Ghana.”

Excited? Yes! Flattered? Yes! Tempting? Yes! I could simply melt into Canada, say bye-bye to Ghana. New life. New prospects.

But what did I do? That evening, I went through my thesis to fix the typos and formatting issues. I spent the next day, 12th July 1994 doing nothing but thinking. I made some hard decisions. I called my family in Philly to tell them what I was going to do. That night, I partied (like I had never done) with my flatmates who had organised a party for me. The next morning, I caught a Greyhound bus to Lester Pearson Airport in Toronto. It was from the airport that I called my cousins in Toronto to tell them that I was returning to Ghana. I boarded the Air India flight to London. I got to London the next day, 13th July 1994, spent the night with my sister at Maida Vale and was on the Ghana Airways flight back home to Ghana, touching down at Kotoka in the evening of 14th July 1994.

Why? Because the night of 12th July 1994 was a turning point in my life. I had the degree that I went to Canada to get. I thought long and hard. Did I really want a doctorate in law, so that I would become “Dr. Ankomah” by when I am 30? But was that what I wanted to do with my life? To the disappointment of my profs and some family members, I concluded that I did not want to spend the next 4 years of my life studying one area of the law just to add some more alphabets before and after my name. That was all a doctorate meant to me. Canada was a great country, but it was clearly not for me. North America was not for me. It was there that I discovered that I was black. I wasn’t ever going to get used to being checked out when I enter a shop, because being black meant that I was a potential shoplifter. I wanted to live and work in a country where most of the people I meet, would look like me!

I was only 26 years old. But I wanted to make some money, I mean real MONEY. I had spent a year as a scholarship student in Canada, and I didn’t want to spend more years like that. 20 years on, I am pretty certain that I would take the same decision if I was faced with it today.

So I arrived in Accra within 2 days of defending my thesis, got married, resumed work at my law firm, babies came along (yes, 3 of them in 5 years), Associate, Lecturer, Senior Associate, Senior Lecturer, Partner, Managing Partner…

[And now for the tired cliche] “The rest,” as they say, “is history.”

TIME CHANGES, AND TIMES CHANGE

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Speech Delivered at the 2014 Graduation of the American International School, Moevenpick Ambassador Hotel, Accra on 5th June 2014

Madam Senior Administrator, The Principals, Teachers and Staff of the American International School, Parents and Guardians, Graduands, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I do not remember anything that any Guest Speaker said at any of my graduations. And so, graduands, I will not hold it against you if you don’t remember anything that I will say today. But it is a privilege to have been invited to be the Guest Speaker at this august graduation event, and I am grateful to the American International School for this honour.

My topic for the graduating class, today, is “TIMES CHANGE, AND TIME CHANGES.”

TIME is that indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. CHANGE is said to occur when the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of something/one thing becomes different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.

In 1986, when I graduated from Secondary School, we had no mobile phones. Indeed telephones were not that common and I do not recall having a telephone conversation from school, with my parents at any time during the 7 years that I spent at Mfantsipim. There was no email, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, Google or Yahoo search. If you needed anything from home while in boarding school, you wrote letters to your parents, which took about 2 weeks to move between Cape Coast and Accra. Thus by the time your parents read that you were unwell (and it was mostly from malaria), you would have recovered already. If you wrote a love letter to a girl in the nearby girls’ schools, you would either post it (and that would take a week or so to arrive, by which time all your words would have become stale) or hand-deliver it yourself to her when you visited on Saturday or Sunday. If you were as shy as I was, you would ask her not to read it until you had left!!

But what happened? TIME went past and in the course of that TIME, CHANGE happened. I am no longer that skinny, gangly, bright-eyed boy who wanted so badly to become a lawyer. Today, I am a lawyer – I have achieved that dream and attained that vision. Today, I have children of my own, 3 of them, one of whom is about enter her sophomore year in college, this fall. I have grey hair. TIMES CHANGED, and the TIME CHANGED me. The world around me changed. I had to CHANGE to meet and suit the CHANGING TIMES. I would be an irrelevant, fossilized dinosaur, the object and subject of interest of archaeologists, extinct, but awaiting the magic of a Jurassic Park resuscitation, if I remained stuck in the world of 1986, when we are in 2014. There are many human dinosaurs around. Don’t become one.

Yours today, is a fast moving digital age. It is often said that CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT. That change can be frightening and daunting if we do not recognise that each passing second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year, etc provides us with an opportunity. Thus, the CHALLENGE OF CHANGE, is at the same time, and in and of itself the OPPORTUNITY OF CHANGE. It is important to see those opportunities and take advantage of the new possibilities they bring.

Today, each Graduand is witnessing a change. When we leave this room, you will not be a high school student anymore. You will be a high school graduate. What has changed? Just your designation or description? I think not. You whole life has changed. You are at the cusp, the edge of a new beginning, a new journey, where there is no end or destination until you die. The journey of life, is itself the destination. You only fail when you stop undertaking the journey.

And so tonight, you must celebrate the fact that one season is past, and another season is born. So party, dance, rejoice. But as you celebrate the end of one stage of your life, you mark the beginning of another stage of the same life. When you leave this room, when you wake up tomorrow morning, it will be the beginning of the rest of your life. CHANGE has happened. CHANGE is happening. Are you ready for it?

Allow me to suggest 7 things that you need to do, if you are going to remain relevant in this fast-changing world. And I will borrow substantively from the thoughts of Kathryn D. Leary, writer, marketing and public relations consultant and former President & CEO of the Leary Group Inc.

1. TAKE STOCK. Spend some time thinking about your life to date. Search your soul. Make an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, joys and disappointments, mistakes and successes. What have your brought to the world and what else would you like to do, accomplish or experience? Stay open to all possibilities and allow time to really ponder about yourself.

2. IDENTIFY POSSIBLE GOALS & OPTIONS. Once you have taken stock, start identifying new interests and possible goals for the next phase of your life. Your life from childhood to date definitely has a store or wealth of assets, from your experiences and the skills and learning that you have acquired along the way. Don’t be stuck in a groove. Think outside the box. How are you going to use these assets to create satisfying and enriching life?

3. ASSESS YOUR OPTIONS. When you have identified you new goals and options, begin your research to explore the viability of each option. The Internet, which hitherto has been your means of pointless chatter and endless gossip, and visiting of websites that you cannot admit you have visited, should become a new tool, a source of information on your areas of interest. What is the current climate for pursuing these goals? It is at this stage that you must identify and talk with people who are doing what you are interested in pursuing so that you can assess if this is something you would really enjoy doing. Learn as much about your options as possible and evaluate whether your skills and temperament are suitable. How viable are the options? Will they make your money? Would they make you creative, or give you freedom?

4. COMMIT TO YOUR GOAL AND GET TO WORK ON YOUR GAME PLAN. After the assessment, choose the goal you desire most and claim it mentally. Affirm your ability to make it happen, based on your commitment, intelligence, wealth of experience and skills. Create a roadmap of what you need to do to pursue this particular goal. What is competitive environment for the dream job, business or new life direction? What are the strengths and weaknesses for this goal? What are you going to do to shore up your identified weaknesses? Special training or courses? Reading books and online research? Be sure to know what you don’t know, then go learn it. Discover everything there is to discover as you get ready to execute your plan.

5. BUILD YOUR CREDENTIALS. When you have completed the commitment and working-on-game-plan phase, it is time to get to work. It is school time all over again. Take the courses you have identified, to attain and improve your arsenal of credentials. This is the time that you build your CV, through HARD WORK. Your CV should not be a mere collection of words and alphabets, but a testimony of your hard work. Use your vacation times to intern or volunteer in the field to gain experience. These will give you opportunities to experiment with your new direction, develop your craft and gain exposure.

6. BRAND YOUR NEW SELF. In the course of all of this, you must seek to become unique. There are millions of artists, musicians, lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, computer scientists etc. What would you be bringing that would make a mark or dent in this world? Identify what is distinctive about yourself and the unique approach you will bring to the field you have chosen. Use this information to create your identity or brand yourself. Work hard for distinctions because they will count in your branding. Don’t just pass exams. Pass with distinction. Create a personal slogan or tagline that captures your uniqueness and use it everywhere. In my senior year, mine was “failure has no breeding grounds where hard work, discipline and dedication lie.”

7. LET THE WORLD KNOW YOU’VE ARRIVED! At every stage when you have achieved something (e.g. a graduation) you must make a statement. Use every opportunity you can to create a message about the new you. Be creative, be daring and be heard!

My law firm is proud to have been associated with the founding and growth of this school in Ghana, and glad to have seen what was then, but a dream, at the beginning, bear fruit and continue to bear fruit. The best testimony of the greatness of that dream and vision, is and will be the quality of the students that it produces and the effect and impact that they in turn have on society.

As I come to a close, permit me to share with you, my personal mantra: “If others sit, stand. If other stand, stand out. If others stand out, be outstanding. And when others are outstanding, be the standard.”

Yours is a Christian mission school. Some, including your parents, have paid a price and made sacrifices to ensure that you are where you are today. You must respect that. I also cannot end this speech without referring to the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Source and Finish, best captured on an occasion as this in the words of the hymnists Nicholas Brady and Nahum Tate as follows:

“Through all the changing scenes of life,
In trouble and in joy,
The praises of my God shall still
My heart and tongue employ.

Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then
Have nothing else to fear;
Make you His service your delight,
Your wants shall be His care.”

But I would also leave you with the endearing words of the late music legend, Michael Jackson, who famously sang:

“I’m Starting With The Man [and Woman] In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His [and Her] Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change”

Dear Graduands, I salute and congratulate you on a successful completion of your course of study. Go out and be that change that you want to see.

Thank you, and God bless you.

THE RIGHT TO CROSS-EXAMINE IN A TRIAL BY AFFIDAVIT EVIDENCE

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

THE RIGHT TO CROSS-EXAMINE IN A TRIAL BY AFFIDAVIT EVIDENCE

It is trite that the keystone of common law evidence is the reliance on confrontation and examination as a means for discovering the truth. Every party has an undeniable right to examine any witness who testifies at the trial of that action. Section 62(1) of Ghana’s Evidence Act provides that “at the trial of an action”, the witness must submit to examination by all parties who “choose to attend and examine.” The right to cross-examine is the right of the adverse party, and absent any extraordinary or extenuating circumstances, I do not see how a court can deny that right.

It is for this reason that section 62(2) provides the safeguard for circumstances where complete examination is denied. That is why the section gives the court the discretion to strike out testimony which has not been subject to complete cross-examination so as to meet the demands of fairness. In Mansah v. Nimoah [1961] GLR 511, the trial court failed to invite a party to cross-examine some 2 parties who testified. On appeal it was held that the evidence not having been subjected to cross-examination was “improper” and a judgment based on it could not stand. See Atuahene v. COP [1963] 1 GLR 448, where the court held that if a witness who has testified in chief is not available for cross-examination, the court should either expunge the testimony from the record or insist upon his appearance in court. The court is not entitled to act upon such evidence. The “Atuahene Principle” was cited and applied in Banda v. The Republic [1975] 1 GLR 52, where the court held that if a court itself precludes the right to cross-examine, then the question whether or not such denial occasioned substantial miscarriage of justice would depend on factors such as the nature of the cross-examination sought. Atuahene was also cited and applied by the Court of Appeal in Laryea v. Oforiwah [1984-86] 2 GLR 410, where the court re-stated the right of a party to test, under cross-examination, the veracity and accuracy of the evidence-in-chief given by a witness, and that if he is denied that opportunity, then the whole of the evidence given by that witness ought to be expunged from the record.

Thus where a court determines that the mode of testimony in a trial is by affidavit evidence, the evidence proffered by the affidavit is effectively the evidence-in-chief of the deponent (i.e. the person who swears that affidavit.) The deponent is therefore a witness in the trial. Then it would stand to reason that it is the right of the adverse party to decide which of the deponents that it would want to cross-examine. Note that it is risky for a party to choose not to call and cross-examine a deponent/witness, because that party would be deemed to have waived the right to impugn the testimony contained in the affidavit on the grounds that it has not been tested by cross-examination.

Taking evidence by affidavit is neither new nor strange. The High Court Rules provide specifically for it, and maybe there is something to be learned from there. Under those rules, the High Court may order evidence to be given by way of an affidavit of a witness being read at the trial. This rule is usually of much value when the witness is abroad (at the time) or the evidence will not be contested. A draft of the proposed affidavit should be submitted for the consideration of the other side before the application. Thus it is not practicable to make such an order where the evidence will be strongly contested and its credibility will depend on the court’s view of the witness. It should be noted that in the High Court, the court may refuse to act on an affidavit where the deponent cannot be cross-examined and if the deponent does not attend for cross-examination where notice to cross-examine has been given, the affidavit cannot be read in his absence without leave. See the English cases of Dunne v. English (1874) LR 18 Eq 524, Bingley v. Marshall (1862) 6 LT 682 and Shea v. Green (1886) 2 TLR 533.

It would truly be novel if a court denies a party’s request to cross-examine a witness, under any circumstances

WILL LIVE, REAL LIFE COURT TV CHANGE OUR CONSERVATIVE LAWS ON CONTEMPT OF COURT?

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

One of the consequences of the current TV and radio broadcast of the Presidential Election Petition is that people are talking about the case. It doesn’t appear as if anyone is interested in stopping it. And they are not just talking; they are criticising the parties, the lawyers and even the court. Such free unhindered commentary on a pending case is unprecedented in our legal history. Note that thus far, no one has cited anyone for contempt. Is it the case that anyone who makes such an application will be laughed out of the court? Literally, almost everyone is guilty of contempt where this case is concerned.

I am convinced that one of the laws that the current TV broadcast of the Presidential Election Petition should change forever is the law on CONTEMPT OF COURT. And it might be time to consider legislation to regulate the application of the law of Contempt of Court, to move away from its current conservative and narrow application. We don’t have a choice. The live coverage must broaden the bounds of public commentary on pending cases.

Let’s start from the general principle. The court has a general power to punish contempt by committing the offender. The underlying object and purpose of the law of contempt is to maintain the right of the citizen to a fair and unimpeded system of justice and to protect orderly administration of law. The due administration of justice requires unhindered access of all citizens to the court, justice free from bias and no usurpation of the function of the court to decide according to law.

There are generally two classifications of contempt: civil contempt (i.e. conduct involving a breach of a court order) and criminal contempt (refers generally to other conduct which interferes with the due administration of justice).

But of particular interest to me this morning is the latter, CRIMINAL CONTEMPT. It generally refers to words or acts that obstruct or tend to obstruct or interfere with the due administration of justice. It also has two manifestations:

(i) Contempt in facie curiae – i.e. contempt in the face of the Court: this is not confined geographically to the courtroom. It refers to any word spoken or act done in or in the precinct of the court, which obstructs or interferes with the due administration of justice or is calculated to do so, e.g. attempts to interfere with witnesses, assaults in court, insults to the court, interruption/disruption of court proceedings, RECORDING, FILMING, PHOTOGRAPHING OR SKETCHING IN COURT WITHOUT THE COURT’S PERMISSION, disobedience to a subpoena, refusal to be sworn and/or answer questions; and

(ii) Contempt outside the Court: words spoken/published, or acts done outside the court, intended or likely to interfere with/obstruct the fair administration of justice. This applies to acts that interfere with or obstruct persons having duties to discharge in a court or officially connected with court proceedings (e.g. bailiffs), obstructing the process of court, assisting in the breach of an injunction or undertaking. ALSO COVERED ARE PUBLICATIONS INTENDED OR LIKELY TO PREJUDICE THE FAIR TRIAL OR CONDUCT OF PROCEEDINGS, PUBLICATIONS WHICH PREJUDGE OR PRE-EMPT ISSUES IN PENDING PROCEEDINGS, and publications which scandalize or otherwise lower the authority of the court.

Should this still be the law? Trust me, I believe that this telecast/broadcast is gonna change a lot of things in this country.