Parliament will Friday take President Nana Akufo-Addo’s nominee for Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo, through a grueling vetting process that could span more than 10 hours.
Article 144 (1) of the 1992 Constitution provides that “the Chief Justice shall be appointed by the President, acting in consultation with the Council of State and with the approval of Parliament”, hence if she is approved by the 26 legislators today, Justice Sophia Akuffo will take over from retired Chief Justice Theodora Georgina Wood who hanged her robes on June 8.
The constitutional process will be concluded after Parliament’s Appointments Committee is done with the vetting of the nominee for subsequent approval by the plenary session.
President Akufo-Addo will then swear her in after Parliament sends its report about the approval of the nominee.
Justice Sophia Akuffo is one of the longest serving Supreme Court judges in the country and her approval by Parliament will make her the 13th person to occupy the enviable position.
Justice Akuffo was appointed to the country’s apex court 22 years ago by former President Jerry John Rawlings on November 30, 1992.
The nominee has been one of the leading voices in the country on issues of human right, rule of law and child’s rights.
She had served on the continent’s judicial bodies such as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, where she ended up as its President.
Ms Justice Akuffo has served as a justice of the Supreme Court for the past two decades.
She has been a member of the Governing Committee of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute and Chairperson of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Task Force.
In January 2006, she was elected as one of the first judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights and was re-elected until 2014 when she served as the Vice-President.
She is the immediate past President of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.
She is on the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council and has held membership of several organisations, including the Committee of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute.
Her publications include The Application of Information & Communication Technology in the Judicial Process – The Ghanaian Experience, presented to the African Judicial Network Ghana (2002).
Ms Justice Akuffo is the second most senior judge on the highest court of the land after Mr Justice William Atuguba, who is billed to retire next year.
She holds a master’s degree in Law (LLM) from the University of Harvard in the United States of America (USA), and has been a justice of the Supreme Court since 1995.
Photo: President Akufo-Addo
Some person have said President Akufo-Addo’s refusal to appoint Justice Jones Victor Mawulorm Dotse or Justice Anin Yeboah but Justice Akuffo, who is his direct cousin, as Chief Justice sends a bad signal.
They argue that the President is creating a “family and friends government”, and by making Justice Sophia Akuffo, Chief Justice, he will festering allegations of nepotism.
There is a tall list of family members of President in his government.
They Include Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, Works and Housing Minister, Atta Akyea, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Gloria Akuffo and the Minister for Roads and Highways, Kwesi Amoako Atta.
Justice Sophia Akuffo must brace up for a possible 10-hour grilling session when she appears before the Appointments Committee of Parliament, Friday.
Chairman of the Appointments Committee Joe Osei Owusu says each of the 26 members of the Appointments Committee of Parliament have a dedicated 20 minutes to ask any question of the Chief Justice nominee.
As if that is not enough, the Chairman and Ranking members of the Constitution and Legal Affairs and Judicial committees will also be given 20 minutes each to fire their own set of questions.
This brings to 30 the number of MPs scheduled to have a date with the woman nominated by the president to head Ghana’s Judiciary.
If each member were to exhaust the time allotted to him or her, tomorrow’s vetting will be the longest, hopefully, interesting vetting any public official has been subjected to.
Key amongst the issue to be raised are her supposed acquaintance with the president Nana Akufo-Addo, the man who gave her the first shot at legal practice soon after law school
With the current phenomenon of mob justice and the recent controversy over whether lawyers need to advertise or not, there is a wide range of area from which the MPs can ask their questions.
“This one will be different to the extent that she is the ultimate. Ministers are only assistants to the president but she is the ultimate, Chairman of the Appointment Committee said in an interview with Joy News’ Parliamentary correspondent Joseph Opoku Gakpo.
“..This one is the ultimate. Once she is confirmed [it is] finished. Unless you prove misconduct on her part you can’t touch her.
He said the long period of vetting is to expose her as much as possible to the general public.
MP for Atwima Kwanwoma Constituency Dr Appiah Kubi is hoping there vetting will only last for two hours.
He is praying the MPs will ask relevant questions but cautioned the nominee to also be precise in her answers to avoid needless banter during the vetting.