Live Update: An unconstitutional payment is loot - Amidu defends stance on Woyome payment

Live Update: An unconstitutional payment is loot - Amidu defends stance on Woyome payment
Source: Ghana|Myjoyonline.com
Date: 13-02-2018 Time: 11:02:31:am

In a few minutes Martin Amidu will appear before the Appointment Committee of Parliament to be vetted for the position of the Special Prosecutor.

Apart from the vetting, he has two big hurdles to confront- a mystery petition challenging his nomination and seeking a psychological examination for the man who was the Attorney General and on his own as private citizen won landmark cases in the judgment debt scandal involving Alfred Woyome, Waterville and Isofoton.

There is also a second hurdle, a writ filed at the Highest Court of the land challenging the nomination of Amidu on the grounds that he has exceeded the age acceptable for public service.

The petition and writ were all filed by members of the NDC, in a bid to stop the man, who remains a member of the NDC, from assuming the position of the first Special Prosecutor.

Despite these hurdles, the Appointments Committee has vowed to continue with the vetting of Amidu.

The citizen vigilante, as he has come to be known, is already present in the holding room, calm, with no expression of fear or anxiety. He is waiting to be called for what is likely to be one of the longest vetting processes in the history of the country.

Myjoyonline.com will bring a live update of all the drama, adorned with pictures and videos.

11:25 Vetting begins!

Martin Amidu takes his seat dressed in a smart black suit with a black and white tie on a white shirt. He takes committee members through his place of birth, education and life in an answer to a question by the First Deputy Speaker, Joe Osei Owusu who is the Chair of the Appointments Committee.

Nominee: My acceptance of the position of the Special Prosecutor is not because of the status it brings but the opportunity to fight bribery and corruption in the country. I have dedicated myself to the defence of the constitution. It is important that this country is stabilized and not give an opportunity for anybody to use corruption as a reason to destabilize the country.

Members of the committee take the nominee through his CV and issues related to it. 

Date of Birth

11:30 When and where were you born Haruna Iddrisu asks?

Nominee: I was born on 6th September 1951 in the northern protectorate at a period when there was no births and deaths registry. 

Commercial Interest

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa asks the nominee if he is ready to give up his directorship of a citizen vigilante organization he set up in 2017 in compliance with the Special Prosecutor Act. The act does not allow the Prosecutor to hold another position of commercial interest.

Amidu says he is ready to relinquish the position not because of the dictates of the law that set up the Special Prosecutor because that law says the prosecutor shall not be involved in any commercial venture. The Citizen Vigilante organization, he insists is a not-for-profit organization. But for the avoidance of doubt, he says he will relinquish his directorship of the organization.

Children or adults

Ablakwa and Haruna Iddrisu want to know how many children Amidu has and why he wrote their ages on his CV but not their names.

Nominee says the three are now adults and no longer children. He has no obligation to them.

Presidential Advisor

OB Amoah wants to find out whether the nominee was a presidential advisor to late president John Mills at a point.

Nominee admits he was. He was appointed presidential advisor on legal issues but only for a short while until he was moved to the Interior Ministry. Some people he claims were not comfortable with his role.

Student Minister

Alhassan Suhuyini wants to find out from the nominee if he used his time as a deputy Minister of justice, to also pursue some education. Were you a student minister? He asked.

Nominee: I discharged my duties as a minister creditably within the period I served. I used my spare time to pursue distance learning. I didn’t elope or went on AWOL. I enriched my knowledge so I could help my country. It was through that education that alternative dispute resolution programmes came about.

Awards

The nominee is asked about his position on personal awards.

I don't like awards. When i won the judgement debt case at the Supreme Court I was called by many NGOs to be offered awards but i rejected it. I don’t take awards. I refuse them. I always say it is not about me. I am a shy person. I don’t like having the cameras on me. Even the camera on me now at this vetting is a problem for me. 

Special Prosecutor’s Law

Haruna Iddrisu: Having criticized certain portions of the Bill setting up the Special Prosecutor’s office, do you find anything wrong in its current position.

Nominee: I saw some issues with the Bill. I called attention of the president about challenges with the Special Prosecutor Bill. I critiqued it. Most of it has been taken care of and later passed into law.  I was called by the president and offered the position. I accepted the position because I felt it was time to fight the canker of corruption rather than fight the vehicle to be used in fighting the corruption.

Zombie?

Iddrisu: How independent will you be from the Attorney General

Nominee: As a lawyer, if you sell your conscience to your colleague lawyer you are a zombie. A lawyer is an independent contractor and must act as such.

Fight against corruption

Ayariga takes his turn with a question about how the nominee intends to fight corruption

Nominee: This country is not a milking cow but it has suffered several acts of corruption. Even as an Attorney General I wrote to the speaker Doe Adjaho telling him the Chinese loan agreement was not in the national interest. You will have something wrong with you upstairs if you neglected the advice of the Attorney General. Even though the Attorney General does not give approval for project he advices. If you ignore the counsel of the AG you are ready for suicide.

Ayariga: What is it that the Special Prosecutor can do which the Attorney General cannot do.

In my 25 page critique of the Bill covered part of the question. I suggested that the AG should be strengthened and so must the DPP. But I also said that once the president has set up the Special Prosecutor’s office. It should be done in accordance with law. I accepted it because it is a new office. Corruption is structural violence which harms so many people without seeing it. A credible institution with a credible culture is needed to seal the leakages and slippages. I want to put machinery in place to stop this. The number of slippages at the ports if we were to seal them we will not go for aid.  I am the man in the arena, dirtying my face. 

Samson Ahi: You stated in your write ups that the NDC appointed Charlotte Osei to rig the election. Can the nominee provide evidence for this assertion?

Nominee: The subject person has a case before the Chief Justice. I would have wished that at the time I was making this claim, the government should have picked me, quizzed me and sent me to court so I will prove my case there. It is too late in the day to ask me to provide an answer now when the EC chair is currently before the Chief Justice with a possible impeachment hanging around her neck.

Ahi: The nominee accused Mahama of sabotaging corruption. How did Mahama sabotage the government from fighting corruption?

Nominee: If the statement I made is true, it can be said to be defamatory and the ex-president could have dealt with me but he didn’t and I don’t want to go into that now when he is out of office.

Chairman interjects

Joe Osei Owusu draws the attention of the nominee to the fact that he decides what question to be answered or not. Nominee goes ahead to answer, saying, what he said about the ex-president was a perception.

Plea Bargain

OB Amoah asks the nominee about the plea bargain and whether he will use it as Special Prosecutor

Nominee: My objective is not to fill Nsawam with people. The office will act reasonably. Plea bargain is a good incentive. We hope we can get corrupt monies back. That is better than imprisoning the corrupt person for ten years and feeding him ten years. If the person admits to the crime and promises to pay reparation, why not? Even God forgives, why not me?

Amoah: How do you intend to fight the crime of hiding monies abroad?

Nominee: I have what it takes to trace monies put in accounts abroad. Having worked at the Interior Ministry, I know the security intelligence. If you hide your money abroad illegally, I will find it. Maybe they don’t have to approve me, because if they do, I will find it.

NDC membership

Committee: Are you still a member of the NDC. What do think about the appointment of a prosecutor whose political colour is well known?

Nominee: Since my appointment as prosecutor, I have been neutral. I have been a member of the NDC and I will never regret it. There are so many issues I have refused to reply to just because of this appointment. I would have.

Have you resigned as NDC member?

By operation of law, I do not have to be linked with any political party and that is what I intend to do. It doesn’t have to take me to resign.

Cabals?

Committee member makes reference to comment by Amidu about cabals influencing the fight against corruption in Akufo-Addo's government. Member wants to find out how the nominee will fight these cabals and win the corruption fight.

Nominee says if someone commits an offence, he will not consider the political colour of the person. Crime is a crime. He will not be influenced by political colour or affiliation. The office will try to be impartial, be the gatekeeper and be the moral compass of the country. If the office is set up stop the corruption. If you don’t we will prosecute you.

Nitiwul reads a portion of Amidu’s critique of the Special Prosecutor’s Act which suggests that Parliament was not clothed with the powers to approve the prosecutor and that it was the president who has to appoint. He wants to know if Amidu’s position has changed now that he has been nominated.

Amidu says that his position was informed by his knowledge of constitutional law but the president and the Parliament thought otherwise and passed the Special Prosecutor’s Bill into law. He has accepted it. Until the Supreme Court declares the Special Prosecutor’s office as unconstitutional, he says he has decided to help in the fight against corruption.  

Media trial

Nitiwul wants to know from the nominee how he intends to fight media trial.

Amidu says it is unconstitutional and wants a higher body to look at that. He assures his office will not try any suspect in the media and will treat every suspect with the respect they require.

Corruption fight

Nitiwul: What are you going to do differently in the fight against corruption?

Nominee: I am not the one who chooses victims. Perpetrators of corruption are warned to stop. I have doubts about whether we will succeed but I also have the belief that once a credible office is set up, independent with no reason to bend over backwards, then many people will stop being corrupt.

Nitiwul: People in NDC and NPP are not comfortable with you. Assure them that you will do your job without fear or favour, malice or ill will.

Nominee: Any prosecutor who chooses victims because he doesn’t like them is not a prosecutor. He quotes a Supreme Court justice in the US and says a good prosecutor makes sure crime is reduced. I will not do an investigation. If the docket comes and it’s waiting for prosecution, it will be done. He warns people to also be careful about what they say on radio. People make confessions on radio and internet without knowing. When they do i will follow them.

Living with criminals

Alhassan Suhuyini reads from three documents Amidu has written one of which is his letter of apology to late president Mills in 2012 and another on Anas Aremeyaw Anas. He asks nominee to comment on the documents especially about the apology he wrote as Attorney General and whether he can live in harmony with people.

Nominee: The Letter of apology was procured from me by the late Kofi Awunnor who was then the chairman of the Council of State together with Captain Kojo Tsikata.  They asked me to write this letter and I did. I have respect for elders and I obeyed. Even though the letter was procured in a very reprehensible way, I did what I had to do as a Northerner with a culture that says the boy is always wrong even when he is right. As to whether I can live in harmony with people, yes, I can live in harmony with decent people but I cannot live in harmony with criminals.

Sacked for insubordination?

Barbera Ayisi wants to find out why the nominee was sacked in 2012 for insubordination.

Nominee denies being sacked. He says he wanted to leave office for breach of trust and that was it, nothing about insubordination. When the issue of insubordination came up he went to court to set it aside.

Ayisi reads a statement written by Amidu about missing link in Woyome case and wants to know what the missing link is?

Amidu says the issue of missing link was raised by comrade Kweku Baako and suggests that he as Attorney General advised that if the Woyome case was to be prosecuted and prosecuted well, persons linked to the scandal at the Attorney General's office had to be prosecuted as well. He says his counsel was overlooked leading to his departure from office. He says when the successor decided to prosecute Woyome alone without the accomplices the judge, Ajet Nassam, threw out the case.

“If I had prosecuted that case it will not end that way. The prosecution was bungled to get that guy out,” he said.

Ablakwa: If you are a man of principle and you have said the office of Special Prosecutor is not necessary why have you accepted it now?

Nominee: The questioner has taken my comment out of context. The Special Prosecutor ought not to be accountable to the Board by my estimation. It was a critique I made of the Special Prosecutor’s bill but Parliament went ahead to pass the Bill into law. It is law now and my commitment is to fight corruption and seal slippages and leakages in public office. I will not throw the baby away with the bad water. I didn’t think I was going to accept this job but I have now out of my commitment to fighting corruption in the country.

Fair and candid

Ablakwa: Article 296 of the constitution talks about discretionary power and makes a call for people to be fair and candid. I see a lot of resentment in your write-ups. How can we be sure you will not be biased?

Questioner has been unfair to me. I wrote criticizing both the NDC and the NPP and he makes reference to only the one I wrote about the NDC. When I wrote about the NDC and NPP I was acting as a constitutional advocate. Now I will be operating as a Special Prosecutor which has a different ethical consideration. I, having taught ethics on law. I will not be the one being unethical in carrying out the Special Prosecutor role. I will be fair and operate under the law.

3:05 Committee goes on a one hour break

4:10 Committee members return with Amidu still in the hot seat

Settling or losing in court?

A committee member raises the issue of reparation and asks if it will not encourage people to steal in the hope that they will just be made to refund and that's it

Nominee: Every case will be taken on its own merit. If the case calls for settlement my team and i will take that option. There is no point in battling a case and lose in court when you can settle and recoup some money.

Mahama Bill

Committee member makes reference to an article by Amidu on the Major Mahama Bill asking the president not to assent to the Mahama Bill. What were the defects in that Bill.

Nominee: I have stated i was a constitutional defence advocate and i did my work as i could. I thought if a bill was going to be passed, it should have a wider scope than limiting it to Mahama. But the president thought otherwise and assented to the bill. I have done my job as a constitutional lawyer. Interestingly enough, despite my disagreements with the president he still finds me worthy of appointment as Special Prosecutor.

Anthony Karbo: In 2010 as Interior Minister you ordered the interdiction of four fire officers and went ahead to justify the decision by saying the interdiction was as a result of a thorough investigation by EOCO into allegations of misconduct. Can you tell us why you did not prosecute them when you became AG?

Nominee: When I became the AG, my deputy, Barton Odro instructed the Public prosecutor not to go ahead with the prosecution because one of the persons involved was related to the late president. I could not have chased dockets of a fire man when powers from above did not want him prosecuted.

Disrespect for institutions

Nii Lante makes reference to extortion allegation against MPs by the nominee. He also cites comments about the nominee on Tigereye PI. Some of the comments were disrespectful. Can you as a Special Prosecutor work with such institutions when you have a certain level of distrust for them?

Nominee: I admonished the new Parliament to live above suspicion. We as citizens are at liberty to criticize MPs. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect Parliament. I cannot be docile. I should have the liberty to criticize any member if he or she does the wrong thing. But now my appointment gags me. The law is no respecter of persons.

Plea Bargain

Nii; Did anything happen between you and the late president Mills in respect of plea bargain for former Speaker Begyina Sakyi Hughes

Nominee: I have never had any discussions with the late president Mills on issues of plea bargain with Sakyi Hughes.

Courage and passion

Titus Glover: The mention of your name puts fear in people. Are you that fearful?

Nominee: It is just a matter of perception. At the Attorney General’s office people say I hardly smile but when you don’t come closer you won’t know how nice I am. When people don’t know you well they have perceptions about you. I may not have a smiling face, I have a heart that loves.

Titus: How prepared are you spiritually, physically mentally for this task ahead

My nomination itself was a problem because people called. My creator sees me through. All the articles cited here were written by Amidu. I read through all cases I am involved in. Some colleagues say Amidu knows his opponent's case before he prepares his case. That is the talent I have and I will continue if God continues to grant me good health.

Commonwealth

Is Commonwealth still relevant today?

As far as my experience goes, the Commonwealth was, is and will be useful. It offers a common platform for people who were once under the same colonial rule to share ideas. It is a great organization which we should continue to be in.

Fear of God

The president said announcing your name as Special Prosecutor has put the fear of God in people. Is it true?

If my track record puts fear in people that will be good in fighting corruption but I don’t know that for a fact. I will do my work dispassionately.  

Causing Financial Loss

Ursula Owusu: Do you think the law on causing financial loss was couched too broadly?

Nominee: I don’t think so at all. Some people have suffered for it and I think it should stay.

Ursula Owusu: When will you say you are successful as Special Prosecutor

My success will be measured not by the number of people we put in jail but the strength and credibility we establish as an office. The problem is about the timidity of people who cannot stand their ground. 

EC chair and rigging

Muntaka: You accused the EC chair of being appointed to rig the 2016 election. Do you still hold the perception that the 2016 election was rigged?

Nominee: It was won clean and clear. Whatever rigging machine put in place, we put in measures to stop it. The EC chair is not here so I can’t make further comment especially when she is facing possible impeachment procedures.

Muntaka: You said you were forced to apologise before you resigned as Attorney General. The reason you gave was that you are a northerner and by tradition, a boy would have to listen to and comply when you are ordered by your seniors. You still remain a northerner and the traditions hold. Are you going to bend over backwards in your new job on account of these same reasons you gave?

Nominee: I have learnt my lessons the hard way.  It is only a fool who doesn’t change his mind. Given the circumstances I faced with the apology and resignation, I will no longer be pushed around.

NDC or NPP member?

Kyeremeh: Are you still a member of the NDC or have you resigned and joined the NPP?

Nominee: I am a foundation member of the NDC and has always remained same. The General Secretary said he is not aware of any letter of resignation. I haven’t joined the NPP but I believe we can collaborate to fight the ills of society. So when the president, with his eyes opened still appointed me, I decided to accept it. I am not a member of the NPP which believes in property-owning democracy. I respect their ideology but I don’t believe in it.

What is the retiring age of the justice of the court of appeal?

70 years Amidu answers but Minority leader raises issues about the possibility of opening prejudicing the case pending in court.

Chair takes a cue and asks Kyeremeh to go on without delving into a suit brought against him

Adwoa Safo: With what funds is your office going to run? IGF?

Nominee: This matter should be addressed by the Finance Minister. But we won’t accept monies from people we are going to investigate. If we work hard we can raise funds. The only way was raise funds from the international community but we don’t have it. It is better to have the baby than throw it away with the bath water. We will have to explore the options of raising funds.

NDC Loot

Haruna Iddrisu: Do you still stand by your comment that the NDC government looted the state coffers in the judgment debt payment to Alfred Woyome?

Nominee: It was the Supreme Court that described the payment to Woyome as unconstitutional and an unconstitutional payment is loot.

You have made a number of utterances and publications which turned out vile against leading members of the NDC. Won’t you try to punish them in order to justify your earlier position?

It is not my duty as a prosecutor to go looking for victims. If a member of the party commits a triable offence we look into it. Once a docket shows up we will deal with it. I won’t go out of my way looking for people but if it comes, I won’t say because I criticized these persons in the past I won’t prosecute him or her.

 

 

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