An Accra High Court has ordered Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu, a former Chief Director of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing to appear before it within 48 hours to respond to charges.
Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu, the third accused person in a case, involving four others, including Alhaji Collins Dauda and Dr Kweku Agyeman-Mensah, both former Ministers of Water Resources, Works and Housing, are facing 70 charges in the Saglemi Affordable Housing case.
Following the amended charge sheet moved by the State in January this year, Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu through his lawyers have indicated to the court that he had since suffered a “stroke and cannot walk unsupported.”
When the case was called at the last adjourned date, the two former Ministers, Mr Andrew Clocanas, Executive Chairman of Construtora OAS Ghana Limited and Nouvi Tetteh Angelo, Chief Executive Officer and owner of Ridge Management Solutions Ghana Limited, had their plea taken but, Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu was absent.
This had made the court to order the accused person to appear for his plea to be taken.
“I order Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu to appear before this Court on Wednesday, June 7, 2023 (within 48hrs) for his plea to be taken,” he said.
The court said, after the taking of his plea, the court would put him to the election of how he could be permitted to defence himself before the court in his present situation.
Mr Godwin Edudzi Tamakloe, Counsel for the accused person, told the court that his client was put before the High Court differently constituted and the (previous) charges read to him which he pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
He argued that, he was then granted bail and same orders were duly executed and that the accused person was also attending the court until he suffered stroke.
He said “We have previously brought this to the attention of the court and a medical report issued.”
Mr Tamakloe said it was not the desire of the accused person to be absent from court, therefore prayed the court to consider the reports before it to permit the accused some time to recovery from the stroke.
He also prayed the court to make other facilities available to the accused like a video conference at the Tamale High Court or at the Yendi Office of the Attorney General to enable him duly participate in the proceedings of this court.
The Counsel said in the era of technology, it should be possible for the court to make an order for the State through the Attorney General in Yendi or Tamale to make such facility available to the third accused.
“In view of the fact that the fair trial rule requires the trial to be conducted in the presence of accused, I submits that the video conferencing facility will achieve the same aim of the Constitutional provision that the trial be done in his presence,” he added.
He said with the video conferencing facilities, the plea of the Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu could also be taken in respect of the specific charges related to him.
The Counsel said because of the difficulties in transporting him, they would pray the court to consider their suggestions for a video conferencing technology to be used.
Madam Hilda Craig, a Principal State Attorney, agreed that the accused was present in court when the plea was first taken before another court and he was regular until the unfortunate happened to him as narrated by his Counsel.
She also agreed that the Counsel had brought and presented medical reports of the accused person, indicating the Medical condition of his client.
“Subsequently, when the charge sheet was substituted, the accused person was not present for his plea to be taken and we indicated to the court then that the medical reports that they kept presenting had a “particular line” running through them.
“The particular line, said the accused is put on specialist medication and responding to treatment, however, he still finds it difficult to walk unsupported,” he added.
“We indicated to the court that the word ‘unsupported’ means he can be supported to the court for at least his plea to be taken,“ Madam Craig said.
She said they have spoken about the issue of technology but their Office in Tamale and the Tamale High Court did not have these facilities and it would be difficult for them to try it there.
She referred to Article 19(2)(f) of the 1992 Constitution, indicating that “we are saying he should come for his plea to be taken and then when he cannot be in court, his lawyer will do all that matters for him adequately.”
Justice Ernest Owusu-Dapaah, a Justice of the Court of Appeal sitting as an additional High Court Judge, after listening to the parties, said both the defence and prosecution in their arguments failed to point to a single precedent of an accused whose plea had to be taken via video conferencing.
He said the court has to exercise discretion judiciously and that no accused person is “inferior or superior” to the other.
The court said, it is only “death that will practically prevent” an accused from standing trial or where an accused is “mentally unsound.”
Justice Owusu-Dapaah said, the accused, who was facing most of the 70 counts whether separately or jointly had not pleaded to the 70 counts yet.
He said, embarking on separate trial without the third accused would create or result in unnecessary complication of evidence and cause “embarrassment to the rest” of the accused persons without him.
The Court said, it had taken judicial notice and the fact that the prosecution did not have reliable internet facilities to enable accused to give evidence in the comfort of his house or the Tamale High Court or the hospital facility, he ought to appear before the court within 48 hours to respond to the charges.
The case adjourned to June 7, 2023 for the plea of the third accused to be taken.
Alhaji Dauda, and others have been slapped with 70 charges of causing financial loss to the state over the Saglemi Affordable Housing project and intentionally misapplying public property
The amended charge sheet replaced the previous 52 charges pressed against them in July 2021.
Alhaji Dauda and three others pleaded not guilty and are on bail.
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