WHY WE APPLIED TO JOIN THE CASE OF ISAAC WILBERFORCE MENSAH v ATTORNEY-GENERAL & OTHERS

Our ref: OG/2023/030

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS RELEASE

Accra, 28 November 2023

WHY WE APPLIED TO JOIN THE CASE OF ISAAC WILBERFORCE MENSAH v ATTORNEY-GENERAL & OTHERS

On 11th November 2018 the Plaintiff (Isaac Wilberforce Mensah) sued the Attorney-General, Auditor-General and the Audit Service Board in the Supreme Court for several reliefs including a declaration that the independence of ‘the Auditor-General… provided for in Article 187(7) [of the Constitution] is … restricted to the actual exercise or execution of his auditing work and activities necessarily incidental to the performance of that function.’ The general tone and tenor of the action pit the Auditor-General against the Audit Service Board, challenging the full independence of the Auditor-General.

On 20 October 2020, the Supreme Court granted OccupyGhana leave to file an Amicus Curiae Brief in the matter, which we filed on 26 October 2020. However, from that date, nothing appeared to have happened in the matter. Significantly, although the Supreme Court had earlier directed the parties to file either a joint memorandum of issues or separate issues for trial, none of the parties complied. The effect is that the case has not moved to trial for more than five years after it was filed, and more than three years since our intervention.

We have been unrelenting in trying to get the case to trial. On 20 May 2022, 5 July 2022, 29 July 2022 and 17 October 2022, we wrote to the Supreme Court registry inquiring about the status of the matter and urging the matter to be placed before the court. We received no responses. On 20 February 2023, we were compelled to draft the issues arising, which we sent to the parties and their lawyers for adoption and filing in court. We received no responses; and they took no steps.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court delivered judgment in GHANA CENTRE FOR DEMOCRATIC DEVELOPMENT & OTHERS v ATTORNEY-GENERAL, which took another step forward in freeing the Auditor-General from the unconstitutional shackles of the government. However, the key issues raised in the pending action, relating particularly to the independence of the Auditor-General vis-à-vis the Audit Service Board (majority of whose members are appointed by the President), has remained largely unresolved.

Frustrated at this state of affairs and the sheer inaction of the parties, we were compelled to file an unusual application to be joined as a defendant in the action, so that we could force the case to trial. In court today, the Supreme Court disagreed with us. However, as a result of our application, the Court has set clear, mandatory deadlines for the parties to do what the law requires of them, and which we have been urging them to do: file the memorandum of issues by 22 December 2023, and appear before the Court on 31 January 2024 for the case to proceed. The Court also ordered the registry to prepare a schedule of all applications filed and rulings made in the matter to date.

We got what we wanted from the court: ACTION. We remain committed to ensuring that the independence of the Auditor-General, which in our view is absolutely guaranteed by the Constitution, is respected by all. It is only in an environment that acknowledges and respects the clear and express constitutional injunction, that the Auditor-General ‘shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority,’ that Auditors-General will feel sufficiently independent and liberated to exercise the full functions of that office, particularly in the exercise of the powers of disallowance and surcharge.

As Chief Justice Gertrude Torkornoo stated before the court rose, ‘this is all for God and Country.’ We agree. For us, it was one small procedural manoeuvre; but it has resulted in giant steps forward in our fight for an Auditor-General who fearlessly and independently performs the functions of the office.
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OCCUPYGHANA DEMANDS CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO AKOSOMBO DAM WATER SPILLAGE AND MATTERS ARISING FROM IT

Our Ref: OG/2023/027

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS STATEMENT

Accra, 27 October 2023

OCCUPYGHANA DEMANDS CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO AKOSOMBO DAM WATER SPILLAGE AND MATTERS ARISING FROM IT

In these difficult times, OccupyGhana stands in solidarity with the communities affected by the recent Akosombo Dam spillage. We are deeply concerned about the devastating consequences of this disaster and the extensive harm it has caused to our fellow Ghanaians.

As we watch the aftermath unfold, we have followed the official explanations provided for this catastrophe. However, we are far from satisfied. It strains belief that the rapid increase in water volume at the Dam caught us completely off guard, leaving us with no alternative but a massive, destructive spillage. The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated. And it is also alarming to even consider the scale of devastation that could have occurred had the Dam faced complete failure, as tragically witnessed in Derna, Libya, resulting in the reported loss of over 11,000 precious lives.

Our concerns deepen as we contemplate the risk of similar disasters. For example, almost every year, Burkina Faso opens valves of its Bagre Dam to spill excess water. This routinely destroys farmlands, food crops, livestock and houses in portions of northern Ghana. Potable water gets polluted and sometimes, lives are lost. We must also mention the almost-routine Weija Dam spillages and its harmful effects on lives in the area. These raise fundamental questions about our preparedness and response mechanisms. Are we perpetually at risk of such catastrophic events? Concerning the Akosombo Dam, can we be assured that the Volta River Authority possesses both the means and the foresight to predict and pre-empt such disasters?

One critical aspect that demands immediate attention is how we build along waterways and riverbanks in the catchment areas. We must acknowledge that settlements will continue to exist in these areas, and the manner in which they are developed and constructed must change. We must adapt to ensure that these communities are not unduly exposed to the risk of devastating floods.

We are also concerned whether our precious water resources are harnessed wisely, and whether we have structures that ensure the optimum utilisation of the vast amounts of water that leave the Akosombo and Kpong/Akuse Dams. This is especially in terms of whether this precious resource could provide more clean drinking water and also support irrigation, rather than flowing into the sea.

OccupyGhana firmly believes that the totality of these matters rises to meet the constitutional standard of a ‘matter of public interest [and importance]’ that is sufficiently grave to warrant establishing a Commission of Inquiry, as provided for under Chapter 23 of the Constitution. We earnestly urge the President or Parliament (through a resolution), to take immediate steps to form this Commission. Ghanaians have a right to know the precise cause(s) of this catastrophe and whether it was preventable. If it could have been prevented, those responsible should be held accountable, which may include their removal from their positions. If there are indications of criminal acts or negligence, we expect independent police investigations leading to prosecutions. And if it was indeed an unforeseeable event, this experience has made it foreseeable, and we need to know and understand the measures to be put in place to prevent such a disaster in the future.

We stand for transparency, accountability and the well-being of our nation. Our call for an independent Commission of Inquiry is rooted in the conviction that the full truth must be uncovered, lessons must be learned to safeguard our people and our future, and that responsible rural and urban planning and development are crucial to mitigate future risks.

We express our gratitude to all those who have been involved in the mobilisation of emergency relief support for the displaced communities. Your dedication to providing aid in these challenging times is commendable, and we appreciate your unwavering support.

Together, let us strive for a safer and more secure future.

OccupyGhana – For God and Country.

-ENDS-

OCCUPYGHANA CONDEMNS ARRESTS OF PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATORS

Our ref: OG/2023/023

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS STATEMENT

Accra, 22 September 2023

OCCUPYGHANA CONDEMNS ARRESTS OF PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATORS

OccupyGhana, in resolute advocacy for good governance, the rule of law, and the protection of civil liberties, strongly voices its concerns regarding the recent arrests of peaceful demonstrators by the Ghana Police on a public holiday, who were subsequently reported to be ‘processed’ for unlawful public gathering.

In a democratic society, we firmly uphold the belief that the right to peaceful protest is a fundamental pillar of freedoms of expression and assembly. These rights, enshrined in the Constitution, should be unwaveringly upheld and respected by all state institutions.

The recent arrests have raised serious questions about the appropriateness of the response by law enforcement agencies. Instead of opting for peaceful dialogue and cooperation with the demonstrators, the police chose to resort to arrests. It is important to note that these arrests took place during a time when potential traffic disruptions would have been minimal. OccupyGhana firmly asserts that alternative, less confrontational approaches could and should have been pursued to effectively manage the situation.

Furthermore, we are reliably informed that there was no court injunction served to the demonstrators, indicating that their right to protest remained fully protected under the law.

About 30 years ago, the Supreme Court held in NEW PATRIOTIC PARTY v INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE, in relation to the fundamental freedom of assembly including the freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations, that provisions in the erstwhile Public Order Decree that required a prior police permit to demonstrate were inconsistent with the current Constitution. The situation where the statutory requirement to now notify and cooperate with the police is being interpreted, applied and enforced as a de facto permit to demonstrate is unconstitutional and must give way to a more nuanced, liberal and permissive understanding of the constitutional rights of citizens to peacefully assemble and express their views.

We are informed that those who were arrested (which should not have happened in the first place) have now been released, which is a positive development.

OccupyGhana implores the Ghana Police to uphold the rule of law and show due respect for the constitutional rights of all citizens. We call for a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding these arrests to ensure justice is served and the rights of peaceful demonstrators are diligently safeguarded.

In the interest of nurturing a democratic society where dissenting voices are not merely tolerated but celebrated and respected, we call upon all stakeholders, including the Ghana Police Service and the government, to engage constructively with citizens exercising their constitutional rights. Together, let us ensure that such incidents do not recur in the future.

Our firm commitment remains rooted in our mission to advocate for transparency, accountability and the unwavering protection of civil liberties in Ghana.

In the interest of God and Country.

-ENDS-

MURDER OF SOLDIER AND MILITARY BRUTALITIES AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF ASHIAMAN

Our ref: OG/2023/014

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS STATEMENT

Accra, 15 March 2023

MURDER OF SOLDIER AND MILITARY BRUTALITIES AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF ASHIAMAN

OccupyGhana like most Ghanaians, are horrified at the senseless and barbaric killing of the young soldier, lmoro Sheriff, in Ashiaman in the early hours of 4 March 2023 by then unknown assailants. We take this opportunity to extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. We are gratified that the police appear to have concluded their investigations, and the accused persons are already before court to be tried, and if convicted, duly punished for this heinous crime.

We are equally horrified at the also barbaric, totally uncalled for, absolutely unconstitutional and unlawful reaction of the military. The risible justifications put forward by the military in the press release issued by its Department of Public Relations on 7 March 2023 have been exposed as false by the facts provided by the police in their press release dated 12 March 2023, that the unfortunate death resulted from a suspected robbery attempt. Thus, this could have happened anywhere in Ghana and to any citizen of Ghana.

What has become apparent is that the entire action by the military was purely and simply in retaliation against the people of Ashiaman for a crime committed by a few people. Clearly, had this happened to any other citizen, the military would not have intervened. The irony is that the existence of the military as a fighting force and the arms they bear and deploy are supported and supplied by the taxes of the same citizens against whom they unleashed that retaliation.

There is therefore no justification for the pain, suffering and torture that the soldiers visited on clearly innocent people, after the fact. Any powers of arrest that the military may claim to have, is no different from the arrest powers of any citizen of this country, as regulated by the Constitution. The Constitution demands ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the specific person arrested has committed an offence. A mass swoop that occurs days after an offence, and detains as many as 184 people cannot be based on any suspicion that each of them had committed the offence. And even if any such suspicion arguably existed, it would be grossly unreasonable, unwarranted and perverse. Thus, the military unjustifiably violated the constitutional right to due process of every person they detained.

Further, our venerable Constitution guarantees inviolable dignity to all Ghanaians, even if we are suspected of having committed a crime. None of us is to be subjected to ‘torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ or ‘any other condition that detracts or is likely to detract from [our] dignity and worth as human beings.’ These rights of each of the Ashiaman residents have also been gravely violated. The military themselves appear to have filmed and shared videos of subjecting these citizens to unspeakable indignities, making an absolute and total a farce of what our Constitution represents and what they see their role in the Ghanaian society as. With these barbaric acts, they made themselves, judge, jury and executioner, and a very terrible one at that!

The accused persons are facing the law, and rightly so. The perpetrators of these violations must also face the law. First, the military personnel involved and every officer who authorised those actions must be tried. Second, officers and supervisors who endorsed the acts after they happened must resign. Third, the High Command of the military must apologise to everyone the military subjected to these violations. And, fourth, the state must compensate each affected person.

But more importantly, we need to resolve and ensure that this does not happen again. The military must accept that under this Constitution, they cannot exercise any powers that they deem fit. The Constitution provides that they ‘be equipped and maintained to perform their role of defence of Ghana as well as such other functions for the development of Ghana as the President may determine.’ Thus, the only reasons we equip and maintain the military are (i) the ‘defence of Ghana,’ and (ii) development functions determined by the President, which do not include what they did to the people of Ashiaman on 4 March 2023.

The military and all other security agencies are supposed to protect the people of Ghana, not turn on us. It is high time they acknowledged this. We demand this for God and Country.

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