A private legal practitioner, I.B. Akwantey has petitioned President John Dramani Mahama to remove from office Justice Dennis Dominic Adjei of the Court of Appeal for allegedly collecting money from judges of the lower bench for promotions and the opportunity to study abroad.
According to the petitioner, in one instance, Justice Adjei is said to have collected GH?2,000 from Judge Benjamin Osei and promised to add his name to a promotions list which he compiles.
Article 146 (3) of the 1992 Constitution provides that, “If the President receives a petition for the removal of Justices of a Superior Court other than the Chief Justice or for the removal of the Chairman of a Regional Tribunal, he shall refer the petition to the Chief Justice, who shall determine whether there is a prima facie case.”
I.B. Akwantey filed the petition based on the above constitutional provision.
According to the petition, Justice Adjei told Judge Osei that he had finished compiling the pending list, and mentioned that Judge Kwame Osei Gyamfi of Goaso Circuit had been added.
“After taking the money, Justice Dennis Dominic Adjei allegedly advised Judge Osei to go see His Honour Bernard Bentil, also of the Chief Justice Secretariat.
“Justice Adjei is reported to have described Judge Bentil as the ‘Chief of Staff’ at the Chief Justice Secretariat.
“According to Judge Osei, he also went to ‘see’ Judge Bentil and, between the two of them, an amount of GH?4,000 was taken from Judge Benjamin Osei”, the petition said.
The petitioner said the singular case of taking money for promotion, if true, goes to confirm the rumour that promotions are both for sale and discriminatory.
“To my mind, it is no coincidence that some of us have worked tirelessly over eight years without being invited once to write promotion exams.
“Judge Benjamin Osei had worked with the judiciary for 18 years without blemish but he is still a Circuit Court Judge.
“He, therefore, decided to put the two big men at the Chief Justice Secretariat to test, and it proved positive,” I.B. Akwantey said in the petition.
He said Judge Benjamin Osei is very passionate about this matter and is ever prepared to
testify and prove that Justice Adjei collected the money from him, adding that Judge Osei is also prepared to describe the circumstances under which the money was paid to the “big men” at the Chief Justice Secretariat.
Judge Benjamin Osei’s statement to Chief Justice
Justice Osei issued a statement to the office of the Chief Justice to corroborate the allegation in the petition filed by I.B. Akwantey.
A stamp of the Office of the Judicial Secretary on the statement indicates that it was received on February 3, 2016.
In his statement to the Chief Justice, Judge Benjamin Osei stated that on January 2, 2014, he met Justice Adjei at Silolam Junction, Kwadaso in Kumasi.
“We were driving in opposite direction. I gave him a call on phone to the effect that we just passed each other. I told him that I would visit him in the afternoon provided he would be at home in Kumasi. He approved of it. In [the] afternoon, Justice Dennis Adjei gave me the directions to his house at Gyeyaoso, behind Kumasi High School, close to KNUST gate. I proceeded to his house. I was given a warm welcome by Justice Dennis Adjei,” he said.
According to Judge Benjamin Osei, during interactions, Justice Adjei told him that he has compiled the list of Circuit Court judges who were to be considered for promotions to the High Court.
“He told me that my name was not included and that he would consider me the following year.
“He mentioned the names of the judges who had been listed by him to write the promotion exams. The names included Judge Osei Kwame, then of Goaso Circuit Court”, he added.
Justice Osei alleged that colleagues had told him that Justice Adjei accepts money before considering a judge for promotion, and to satisfy himself that the allegations are true, he told Justice Adjei that he would come to his house the following morning.
“On the following morning, which was Friday, January 3, 2014, I went to Societe General Bank, Kumasi Main, to withdraw cash, the sum of GH?2,000. I rushed to the house of Justice Adjei at about 10am to put him to test with the money. Justice Adjei accepted the money. The whole amount was in GH?50 denominations. I left his house soon after delivering the money to him. We used to communicate on phone,” Judge Osei said.
He explained that on Easter Sunday of 2015, he went to Justice Adjei’s house and the issue of promotion again cropped up.
He alleged that Justice Adjei told him that Mr Bernard Bentil of the Chief Justice Secretariat is the ‘Chief of Staff’ and he quickly called Mr Bentil on phone and told him in “my presence that I was with him in the house”.
“Justice Dennis Adjei created the impression that there was the need for me to see Mr Bentil ‘Chief of Staff’. I decided to test the Chief of Staff also with GH?2,000 in the middle of the year 2015.
“I sent an [sic] Ussher of my court to deliver the GH?2,000 to Mr Bentil. The [sic] Ussher delivered the money to him at the Chief Justice Secretariat. He accepted it.
“These events made me to undoubtedly believe that Justice Adjei and Mr Bentil accept kickbacks for promotions. I used to have discussions with Mr I.B. Akwantey over these issues and so he has actual knowledge of these facts.
I.B. Akwantey’s additional information
In supplementary information regarding the petition, I.B. Akwantey asked, “How else can anybody explain why in a sensitive exercise like removal of judges from office a Chief Justice would issue an unsigned letter to a judge? I am informed and believe same to be true it was a conscious blunder by some persons in the secretariat to give a technical advantage to the particular judge for money. They either changed the signed letter or ensured that it was not signed.”
He said, in these matters, it is difficult for witnesses to be called because they will tell you it is true but would not mention their names.
He noted that the culture of the Ghanaian is that we do not want to speak against our elders, leaders, bosses and those in authority.
“However, the reasonable interference or deduction that can be made is that somebody is benefitting financially from all these. The fight against corruption is not to target perceived enemies far away because somebody is not happy with him,” he added.
The fight against corruption is to check those we have given too much power [sic] in their hands. There is a conspiracy to benefit from even the cases of bribery allegations against our own brothers and colleagues. I am completely devastated by these people who themselves are so greedy, corrupt, selfish and go about preaching against corruption, pretending that no one sees what they are doing or no one can challenge them.
“God is watching from afar and sooner or later God’s own judgement would be imminent. We must be sincere to our oath and calling because everyone would give account.
“What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
“I also want to add that I have also repeated by petition to the Office of the President for the removal of two ‘big men’ of the Chief Justice Secretariat.”
By Elvis DARKO, Accra