Permit me to share some thoughts on Prof. Kweku Asare’s writeup under the heading: ‘$15.3 million judgment debt: Kudos to Randy Abbey for drawing AG’s attention.’
As we may be aware, this matter was filed sometime in early 2019, and the plaintiff got judgment in July 2020. Unfortunately, contrary to time-honoured practice, the State Attorney who handled this case refused to explore any legal option to challenge this judgment despite its serious implications on the State.
One year later, this matter surfaces on an Accra-based radio station, JoyFM’s flagship program Newsfile.
We may recall that the Attorney-General called into the programme and said that he would attend to the case. Barely a month later, the Attorney-General successfully set aside the impugned judgment and potentially save the nation $15.3 million.
In fact, radio does get results!
But let’s be frank, this very matter would have arrested the attention of the learned Attorney-General if the plaintiff had proceeded to enforce this impugned judgment.
What remains constant in both instances is that the learned Attorney-General, Godfred Dame, as we have come to know him, would not sit unconcerned. At the same time, this questionable judgment perpetuates such injustice on the good people of Ghana.
It is interesting to know that the grounds canvassed by the Attorney-General at this hearing were available to the State and the Attorney in charge of this case at the time the suit was filed.
The lapse in time posts the judgment had deprived the State of a chance to canvas the traditional legal grounds questioning the facts or the evidence adduced at trial. This is where hard work pays. The learned Attorney-General called for the brief and painstakingly scrutinized the records for those innocuous errors which only manifested themselves to the meticulous and diligent lawyer.
The learned Attorney-General argued that the court’s order for the payment was manifestly unlawful. Without basis, as the writ was not properly endorsed and, considering the materiality of the relief sought, no clear notice was given in the writ of summons or and statement of claim as required by rules of court.
Further, the Attorney-General argued the plaintiff’s failure to indicate on its writ of summons whether the claims against the defendants were either jointly and severally or jointly or severally was a fundamental error that voids the entire judgment.
Again, he further contended that it intended to deceive the court by failing to claim the relief of US$15,304,714.20 on its writ of summons and thus ought not to be rewarded by a court of law and equity.
The court agreed with the Attorney-General and set aside it’s own ruling- a very rare thing indeed!
We would thus agree that the Attorney-General made a very public commitment and has delivered results in an emphatic manner worthy of commendation.
This is especially so in this case if we consider that at the time of this judgment debt, the present Attorney-General was only but a deputy who worked at the pleasure and direction of the substantive Attorney-General. Obviously, the state had not previously attached the requisite seriousness to this case, and that state attorney(s) had resiled on their duty to take further action after the judgment to save the state from the now impugned judgment debt.
Such actions or inaction by the state had very obviously jeopardized any future remedial action. Thus, this matter was effectively over and done with, at least to the mass of lawyers.
It would also be wrong for one to think that the Attorney-General had been unconcerned by this issue. Indeed, it is trite knowledge that the present Attorney-General took office in the first week of March 2021 and conceivably would not know of this case. On the basis of his subsequent actions, one could also assume that this case would have been handled differently.
In conclusion, I do appreciate Prof Asare’s quest for accountability and good governance in public life. However, as guardians of the national conscience, we should guard against gratuitous cynicism in our public discourse of which your participation, we believe, seeks to aid in nation-building.
It is fair to commend the diligent efforts of all who brought the issue up. Giving credit where credit is due, to the Attorney-General for keeping to his word and in the spirit of nationalism, contrary to public suspicion, fighting to save the nation in this Heritage Imperial Ltd. suit.
Ben Ephson is the Managing Editor of the Daily Dispatch newspaper. He can be reached via +233 54 386 9960