Embattled former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, has once again renewed his fight against Justice Clemence Honyenuga (Rtd), by seeking to remove the retired judge from continuing to preside over his case.
He has filed an application before the court asking the judge to prohibit himself from continuing to hear the case on grounds that he has reached the statutory retirement age of 70 years for Supreme Court Justices.
This is in spite of the Chief Justice, acting in accordance with Article 145 of the 1992 Constitution, giving the retired judge six months to conclude the case which has been before the court since 2018.
Dr Opuni together with businessman, Seidu Agongo, are on trial for allegedly causing over GH¢217 million financial loss to the state in the supply and purchase of Lithovit liquid fertiliser.
The two are before an Accra High Court slapped with 27 charges including causing financial loss to the state, defrauding by false pretences, conspiracy to commit crime, abetment of crime, money laundering, corruption by public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) Act.
Dr Opuni has opened his defence and had called seven witnesses, with the seventh one being cross-examined by Nutifafa Nutsukpui, counsel for Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited when the legal year ended and the trial Judge attained the statutory retirement age of 70 years for Supreme Court Justices.
But the Chief Justice in accordance with Article 145 of the Constitution gave the judge six months to conclude the trial.
“Notwithstanding that he has attained the age at which he is required by this article to vacate his office, a person holding office as a Justice of a Superior Court or Chairman of a Regional Tribunal may continue in office for a period not exceeding six months after attaining that age, as may be necessary to enable him to deliver judgment or do any other thing in relation to proceedings that were commenced before him previous to his attaining that age,” states Article 145(4) of the Constitution.
But Dr. Opuni through his counsel yesterday filed an application urging Justice Honyenuga to step aside and discontinue hearing the case as he has retired.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, yesterday indicated that the prosecution had not been served but she was shown a copy of the said motion in the courtroom by Dr. Opuni’s counsel.
Justice Honyenuga, therefore, adjourned the case to November 14, 2022, for the application to be moved and a decision taken on it.
This is not the first time Dr. Opuni has tried to get Justice Honyenuga off the case, as he tried about three different times in the past without success.
His earlier two applications before the court asking the judge to recuse himself from the trial on grounds of bias were turned down by the court.
He subsequently went to the Supreme Court seeking an order prohibiting the judge from continuing to hear the case.
One of such applications was outrightly dismissed by the court while another was granted by a 3:2 majority decision. It was later set aside by a 4:3 majority following an application for review filed by the Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame.