Judge Withdraws From Vodafone Case
A judge at the Commercial Court, Mrs Justice Gifty Dekyem, has withdrawn from hearing the litigation over the sale of the government's 70 per cent share in Ghana Telecom to Vodafone International.
According to the judge, she just discovered that her half-sister was related to one of the parties in the case and for that reason she could not continue hearing the case which had suffered a similar withdrawal in the past.
She, however, declined to mention the party in the case who was related to her half-sister when counsel for the plaintiffs, Mr Bright Akwetey, implored her to state who that person was.
This is the second time a judge has declined jurisdiction over the matter. The first judge assigned to hear the matter, Mr Justice Amadu Tanko, also declined jurisdiction claiming he knew a party in the case.
A second judge who was appointed to replace Justice Tanko, Mr Justice Henry Chafe, was also transferred in the course of the trial.
The Chief Justice is, therefore, expected to appoint a fourth judge to hear the case which began in the latter part of 2008.
Mrs Justice Dekyem's withdrawal came at a time she had subpoenaed the Volta River Authority (VRA), the National Communications Authority (NCA), the Ecobank Development Corporation and the Ministry of Communications to provide relevant documents bordering on the sale of the government's shares.
The issue of the subpoena was at the instance of Mr Akwetey.
The plaintiffs in the matter, Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa and five others, sued the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, the Ghana Telecommunications Company Limited and the Registrar-General over the sale of GT to Vodafone.
The other plaintiffs, who are all members of the Convention People's Party (CPP), are Mr Michael Kosi Dedey, Dr Nii Moi Thompson, Naa Kordai Assimeh, Ms Rhodaline Imoru Ayarna and Kwame Jantuah, are seeking a declaration that the sale of GT is inimical to the public interest. They are, therefore, seeking relief from the court, including a declaration that the agreement entered into by the government was not in accordance with due process of law and is, therefore, a nullity.
They are also seeking an order declaring that the forcible grouping of autonomous state institutions established by law – Voltacom, Fibreco, VRA Fibre Network VRA Fibre Assets - with GT to form the purported Enlarged GT Group was unlawful and, therefore void and of no legal effect.
The plaintiffs are further praying for an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the government from disposing of its 70 per cent share of GT to Vodafone or any other foreign company without first exploring avenues for funding and better management in Ghana, amongst others.
They contend that the sale and purchase agreement (SPA) entered into among the Government of Ghana, GT and Vodafone for the sale of 70 per cent of GT for $900 million was against the public interest and constituted an abuse of the discretionary powers of the government.
The plaintiffs said they were opposed to the unlawful establishment of the Enlarged GT Group, as it undermined the sovereignty of the country, endangered the national security of Ghana, among other things.
On February 22, 2010, the Supreme Court gave Mr Justice Chafe 14 days to comply with the necessary legal steps before referring the matter to it for interpretation, but Mr Justice Chafe could not comply with the court order following his transfer.
The new judge who is yet to be appointed is, therefore, expected to comply with the Supreme Court's order by including in his or her referral specific issues, as well as state any findings of fact.
The issues so far referred to the Supreme Court by Mr Justice Chafe include whether or not aspects of the SPA, dated July 3, 2008 and executed among the Government of Ghana, Vodafone International and Ghana Telecom, contravened the 1992 Constitution and, therefore, rendered the agreement void, as well as whether or not any procedural, substantive errors and defects in the SPA were or could be cured through parliamentary ratification.
The third issue referred for determination by the Supreme Court was whether or not an agreement executed by the government and ratified by Parliament could be challenged at the High Court.