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MARTIN AMIDU'S TAKE ON CORRUPTION: ALL TALK AND NO WALK?

General News

Special Prosecutor Amidu, what will you do to help Ghana quell corruption? Should we fail to win this fight now, a bleak future awaits our country.

Special Prosecutor Amidu, what will you do to help Ghana quell corruption? Should we fail to win this fight now, a bleak future awaits our country.

 

Corruption has been the bane of Ghana’s development for decades. Speaking on March 22, 1971, Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia acknowledged that it was Ghana’s chief problem.

“Bribery and corruption has eaten so deep into the very fabric of the society that when you put anybody in a position of trust, he or she uses that position to amass wealth,’’ Dr Busia said.

We all accept that the canker of corruption lives with us. And we all desire ‒ or at least we claim to desire ‒ to rid ourselves of this unruly attitude so that we build a country that development can permeate and where growth can flourish.

Ghana’s struggle

Several governments have tried to cut out the cancer, largely without success and certainly to no long-term effect. We must all concede that it is because of corruption that Ghana witnessed so many coups d’état in the 1970s.

Even though, over the 61 years since independence, we have set up and equipped appropriate investigative bodies, we still struggle to deal with the problem.
Consequently, in the lead-up to the 2016 elections the New Patriotic Party promised to establish an Office of the Special Prosecutor, to be independent, apolitical and capable of punishing even the best-connected perpetrators of corruption.

This is not to say that the existing machinery does not have enough bite to deal with the problem. However, it is perceived to be political, and so corruption-related cases that the state has attempted to prosecute generally do not come to a strong conclusion.

One government fights to determine a case, only for a successor or placemen of a different persuasion to manoeuvre to undo the prosecutorial work done.

Alarming stance

The Office of the Special Prosecutor is the first of its kind in Ghana. The new office is indeed an aggressive and a proactive tool for minimising graft.

We ought to fight corruption to a standstill now, as a country, and not delay. If we cannot defeat this enemy of the state now, we may have to forget about making any impression on it, because if we just trim a few branches, it will merely grow back more strongly and more difficult to control.

The speed with which the legislation to enable the appointment of the Special Prosecutor was passed in Parliament in 2017 showed the commitment on the part of this new government to fighting corruption.

The subsequent nomination of Martin Amidu, a one-man crusader and former Deputy Attorney General under the National Democratic Congress government of President Jerry John Rawlings, was a refreshing move.

It created a great sense of relief. Mr Amidu, it was agreed, is a man of substance and the right person to handle the task. Given his persona and track record as “Citizen Vigilante”, the man who single-handedly won a decisive case in the landmark graft scandal involving Alfred Agbesi Woyome, we all thought the war had virtually been won.

But the current posture of the Special Prosecutor gives cause for great alarm. There is no doubt whatsoever that Mr Amidu is equal to the task. We must not forget that the office he is occupying is a social institution and will require the support of all to succeed.

He acknowledged during his own vetting that the integrity of those he was going to work with would not be under his direct control. He however assured MPs on the vetting panel that he would strive to succeed.

As such, it must be the prayer of all well-meaning Ghanaians that Mr Amidu gets all the support he needs, for the sake of Ghana. I refuse to understand why the largest opposition party, the NDC, shows so little confidence in the Prosecutor. Since his nomination, the party, through its general secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, has voiced loud doubts that Mr Amidu can hold even a fly to account. And in all truth, Ghanaians have not heard of any lawsuits brought by his office, though we all await the first cases with great expectation.

Beating the odds

Martin Amidu had personal worries with regard to the constitution of the Office of the Special Prosecutor. During vetting, he raised issues about accountability to a board and the appointment of staff to the office by the sitting President.

In the end, however, he agreed that what President Akufo-Addo was proposing was doable and urged all patriots to help it succeed.

In keeping with this, Mr Amidu is supposed to push strongly to overcome the odds stacked against the success of the Office, because he, too, is a patriot. Equally, anyone else who offers any form of assistance to the Special Prosecutor in his work must do so without any reservation.

The Special Prosecutor will work under the mandate of the Attorney General, even though the AG will not instruct the SP whom to prosecute. As such, these two high officers of state will have to liaise efficiently and strategically with each other. For the sake of Ghana, there must be no bad blood between them.

A legislative instrument (LI) is an integral aspect of the Office of the Special Prosecutor which will enable it to be effective. Though the relevant LI is not yet in place, the Special Prosecutor must still find ways to function, as his office has a duty to facilitate cooperation with other investigative bodies. So Mr Amidu cannot claim to be working with “common sense” but not facts. Indeed, even when the facts become available, common sense is still required for any prosecutor’s efforts to yield results.

Sabotage

In dealing with all impasses to do with fighting corruption, our President’s vision for Ghana must remain supreme. Any appointee perceived to be sabotaging the efforts of the Special Prosecutor must therefore either desist or be dismissed.

And the President himself must see to it that his vision materialises. If there is an iota of truth to Mr Amidu’s claims, the President must take urgent measures to correct the problems. If dockets are not available this must be dealt with; a proper budget must be made available so that the Office can work effectively.

Even though the Office requires an LI, the Special Prosecutor can function adequately if he and his officers collaborate cleverly with other legal agents of the state until legislation is enacted. All impediments to the running of the Office must be eliminated. If not, and should we fail to win the fight now, a bleak future awaits Ghana.

In the 1970s, even with fewer historical precedents and in a much smaller economy, corruption ate deep into the fabric of society. We cannot imagine how bad things could get another six decades on from independence if good men and women sit and do nothing.

Let us all, in good faith, lend arms to fighting this war. When it is won, the Ghana we all desire to see will be a reality. But the time to fight is now.