Thursday, 24 September

Opuni halts ongoing trial, takes “biased” judge to Appeals Court

General News
Dr Stephen Opuni

A former Chief Executive of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni is challenging a decision by an Accra High Court judge, and Supreme Court nominee, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, not to recuse himself from the ongoing trial involving him (Dr. Opuni) and businessman Seidu Agongo, despite serious allegations of bias raised against the judge.

Justice Honyenuga who has been accused of political bias against the defense has rejected the claims describing them as “mere perceptions and exaggerated to suit the first accused and others”.

It is recalled that in a video that has since gone viral, Justice Honyenuga in his stead as Torgbui Ashui Nyagasi V of the Nyagbo Traditional area told president Akufo-Addo during his tour of the Volta region that “…we wish to congratulate you for the excellent manner you are governing this dear country of ours, it is our hope that with your vision and the gains made in your first term, Ghanaians may consider giving you another four years”.

This has been described by many including lawyers for Dr. Opuni as an endorsement for President Akufo-Addo, contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judges and Magistrates.

Lead Counsel for Dr Opuni, Samuel Codjoe raised objections to the judge’s continuous sitting on the case since in his estimation, the supposedly criminal case has metamorphosed into a political one with some NPP bigwigs including a deputy Attorney General, Godfred Dame, backing the re-election bid of the ruling government on the success of this case. This he says makes the judge unfit to continue the trial since his comments seem to align with the aspirations of the NPP.

Justice Honyenuga in his ruling on March 16, 2020, however, dismissed the motion for his recusal describing the motion as incompetent and misconceived. He further described the allegations of bias against him as “mere perceptions and exaggerated to suit the first accused and others” adding that “the allegations, the alleged comments are non-judicial and will not constitute bias or any other matter”.

But dissatisfied with the ruling of the court, Mr Codjoe on March 19, 2020 told the court that they had filed an appeal against the ruling and followed it with an application for stay of proceedings, filed on March 18, 2020.

Principal State Attorney, Stella Ohene Appiah, in her submission said the mere filing of the motion for stay does not warrant a halt of proceedings as the court had earlier agreed to adjourned dates for counsel for the second and third accused persons to continue cross examination of the third witness. She further bemoaned what she termed the unnecessary delay of the trial due to lengthy cross examinations, praying the court to continue with the business for the day.

But Justice Honyenuga ruled that the case be adjourned to the date set for hearing the motion for stay of proceedings.