A Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana, Clemence Honyenuga, who is sitting as an additional High Court Judge in the matter of the Republic against former COCOBOD CEO, Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, has dismissed an application by the lawyers of Mr. Opuni asking him to recuse himself from the trial.
The embattled judge threw out Dr. Opuni’s motion in one sentence, saying, “It is my candid opinion that the application was brought in bad faith. Accordingly, the motion is hereby dismissed”.
Arguing the case in court, lead counsel for Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, Samuel Codjoe said his client came on the grounds of breach of Article 19 (2) (e) & (g) of the 1992 Constitution, and, also under the inherent jurisdiction of this Court.
“My lord, our basis is that we will not be given adequate time and facility for our defence. This is based on the fact that your lordship on the 7th day of May 2021 stated that your primary duty was in the Supreme Court and this case had unduly delayed and was preventing you, or and interfering, in your duty, and therefore you wanted to complete this early.”
Mr. Samuel Codjoe in his submissions accused Justice Honyenuga of denying his client time to adequately prepare and put up his defence contrary to Practice Directions as contained in the 2017/2020 V1 Report of the SCGLR at pg 371; (2c).
“When our application on the submission of no case was dismissed, and we asked for time to prepare our defence, your lordship gave us 7 days. After much pleading, it went to the 17th of May. My lord, we are saying that this is against the Practice Direction”.
The lawyer also took issue with portions of Justice Honyenuga’s ruling on the dismissal of no case made by Dr. Opuni at the close of the prosecution’s case.
In all, the lawyer told the court that Justice Honyenuga prejudged and determined the guilt of Dr. Opuni even before the accused person mounts the box.
The State however opposed the motion, arguing that the applicant had not disclosed any circumstance warranting the application.
Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson argued that article 19 (1) of the 1992 Constitution actually mandates the court to conduct a criminal trial expeditiously and that there’s nothing wrong when a trial judge insists or states that a trial ought to be conducted expeditiously.
According to her, “there is no basis in law for this present application. He has also not been able to convince this court of any credible evidence of bias. It is our submission that this application as we have always stated is therefore calculated to further delay this trial.”
By dismissing the application, Justice Clemence Honyenuga directed Dr. Stephen Opuni to open his defence at the next court date on June 18, 2021.
The former COCOBOD CEO and Agricult Ghana Limited CEO, Seidu Agongo, are standing trial together with Agricult Ghana Limited for allegedly causing the state to lose over GHS 217 million in a cocoa fertilizer transaction.
Dr. Opuni and Mr. Agongo are facing 27 charges including defrauding by false pretenses, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officers, and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges, and are on a ¢300,000 self-recognizance bail, each.
Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to the COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr. Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified as required by law.