From far and near, they trooped to the Accra International Conference Centre for the juicy details of the latest expose by investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas. From all shades of life and occupations they turned out in their numbers to feast their eyes on the custodians of justice in the country who have allegedly dropped their guard and are selling the very justice they are supposed to uphold. Clinching free tickets, they formed long winding queues as early as 2pm to watch the premiering of a film titled “Ghana in the Eyes of God – Epic of Injustice. This wasn’t the premiere of a typical movie but it was real life action unedited yet it garnered the highest number of patrons to any premiere in the country’s movie industry. Even though this movie became monotonous after a while, the unanimous verdict at the end of the three hour long screening was that it was worth it.
This was a movie by ace undercover journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his tiger eye team, uncloaking some of the revered and highly respected judges in the country. Their crime was accepting money, goats, sheep and yam in their homes, offices and in their cars to alter judgments. For many of the patrons who thronged the premises of the Conference Centre to watch the “Epic of Injustice” their chorus was “our faith in the judiciary has been shaken and will never be the same.”
Nation’s biggest judicial scandal
For over two years, Anas and his team went undercover in the country’s judicial system and documented shocking acts of alleged bribery of 34 judges and magistrates who trade justice for financial and other material benefits. The Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood has in a swift response to the expose of gargantuan proportions, set up a committee to establish whether there is a prima facie case against the 12 High Court judges and 22 lower court judges captured allegedly taking bribes. However some of the judges have resorted to the courts, challenging the investigative processes and the legality of the video even though the Chief Justice and the Judicial Council have commenced investigations into the allegations.
Frantic attempt to scuttle premiere
A last minute attempt by one of the implicated High Court Judges, Justice Paul Uuter Dery, seeking to restrain the Accra International Conference Centre from screening the video was not successful as managers of the facility disregarded the injunction placed on them and went ahead with the public screening.
Day of premiere
As early as 2 pm, majority of Ghanaians took an early break from work and began flooding the forecourt of the Conference Centre which has been the country’s number one Premiere viewing centre. Huge crowds of ecstatic patrons overwhelmed ticketing officials and the security detail manning the entrances to the venue leading to a near stampede. In the process, some people sneaked their way through without flashing their tickets.
Showing at 4pm and 8pm, the auditorium was bursting at its seams as it was packed and filled to capacity. Extra seats had to be provided for those with no seats as some also sat on the floor throughout the entire 3 hour long screening.
Ticketing official’s had a very tough time controlling the milling crowd as they tried to prevent people from entering due to the suffocating nature of the auditorium but the curious patrons were in no mood to return home without feasting their eyes on the judicial scandal. The atmosphere quickly became a gargantuan oven roasting albeit gently the over 3,000 people who defied the heat to watch how the judges succumbed to the shocking power of money to change the course of justice. Among those who watched the video were diplomats, politicians, Religious leaders and the general public.
Contents of the video
From judges and court officials across the length and breadth of the country, Anas and his team laid to bare, how some of the Justices of the courts gleefully accepted money and other material things to change the course of justice.
The adrenaline of those gathered to watch the video shot up as one of the organizers called for the National Anthem to be played before the “kick off.” Reminiscent of a football match involving the Black Stars, a sense of patriotism shot up as those gathered sang out the words of the National Anthem.
A resounding clap rang out after the anthem leading to the lights of the auditorium going off. Eyes adjusted to the temporary blindness as the huge screen came to light. An uneasy calm and silence fell as those present readied themselves to absorb the contents of the video known as “Ghana in the eyes of God – Epic of injustice.” The video was punctuated with gasps and intermittent giggles as scene after scene played out. At the sight of money, life’s lust burned in the eyes of the judges and their middle men. One of them even smacked his lips. It was not a video about the rotten system in the judiciary but it also portrayed some upright ones who stood their grounds and rejected monies thrown them. The stars of the cast were Justice Paul Uuter Dery, Charles Quist and Ajet Nassam. Their appearances attracted the most interest and roaring laughter.
With as low as GH₵300, “the wheels of justice” could be halted. For the court clerks who acted as middle men, GH₵20 will be enough to grant you an appearance before the judges whose stern looks in court is a far cry from the look they had when money was flashed them. They had christened the bribe “pouring libation,” with others also calling it “kpa-kpa-kpa.” Some also sold justice for the fleeting desires of the flesh, goats, sheep and yam.
In the process, countless hardened criminals including murder armed robbery suspects, rapists etc were left off the hook as justice was denied some innocent ones too. A 70-year old widow had her parcel of land bequeathed, by her husband taken from her after the parting away of some Cedis. In all of this, none of those involved in the case, be it the victims and suspects had any idea their cases were a subject of investigation by the Tiger eye team.
As the video played to an end, there was a rapturous applause from those present as some shook their heads, dumbfounded at what played out before their very eyes. Justice had been exchanged for paltry sums of money.
For many who watched the three-hour compilation by Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his Tiger Eye PI team, the exposé which captured over 30 judges and more than 80 other judicial service workers allegedly taking bribes painted a vivid but distressing image of the extent of corruption among some members of the bench. Others also described the implicated Ghanaian judges as “cheap” and appeared shocked at the revelations as they noted that their “faith in the judiciary had been shaken” to the core. Some patrons who spoke to Weekend Sun after watching the video, described the judges captured in the video as “pathetic,” considering that the men seen to be of high integrity were trading justice for “peanuts.”
One young lady, Aseye captured the mood when she remarked. “I’m so surprised, shocked and dumbfounded. I didn’t think this is what I would expect even though I read excerpts of the transcript. These judges are a disgrace looking at the amount of money some of them received as bribe. My faith is dampened. I’m sad as a Ghanaian.”
Sharing the sentiments of Aseye, a level 300 Political Science student of the University of Ghana, Suad questioned the moral uprightness of the implicated judges.
“It’s very bad for the judges to take bribes and even sleeping with ladies in exchange for justice. It’s very bad and sad for this country. My faith has been shaken in the judiciary, they have lost my confidence.”
Chairman of the National Peace Council, Rev. Emmanuel Asante, said the video showed how rotten the country is.
“It is painful watching men and women charged to protect our rights compromise themselves with such careless abandon. This clearly shows how our own doings have made this country rotten and smelly.”
He was however happy that not all the judges in the video were willing to bury justice for money and added that the few judges who refused to take bribes represent the hope that all is not lost yet.
A young lawyer, Nana Akwasi Awuah couldn’t hide his disappointment in the attitude of his seniors in the law field.
“For me this is very revealing and it’s a huge scar on our democracy. I think the Bench and the Bar should come together as a people to cure this in order to boost the public confidence in our judiciary because the day the public loses confidence in the judiciary the country will be thrown into anarchy and become a jungle state.”
On his part, the founding President and Chief Executive Officer of the IMANI Center for Policy and Education, Franklin Cudjoe was “appalled” as to how “the heart of justice had sunk so low.”
According to him, “the rule of law demands that everyone is equal before the law and in this process if some can actually buy the law then it’s a travesty.” He also added that it was “offensive that the people who are supposed to be the last resort to whatever conflict that arises in society are seen to be partaking in the selling of justice.”
Praising the Chief Justice for her prompt response so far, Cudjoe asked her to stay on track in order to purge the judiciary of corrupt elements.
“The Chief Justice should stay on course but she should be mindful of procedure and ensure that if they are found culpable, they should be punished severely to deter others.”
However pro poor Catholic Priest, Very Reverend Father Andrew Campbell urged restraint in the pronouncement of guilty verdict on the judges by Ghanaians.
Speaking to Weekend Sun, after watching the premiere, Fr. Campbell said “it is very early in the day for the backlash from the public” and called for circumspection.
He also affirmed his trust and hope in the Judiciary and said “in a every human institution, one is sure to find bad elements. Let’s wait for the courts to come out with their verdict. We have seen the video, so let the Chief Justice take action, we should refrain from subjecting them to verbal abuse. My faith hasn’t been shaken. There are many other judges who are very upright. Looking at the work of the Chief Justice and some of the judges, all is not lost.”
Anti Corruption Campaigner and Former Chairman of the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Justice Emile Short corroborated the point by Fr. Campbell and also urged Ghanaians to desist from losing trust in the Judiciary.
“I’m not here to pass judgment on anybody and I believe nobody should be quick to judge too but this expose shows that our moral and ethical values has sunk to the lower depths. There is a lot we need to do in the recruitment process of judges. We need to look very deeply into how we recruit the magistrates and judges,” he told the Weekend Sun.
For still some, they were indifferent to the contents of the video since they believed that “corruption had become a part of the Ghanaian culture.”
Mustapha Mohammed, a former student of the University of Ghana, said corruption was perverse in the day to day dealings of the ordinary Ghanaian. According to him, his faith in the judiciary wasn’t at all shaken as the practice “is not peculiar to only the judges.”
“Anas did very well looking at the modus operandi of the tiger eye investigative team. But I don’t really blame the judges because almost all the instances started from the conduits not the judges themselves, the clerks and other workers of the judicial service who served as the middle men, played a major role in bribing the judges. This has been prevailing for a long time. Watching the video you can see that this is a menace. Corruption has become part and parcel of our society, from acquiring a passport, to buying goods in the market, getting a certificate from the births and deaths registry etc. Corruption is everywhere and one will have to part with Cedis to get things done expeditiously. My confidence in the judiciary has not really been shaken because there were some good ones there who rejected the bribery out rightly.”
For a middle aged man, Senyo Dey, the contents of the video are not surprising because “corruption is a Ghanaian thing.” He also urged people to stop laying claim and pontificating righteousness since every Ghanaian is “equally guilty of bribery and corruption.”
“Everything happening there happens. I’m not surprised at the video and the contents, I saw. Nothing really surprises me because corruption is part of our culture. My faith in the judiciary hasn’t really been shaken, borrowing the words of former President Kufuor…’corruption has been there from the days of Adam’ and it wouldn’t go any moment from now.”