In three and a half week’s time, on 8th June this year to be precise, a remarkable chapter in Ghana’s legal and judicial history will come to a close. On that day, Her Lordship the Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood, will step down from office into retirement.
The twelfth occupant of that office in independent Ghana, she is the first female to head the Judiciary, and its longest serving leader, who will have been in office for three days short of ten years.
Her career has been extraordinary, and I pay warm tribute to her distinguished service to our nation, and wish her a well-earned retirement, even though her public service will not be over as her place on the Council of State awaits her.
In order to ensure a smooth succession to the office and preserve the integrity of the judicial branch of government, I have decided to initiate the constitutional processes for the appointment of her successor, so as to preclude any undue vacuum in the office. I have, thus, today, sought, by letter, consultation with the Council of State, in accordance with Article 144 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic, in order to nominate for the approval of Parliament the appointment of Justice Sophia Akuffo, a Justice of the Supreme Court and a senior member of the Court, as the new Chief Justice of the Republic.
If the constitutional processes conclude in a satisfactory manner, and I have every expectation that they will, she will be the thirteenth person to hold that important office of State.
I have known Justice Sophia Akuffo well, for over forty years. Indeed, she was my first junior in practice, as barristers call their work. She impressed me considerably with her hard work, her capacity for detailed research, her independence of mind and spirit, her honesty and integrity, her deep-seated respect for the rule of law, and her abiding belief in the sovereignty of Almighty God.
I believe these are the qualities which sustained her brilliant career as a lawyer that propelled her to the notice of the 1st President of the 4th Republic, His Excellency Jerry John Rawlings, who appointed her to the Supreme Court on 30th November, 1995, some 22 years ago. She has been one of the leading lights of the Court since her appointment, and her contribution to the Court’s work and the growth of our nation’s jurisprudence has been extensive.
She has enriched her judicial experience by serving with credit on continental judicial bodies such as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, where she ended up as President of the Court.
I have no doubt that Justice Akuffo will be a worthy successor to Chief Justice Wood and uphold jealously the independence of the Judiciary. I expect discipline, fairness, integrity and the continuing modernisation of judicial activities to be the hallmarks of her tenure as Chief Justice, if she is so endorsed by the constitutional bodies.
It is important for the development of our nation that we have a Judiciary that commands the respect of the nation by the quality of its justice delivery, as well as by the comportment of its judges. We are all witnesses to the stormy winds that have buffeted the Judiciary in recent years and to the efforts Chief Justice Wood has been making to restore public confidence in the institution. I expect Justice Akuffo to continue and intensify that work.
The Judiciary has the onerous responsibility of being the bulwark of the defence of the liberties and the rights of our people. It can only discharge that responsibility effectively if it has the unalloyed respect of the people.
We are determined to build a new Ghanaian civilisation, where the rule of law is not a slogan, but an operating principle for the development of our State, where the separation of powers is real and meaningful, where the liberties and rights of our people are fully protected, and where law and order provide a firm basis for our social and economic development, so that the dreams of prosperity that animated the great patriots, who are the founders of our nation, can find expression in our generation.
I will be a genuine and trusted partner of the Judiciary so that, together, the Executive and Judiciary can co-operate in a spirit of mutual respect to attain this goal for the benefit and welfare of our people.
I am confident that, in Justice Sophia Akuffo, I will find a worthy collaborator in this noble endeavour. I commend her to the constitutional bodies, the Council of State and Parliament, for appointment as Chief Justice of Ghana.
Thank you. May God bless our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.