The Human Rights Division of the High Court in Accra presided over by Appeals Court Judge Gifty Agyei-Addo, on January 24, 2024, delivered a ruling that has indignant financiers and other observers anticipating a long, legal and administrative battle. The consensus is that her ruling if allowed to stand can corrupt Ghana’s judicial system and stunt the economic growth of the country. Who, they ask, will be willing to finance the country’s huge infrastructure development needs?
For more than four years, Justice Agyei-Addo allowed judicial football to be played in her courtroom regarding the lawsuit filed by Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom and others at the Human Rights Division against the Bank of Ghana (BOG), the Attorney General and the GN Savings Receiver.
The Today Newspaper has the utmost respect and regard for the Judiciary System in Ghana. The paper does not comment often on judgments or the conduct of the players in the system – judges, attorneys, plaintiffs or responders.
But the seeming flippant and casual tone of Justice Agyei-Addo in aspects of her judgment cannot stand without comment. We do not know what pushed her to deliver what to our civilian ears may have been a judgment hurriedly put together even though she had announced way back in 2020 that she was ready to give her judgment. It seemed lost on her she was dealing with an important regulatory matter with far reaching implications and consequences for the country’s financial system, employment for thousands of citizens and hundreds of millions of assets.
Examples. She whipped the management and directors of GN Savings for their alleged inability to pay “paltry” sums of money to depositors; while ignoring the fact that the Ministry of Finance could not pay even the GHS30 million the Ministey claimed the company was entitled to. That money if paid could have been used to pay the depositors’ “paltry” monies back to them. The judge introduced the GHS2.2 billion value placed on the Groupe Nduom receivables from government agencies by a reputable independent accounting firm; but dismissed it with the unbelievable statement that the Bank of Ghana as an “independent” government agency was not obligated to review or accept any such value. Why then did the Ministry of Finance recommend the appointment of an independent auditor? Also, why did the central bank accept the paltry sum of GHS30 million from the Ministry of Finance as the truth and use it to declare the bank insolvent? There are many more of such.
We were struck by the simple opinion of Justice Agyei-Addo that since many other financial institutions were collapsed by the Bank of Ghana, the central bank did not discriminate against GN Savings by withdrawing its license! Nothing more to add to this.
Perhaps, the bomb thrown by Justice Agyei-Addo that will be felt by many for a long time is her suggestion that GN Savings and Groupe Nduom should go after the Ministry of Finance and not the Bank of Ghana to retrieve the accounts receivables they claim. The figures – GHS30 million, GHS644 million, GHS2.2 billion (now GHS5 billion) are going to be reviewed again and again. Thousands of citizens have lost their jobs, some have died, business have closed, directors have suffered harassment and even threats of prosecution because some government officials refused to pay what became due.
Justice Gifty Agyei-Addo’s opinion and attempt to separate the central bank from government (are they a private sector organization?) and the Governor Dr. Ernest K. Addison from government agencies that owe Groupe Nduom companies (the Governor is a COCOBOD board member) lacks credibility. She has stirred the hornets’ nest.
We sense a long legal battle ahead. Justice Agyei-Addo did not end anything. She has only signaled the beginning of something that if not checked will dent the credibility of government and , further starve the system of much capital needed for development.