Afari-Gyan must be replaced now — GBA (08 October 2014) front

The Ghana Bar Association (GBA) has called on President John Dramani Mahama to appoint a new chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC) to boost the image and credibility of the commission ahead of the 2016 elections.
The current Chairman of the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, will bow out of office next year after more than two decades at the helm of affairs.

He was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Interim National Electoral Commission (INEC) by the then Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government.

The INEC supervised the 1992 elections that returned  Ghana to multi-party democracy.
With the coming into force of the 1992 Constitution, a new EC was set up and Dr Afari-Gyan became its first substantive Chairman and has supervised five presidential, parliamentary and district assembly elections.
Traits of the next EC Chairman

According to the GBA, “All Ghanaians will be looking for in the new chairman of the EC is one who is perceived as capable and just; a person of integrity and one who will not pander to political pressure from any quarters whatsoever.”

Speaking at a press conference which touched extensively on matters affecting the legal profession in Ghana and matters of national and international interest in Accra Tuesday, the President of the GBA, Nene Abayateye Amegatcher, said the association considered the conduct of elections as the single most important threat to national peace and life.
Free and fair elections

The GBA, while urging the EC to consider and implement the recommendations of the Supreme Court after the 2012 election petition hearing, also called on the EC “to go the extra mile to assure all Ghanaians that the 2016 elections will be free, fair, just and incident-free, so that winners and losers alike will have no basis for any complaints”.

The press conference came on the heels of the association’s annual conference held in Cape Coast in the Central Region, at which it adopted a 29-point resolution.

The troubled waters  in legal circles 

Touching on matters affecting the legal profession in Ghana, Nene Amegatcher decried the deplorable state of accommodation in which some judges and magistrates worked.

He said such conditions were inimical to the quality of justice delivery and, therefore, called on the Chief Justice, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, and the Judicial Council to resolve the challenge.

In January 2011, the Judicial Service introduced the Electronic Case Distribution System which automated cases for adjudication at the High Court to eliminate suspicion of case fixing, as perceived by some sections of the public.

But the GBA President expressed dissatisfaction with the automation system, saying, “Most of the equipment in the said courts have been malfunctioning or broken down.”

He, therefore, called on the Judicial Council and the Chief Justice to rehabilitate the automated courts  to serve the purpose for which they were introduced.

Emotional  and rude judges and magistrates

The GBA also took issues with judges and magistrates who allowed their emotions to take the better part of them during the adjudicatory process.

To such judges and magistrates, he said, “While their patience may be tried and tested in the course of their duties by lawyers and litigants alike, it is incumbent on a judge to be fair, patient and courteous to litigants, lawyers and other court users.”

“A judge who is habitually disrespectful or rude to litigants and/or lawyers, risk losing his self-respect. We, therefore, call on judges and magistrates to exercise restraint and appropriate judicial temperament worthy of their exalted position in the administration of justice and their dealings with lawyers, even where the judges and magistrates disagree with the lawyers in the conduct of their cases for their clients,” he added.

Lacklustre performance

Nene Amegatcher bemoaned what he described as the “apparent lack of supervision and effective monitoring of personnel” of the Judicial Service, a situation, which he said, had given rise to a lacklustre performance and corrupt practices among some employees of the service.

To better the situation, the association directed its national executive committee to liaise with the Chief Justice to ensure that all employees of the service acquitted themselves creditably. 
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