How AG Set Aside $15.3M Judgment Against Govt

Godfred Dame


Details have emerged about how the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, helped set aside a $15,304,714.20 awarded in favour of Heritage Imperial, a mining company against the government of Ghana.

The leakage of the Prof. Frimpong Boateng Report on the work of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining has revived interest in the activities of big companies and prominent individuals allegedly engaged in illegal mining (galamsey).

Heritage Imperial, a company cited in the report of Prof. Frimpong-Boateng as engaged in big-time galamsey, applied to a Kumasi High Court, for payment by the State of over $15.3 million as damages for the alleged unlawful seizure of its machinery, equipment and monies by the Taskforce of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining.

The court presided over by Justice Samuel Diawuo on July 30, 2020, held that, the invasion of the company’s mining site and the seizure of its excavators and equipment were unlawful.

The court subsequently ordered “recovery of the sum of US$15,304,714.20 being the value of machinery and equipment seized from the plaintiff’s site by the Inter-ministerial task force on illegal mining on 6 December 2018 or its current value in Cedis; general damages of GH¢500,000; and costs of GH¢100,000” against the State.

However, on assumption of office as the Attorney General in 2021, Mr. Dame filed an application for an order setting aside the judgment as a nullity and vitiated by a lack of jurisdiction of the High Court to entertain the action.

Arguing the application himself at the High Court, Kumasi on 23rd July, 2021, the Attorney-General, Godfred Dame, raised a number of procedural flaws with the plaintiff’s action and contended that the commencement of the action by plaintiff without regard to the mandatory statutory stipulations of the State Proceedings Act, 1998 (Act 555), was unlawful.

He further contended that the order for payment by the Government of Ghana of the sum of US$15,304,714.20, was manifestly unlawful and utterly without basis, as no endorsement on the writ of summons issued in action supported same.

He said in no part of either the writ of summons or the pleadings of the respondent did the respondent claim the sum of $15,304,714.20 against the applicant herein.

In his view, the relief of $15,304,714.20 granted by the Court was a material and specific one, clear notice of which had to be given on the writ of summons and statement of claim. The Court thus did not have jurisdiction to grant the relief of $15,304,714.20.

The Attorney General also claimed that the failure of plaintiff to claim the relief of $15,304,714.20 on its writ of summons was clearly intended to deceive the Court and deprive the State of appropriate revenue, as appropriate filing fees were paid on the reliefs awarded to Heritage Imperial Company.

The act of the plaintiff in concealing the specific cost of the equipment it alleged to have acquired, according to Mr. Dame, was one calculated at overreaching not only the Court but also the Government of Ghana, and, therefore ought not to be rewarded by a court of law and equity.

The court upheld the submissions of the Attorney-General and on July 30, 2021, Justice Diawuo, delivering his ruling, held that a Superior Court has inherent jurisdiction to set aside its own judgment when same was plainly entered without jurisdiction or is offensive to any provision of the laws of Ghana.

He considered the failure of the plaintiff to state the specific relief claimed by the plaintiff on its writ of summons a fundamental defect, especially as same resulted in the State being deprived of the fruits of the appropriate filing fees.

Failure of a party to indorse the specific relief claimed by that party on its writ of summons, with the consequential effect of the plaintiff not paying appropriate filing fees meant that the court had no jurisdiction to consider the case placed before it.

The judge ruled that to the extent that the court had no jurisdiction to consider the claim before it, the judgment was a nullity and would be set aside.


BY Gibril Abdul Razak

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