Opuni Fails To Stop Trial Again

Dr. Stephen Opuni


Former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Opuni, has for the umpteenth time failed to put his trial before an Accra High Court on hold after the court dismissed his application for stay of proceedings as “an attempt calculated to further delay the trial”.

Dr. Opuni, who is on trial with businessman Seidu Agongo, for allegedly causing over GH¢217 million financial loss to the state, had filed the application urging the court to stay its proceedings pending the determination of an interlocutory appeal he filed against the court dismissing his earlier application which urged the judge to step down from the trial because he had retired.

Moving the motion for stay, Samuel Codjoe, counsel for Dr. Opuni, averred that the court had the power to stay its own proceedings and this is contained in a plethora of cases.

He said they have maintained the view that by virtue of Articles 144(2) and 297 of the 1992 Constitution, it is only the President who appoints Superior Court judges and it is only the President who has the implied power under Article 297 to extend the tenure of Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a retired Supreme Court judge, after his tenure had constitutionally come to an end under Article 145.

The application was opposed by Evelyn Keelson, a Chief State Attorney, who argued that the decision of the trial court to dismiss the motion asking him to step down because he had retired, was right in law and in accordance with the constitution.

“This honourable court in that decision judiciously applied the provisions of the constitution which are very clear, precise and unambiguous as required by law,” she stated.

She argued that the constitutional provisions counsel for Dr. Opuni seeks to rely on have already been affirmed by the Supreme Court, hence the jurisdiction of the trial judge in this matter is not in question at all.

“My Lord, the provisions of Article 145(4), 144(11) and 139(1)(c) are express provisions of the constitution which were only affirmed by His Lordship the Chief Justice just because your Lordship who was a Supreme Court judge is sitting as an additional High Court judge after the mandatory retirement. The appeal, therefore, has no chance of success, absolutely none at all and so there’s no basis for this court to stay proceedings,” she averred.

Mrs. Keelson quoted a Supreme Court decision which says the power to stay proceedings is one that should be exercised judiciously and not whimsically or capriciously. The court went further to state that the mere fact that an interlocutory appeal is pending does not justify or compel the court to stay proceedings.

“There is no exceptional circumstance and the decision of this honourable court is firmly supported by a decision of the Supreme Court, and we urge the court to dismiss this application,” she added.

Justice Honyenuga (rtd), in his ruling, said it is basic knowledge that the grant or refusal of an application for stay of proceedings is at the discretion of the court, and there must exist special or exceptional circumstances for the application to be granted.

He said the constitutional articles complained by Dr. Opuni have already been interpreted by the Supreme Court and his December 5, 2022 ruling, which is the subject matter of the appeal, only applied the decision of the Supreme Court.

“The appeal has no chance as the articles complained of have already been interpreted by the Supreme Court. The applicant has not urged any special or exceptional circumstances to enable this court stay proceedings. The applications is dismissed as a calculated attempt to further delay this trial,” the court added.

Meanwhile, the court has adjourned the case to December 21, 2022, to await the decision of the Supreme Court on an application for certiorari filed by Dr. Opuni, which seeks to stop the trial judge from continuing to hear the case because he has retired.

BY Gibril Abdul Razak