Embattled CEO of COCOBOD, Dr Stephen Opuni, has petitioned the Chief Justice for Justice Clemence Honyenuga, the trial Judge in his case to recuse himself from continuing with the matter.
The Court on June 9, 2021 dismissed a motion filed by Dr Opuni and two others seeking the trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga to recuse himself and refer the trial to the Chief Justice for the matter to be reassigned to a new judge.
The trial judge after hearing the parties, said it was his candid opinion that the Application was brought in bad faith.
When the case was called on June 18, the Court presided over by Justice Honyernuga, said he had gotten a notice that Dr Opuni has petitioned the CJ but he only came to meet it this morning.
Director of Public Prosecution, Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, said the State was not served with a copy of the petition and that she was hearing it for the first time.
The Judge said in view of the petition sent to the CJ, the trial stood adjourned to June 29, 2021, awaiting the decision of the CJ.
The DPP informed the Court that another process invoking the supervisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court has been filed.
Dr Opuni is of the view that the trial judge has breached Article 19 2E and G of the Constitution and also under the inherent jurisdiction of the Court.
The basis was that “we will not be given adequate time and facility for our defence and this is based on the fact that your lordship on May 7, 2021, stated that your primary duty was in the Supreme Court and this case had unduly delayed and is preventing you or interfering in your duties and therefore you wanted to complete it early.”
He said it was based on this that when their application for a submission of no case was dismissed and they asked for time to prepare their defence, the Judge first gave them seven days.
“This is against the practice direction which is contained in the 2017-2020 Volume 1 Report of the Supreme Court Ghana Law Report,” he said.
Dr Opuni, who filed the motion earlier through his Counsel, Samuel Cudjoe, but his request was turned down.
He said according to the first accused, the motion was on the grounds of breach of Article 19 (2) (e) & (g) of the 1992 Constitution and for real likelihood of bias and asked the trial Judge to refer the suit to the Chief Justice, amend same for it to be “re-assigned to another judge on the grounds as contained in the accompanying affidavit.”
The first accused said the Judge stated in open court that he had to complete the case quickly to enable him concentrate on his duties at the Supreme Court as the case had been pending for the past three years thereby affecting his work in the Supreme Court.
He said the Judge, having stated in open court that he was in hurry to hear the case, such that he refused to give him an additional four days to enable him adequately prepare for the case, it had become clear to him that he would not be given adequate time and facilities to prepare for his defence as stipulated by Articles 19 (2) (e) and (g) of the 1992 Constitution.
He said in the ruling on the submission of no case, the judge made final determinations which could only be made in the final judgement after the accused had been heard.
“This final determination we submit shows that your lordship has prejudged and predetermined the guilt of the first accused even before he mounted the box,” he added.
The Counsel said it showed them that their guilt had already been determined even before they opened their defence and that they would not get a fair trial therefore, “we are praying that you recuse yourself.”
The State through, Evelyn Keelson, a Chief State Attorney opposed to the application at the last sitting, stating that the applicant had not disclosed any circumstances warranting the application, calling on the Judge to recuse himself.
Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo are facing 27 charges including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the State, money laundering, corruption by public officers and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 self-recognizance bail, each.
The trial was adjourned to June 29, 2021.