The race for the position of the fourth most powerful person in Ghana is on, as the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, retires next month.
There are two frontrunners in the race, one of whom is likely to be mentioned this week to replace Mrs Justice Wood, who has been in public service for more than 40 years.
The frontrunners are Messrs Justice Jones Victor Mawulom Dotse and Justice Anin Yeboah.
Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, who is seen as a dark horse and could spring a surprise, is the next most senior on the highest court of the land after Mr Justice William Atuguba, who is billed to retire soon.
The Office of the Chief Justice will become vacant with effect from June 9, 2017 when Mrs Justice Wood leaves office.
Mrs Justice Wood last Friday announced at this year’s Justice for all Programme at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison: “In about four weeks I will be retiring. Specifically, on the 8th of June, I will no longer be in service. I should say this because I see all sorts of things. Some even say I am staying up till the end of the year. That is not accurate.”
She worked as prosecutor with the Ghana Police Service and later joined the Judicial Service.
Former President J. A. Kufuor appointed her as Ghana’s first female Chief Justice on June 15, 2007.
Deep-throat sources have told the Daily Graphic that Ms Justice Akuffo, who has been on the bench since 1997, appears to be favoured because of her seniority, followed by Justices Dotse and Yeboah.
All the three justices have served creditably on the bench and have been part of or led judgements in landmark cases.
Lawyers and members of the bench who spoke to the Daily Graphic, on condition of anonymity, said nice things about all the contenders and were unanimous in their views that they all deserved the position.
Profile of Ms Justice Akuffo
Ms Justice Akuffo has been at the Supreme Court for the past two decades. She has a master’s degree in Law (LL.M) from the Havard University in the United States of America (USA).
She has been a member of the Governing Committee of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute and Chairperson of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Task Force.
In January 2006, she was elected one of the first judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and was re-elected until 2014 when she served as the Vice-President. She is the immediate past President of the court.
She is on the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council and has held membership of many organisations.
Her publications include: The Application of Information & Communications Technology in the Judicial Process – The Ghanaian Experience, presented to the African Judicial Network Ghana (2002).
Mr Justice Dotse
Mr Justice Dotse was appointed as a Supreme Court judge in June 2008.
He had more than 22 years’ experience at the Ghana Bar as a private legal practitioner before being elevated to the High Court in June 2002.
He was posted to Sekondi as a High Court Judge and was promoted to the Appeals Court in September 2003, whereupon he was posted to Accra in June 2004.
Mr Justice Dotse has presided over landmark cases, including the Election Petition, Martin Amidu v Waterville Holdings and others.
He is noted for coining the now popularly expression ‘create, loot and share’ in his obiter in the Martin Amidu v Waterville Holdings case in which businessman Alfred Agbesi Woyome was ordered to refund GH¢51.2 million to the state.
Mr Justice Anin Yeboah
Mr Justice Yeboah had more than 25 years’ experience at the Bar and has been a Supreme Court judge since June 2008.
He presided over the popular MV Benjamin case in which he sentenced the vessel owner, crew workers and policemen to 25 years’ imprisonment each for playing various roles leading to 77 parcels of cocaine vanishing from the vessel.
Mr Justice Yeboah was part of the panel that sat on the 2012 Election Petition.
He was consistent that votes in some parts of the country should be annulled due to over voting, voting without biometric verification and non signing of pink sheets by presiding officers.
He has been named as a member of the newly constituted FIFA Ethics Committee, where he will serve on the Adjudicatory Chamber of the committee for the next four years, alongside Akihiro Hara (Japan), Oscar Vicente Scavone Rivas (Paraquay), Damiani Juan Pedro (Uruguay), Abdoulaye Diop (Senegal), Hallen Yngve (Norway), Jack Kariko (Papua New Guinea), Liu Chi (China) and Alan Rothenberg (USA).
Before his recent appointment, Mr Justice Yeboah had served on various judicial bodies in the Ghana Football Association, including the Disciplinary and the Appeals committees.
He also served on the Appeals Committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
The Adjudicatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee reviews the reports of the Investigatory Chamber and decides whether or not a case should proceed or end.
Article 144 (1) of the 1992 Constitution provides that “the Chief Justice shall be appointed by the President, acting in consultation with the Council of State and with the approval of Parliament”.
Article 144 (2) provides that “the other Supreme Court justices shall be appointed by the President, acting on the advice of the Judicial Council, in consultation with the Council of State and with the approval of Parliament”.
Will Ms Justice Akuffo take over from a woman, as has occurred in the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General’s Department or will a male take over?
Meanwhile,, the regional balance in Ghanaian politics tends to favour Mr Justice Dotse.
Many students of politics say that since the President is Akan, the Vice-President is from the north and the Speaker of Parliament Ga, there will be a perfect regional balance if Mr Justice Dotse from the Volta Region is given the nod as the Chief Justice, the fourth most powerful person in the land.
The President will provide the answer when Parliament resumes by the end of this month.