When the Acting Upper East Regional Supervising High Court Judge, Justice Alexander Graham, asked the two men in the dock to tell the court what their mission was for visiting him earlier that morning in his chambers, they could not utter a word.
The two men, Richard Sunday Yinbil, the Secretary to the Paramount Chief of Talensi, and Naab Nyakora Mantii, Chief of Baare in the Talensi Traditional Area, on Friday, March 10, 2023, went to see the judge behind closed doors.
They reportedly went to the judge at the behest of the Paramount Chief Talensi, Tongraan Kugbilsong Nanlebetang, who doubles as a member of the Council of State.
The judge, however, caused their arrest after they had stated their mission for visiting him.
They were subsequently arraigned before the Bolgatanga High Court 2 and charged with contempt of court for attempting to influence the judge.
Mr. Yinbil and Naab Nyakora had been reportedly sent by Tongraan Kugbilsong Nanlebetang to invite Justice Graham over to his palace for a discussion regarding some mining-related cases, most of which involved Earl International Group (Ghana) Gold Limited formerly Shaanxi Mining Limited, pending before him.
The discussion was to supposedly help the judge better understand the issues before him for determination.
Infuriated by this, Justice Alexander Graham caused their arrest and subsequently arraigned them before the court.
Justice Graham said the action of the two men was an attempt to compromise him and therefore, charged them with contempt of court.
He noted that he had, on several occasions, issued warnings against attempts to circumvent the judicial processes as it had become a common practice in the region for parties of cases pending before the court to seek to influence presiding judges by visiting them privately.
Mr. Yinbil and Naab Nyakora pleaded guilty when the charges were read to them.
But the judge demanded that the two produce the Tongraan in court before their convictions. A number of lawyers, who were present at the time waiting for their cases to be called, had to intervene and pleaded on behalf of the two accused persons.
The judge then proceeded to convict them on their own plea and ordered that they sign a bond to be of good behaviour for six months. The convicts were, however, held in custody till around 4 pm in the evening before they were handed over to the Upper East Regional Police Command, where they were expected to sign the bond of good behaviour under police supervision.
One of the lawyers who pleaded for a lenient punishment for them, Abdulai Jalaldeen, told The Fourth Estate the action of the two men was against the principle of justice.
He, however, said the two, whom he knows personally, were ignorant of the law and merely acted as messengers of an authority whose request they could not have turned down even if they were aware of the consequences of their action. This, he said, prompted the lawyers’ decision to plead on their behalf for a noncustodial sentence.
Mr. Yinbil, declined to comment on the matter when The Fourth Estate contacted him. He, however, accused an anti-graft group, National Patriots Against Injustice and Corruption (NAPAIC) Ghana, which issued a press statement on the matter, of distorting the facts of the matter. He added that the Tongraan would respond to the issues “at the appropriate”.
Lawyer for Tongraan, Mohammed Nambe, who was said to have apologised to the court on behalf of the Traditional ruler, also declined to comment on the matter when The Fourth Estate contacted him but stated that he only discharged his duty as an “advocate”.
This is not the first time the Traditional ruler and member of the Council of State Member has been involved in a case of this nature.
In 2019, his name popped up in a leaked tape in which a former minister of state, Rockson Bukari, was heard allegedly talking to a journalist over a story involving the Shaanxi Mining Limited, located in the Talensi area.
Mr. Bukari resigned following the incident and the judge recused himself when the case was brought before him at the Bolgatanga High Court. The Traditional ruler denied his involvement in any attempt to influence the journalist to drop the story.
“The Tongraan is unaware of any matter that has to be ‘killed’ in favour of Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited for which he has any interest. The Tongraan does not and will not support any illegal conduct by any of his subjects or company operating in the area or stand in the way of genuine exposure of wrongdoing by the media,” a statement from the chief’s palace said.
NAPAIC Ghana, a Bolgatanga-based anti-corruption pressure group, commended Justice Graham for resisting attempts to compromise him and taking action on it.
“We at NAPAIC-Ghana see the development recorded today within the Judicial Service of Ghana as one of the best actions led by a judge in the Upper East Region, and we humbly ask of him to do more,” a statement signed Akobulgo Zotipeliba Ayeo, the vice-president of the group, said.
The group also appealed to the Chief Justice “to identify good judges like His Lordship Alexander Graham and award them enormously to serve as motivation for others to emulate”.
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