By Maxwell Nkansa
Tsatsu Tsikata is a Ghanaian academic and lawyer. He is also a former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation. He is a notable affiliate and legal counsel to the National Democratic Congress and is regarded as one of the leading members of the political party. Tsikata was born in Keta in the south of the Volta Region of Ghana. He was however brought up in Adabraka, a suburb of Accra, the capital of Ghana. He started school at an early age because he wanted to follow his older brother Fui to school. He first attended Additrom Preparatory School and then Mrs. Sam’s Preparatory School, a school also attended by former President of Ghana Jerry Rawlings.
He was again moved to Accra Newtown Experimental School, where he was jumped from Year 2 to Year 3, catching up with his older brother Fui. He won a United Africa Company (UAC) scholarship in 1960 to start his secondary education at the age of nine at the Mfantsipim School where his father and his elder brother, Fui Sokpoli Tsikata also attended. On completion of his five-year course, he gained admission into the University of Ghana, Legon, at the age of 16, where he obtained an LL.B First Class degree at the age of 18. Only one other 18-year-old had completed a degree program at that time. His lecturers included Professor Ofosu Amaah and Dr. Obed Asamoah, a former foreign minister and Attorney General of Ghana.
He then won a post-graduate scholarship from the University of Ghana to Oxford University where he again obtained first-class honors in Bachelor of Civil Law which is equivalent to a master’s degree at other British universities. Tsikata held a Junior Research Fellowship at Oxford University where he also served as a tutor. On his return to Ghana in 1974, he was appointed a lecturer at the law faculty of the University of Ghana. Some of his students included Kwamena Ahwoi, Alban Bagbin, former majority leader in the Parliament of Ghana and current speaker of the 8th Parliament of Ghana as well as Freddie Blay, former first deputy speaker in the Parliament of Ghana.
Tsikata has served as counsel to several notable personalities over the years. These include Captain Kojo Tsikata, his cousin, Kofi Awoonor, and President Jerry Rawlings. During the era of the National Redemption Council/Supreme Military Council military regimes of Acheampong, he defended Samuel Okudjeto and William Ofori Atta who stood trial for political reasons. After the May 15 Uprising in 1979, he was counseled for Jerry Rawlings during the treason trial that came to an abrupt end when the SMC military government led by Fred Akuffo was overthrown on 4 June 1979. He was the Lead Counsel for the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) in an electoral petition in Ghana. He was the lead counsel for the NDC during the first-ever electoral petition trial filed by the opposition New Patriotic Party challenging the results of the 2012 elections. The NDC filed a joinder to be the third respondent of this case.
Ghana National Petroleum Corporation
Tsikata was appointed the Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) from October 1988 to December 2000 by the then ruling NDC led by Jerry Rawlings. Tsikata was tried for causing financial loss of GH¢230,000 to the state whilst CEO of Ghana National Petroleum Company after a trial through the Accra Fast Track Tribunal, one of many set up by the Kufuor government to try such cases.
However, it should not be lost on readers that Nana Akuffo Addo later became Attorney General in the Kufuor Administration. In 2001, Nana Addo started prosecuting Tsatsu Tsikata until the Fast-Track High Court jailed Tsatsu for five years on June 18, 2008. Tsatsu’s offence was that he caused wilful financial loss to the State when he was the CEO of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC). President Kufuor later gave Tsatsu a presidential pardon, but Tsatsu rejected it with a handwritten letter saying,
“I have never sought, and I do not need your pretence of mercy. Justice is my quest, and I will pursue that quest in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of Ghana”
”I was convicted on charges of “wilfully causing financial loss to the state” and “misapplying public property” and sentenced to five years imprisonment by Mrs. Justice Henrietta Abban, sitting as a judge of the Fast Track High Court in Accra. That same day, I filed an appeal against the decision. On November 30, 2016, by a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal, the judgment of June 18, 2008, was set aside and I was acquitted and discharged on all counts”
Even that, Tsatsu said publicly later that he did not hate President Kufuor and President Akuffo Addo (then Attorney General) for causing his imprisonment. Tsatsu appealed his imprisonment at the Court of Appeal, won in November 2016 and walked a free man. The Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that the High Court failed to give Tsatsu a “fair opportunity to defend himself.”
How Tsatsu Tsikata And Nana Akuffo Addo Teamed Up Against The Attorney General In 1979.
The article recounts the legal collaboration between Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo (now President) and Tsatsu Tsikata in 1979 against Mr. Joe Reindorf, the Attorney General in the Liman Administration and Rt. Hon. Jacob Hackenbug Griffiths-Randolph, the Speaker of the 1979 Parliament of Ghana. The case is known as Tuffuor v. Attorney-General (1980) GLR 634 and it relates to appointment of Chief Justice under the 1979 Constitution. Nana Addo and Tsatsu Tsikata defended the plaintiff, Dr. Tuffuor.
The 1979 Constitution and the Appointment of Chief Justice
On September 24, 1979, the Third Republican Constitution came into force. The Leader of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings assented to the Constitution on September 18, 1979 and it was gazetted accordingly. Having won the 1979 Presidential Elections with 62% in a run-off on July 9, 1979, Dr. Hilla Limann became President of the Third Republic of Ghana.
Prior to the coming into force of the 1979 Constitution on 24th September 1979, Justice Fredrick Kwasi Apaloo was already appointed Chief Justice in 1977 by the Supreme Military Council (SMC) Administration and he was serving in that capacity. Effectively, he was President of the Supreme Court and Head of the Judicial Service. It would be recalled that in 1972, the SMC overthrew the Busia Administration and the 1969 Constitution.
Two Clauses (8 and 9) of Article 127 of the 1979 (Third Republican) Constitution jointly provided that a person holding office as a Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature immediately before the coming into force of the Constitution shall be deemed to have been appointed in that capacity under the Constitution. The person’s appointment would, therefore, take effect from the date the Constitution came into force. The person was to continue holding office as such. However, the person must subscribe to the oath of allegiance and the judicial oath provided in the Second Schedule of the 1979 Constitution.
Clauses 8 and 9 of Article 127 of the 1979 Constitution cited above, therefore, applied to Justice Apaloo’s position as the Chief Justice of Ghana prior to the coming into force of the 1979 Constitution. In effect, he should have continued serving so as the Constitution clearly provided.
Contrary to the stipulated provisions of the Constitution, 1979 (Article 127), some members of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) had a diabolical plan to remove Justice Apaloo, the incumbent Chief Justice (CJ) from office. According to that diabolical plan and in contravention of the Constitution, President Hilla Limann nominated Justice Apaloo as CJ candidate and the Appointment Committee of Parliament consequently vetted him for a position, he had already occupied for two years. Having vetted Justice Apaloo, Parliament rejected his nomination as CJ under the 1979 Constitution. In effect, Parliament found Justice Apaloo unworthy to be Chief Justice under the new Constitution. This meant that Justice Apaloo would cease to hold office as CJ. Note that in the 1979 Parliament, the PNP MPs occupied 71 out of the 140 seats so they were in the majority. Justice Apaloo’s nomination and rejection generated extensive and lengthy national debate. Note that it was the total number (140) of MPs in the 1979 Parliament that later informed Article 93 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, which states, “There shall be a Parliament of Ghana which shall consist of not less than one hundred and forty (140) elected members.”
The Court Case (Tuffuor v. Attorney-General) in which Nana Addo and Tsikata Defended the Plaintiff (Dr. Amoako Tuffuor)
Dr. Kwame Amoako Tuffuor, a Ghanaian citizen and a Senior Lecturer of University of Science and Technology (now Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology) was displeased with the PNP Administration’s machinations to oust Justice Apaloo from office. Accordingly, Dr. Tuffuor took the matter (nomination, vetting and rejection of Justice Apaloo as CJ) to the Supreme Court for determination. He went to court upon the strength of Article 118 (1) (a) of the 1979 Constitution which clothed the Supreme Court with the original jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other Courts, “in all matters relating to the enforcement or interpretation of any provision of the Constitution.” Tuffuor wanted the Court to interpret the provisions of the Constitution, 1979 relating to the appointment of CJ especially Article 127 (8) and (9) of the Constitution. It would be recalled that Dr. Amoako Tuffuor was later appointed the Coordinator of the School Feeding Programme in the J.A. Kufuor Administration. Dr. Amoako Tuffuor died on January 21, 2021.
In the Tuffour v. Attorney-General case, the Court of Appeal sat as the Supreme Court. The panel included Justices E.N.P. Sowah (who would later succeed Justice Apaloo as Chief Justice in 1986), V.C.R.A.C Crabbe, G.S. Lassey, George Francois and Kwadwo Agyei Agyepong (one of the three Judges murdered on June 30, 1982).
In constituting the Supreme Court panel for Tuffuor v. Attorney-General case, Justice Agyepong came from the High Court, Justices Lassey and Francois were from the Court of Appeal to join their brothers, Justices Sowah and Crabbe. Justice Sowah was the Presiding Judge.
As indicated earlier, Tuffuor’s legal team were Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo (now President of Ghana) and Lawyer Tsatsu Tsikata. It would be recalled that Tsatsu Tsikata was later an opponent Counsel to Nana Addo’s Legal Counsels in the 2012 and 2020 Presidential Election Petitions determined by the Supreme Court of Ghana in 2013 and 2021 respectively. Yes, the two legal brains once teamed up against the Attorney General (Mr Joe Reindorf) his Deputy, A.L Djabatey). Episode 2 will touch on the trial and decision of the Court.
Tsatsu is called the law of Ghana because he has in his life thought many lawyers, judges in many of the courts in Ghana, and even the higher court of Ghana. He has over the years challenged and corrected judges in a court while court proceedings are ongoing, due to his conviction over the English law and the black law.