Ghana’s enviable record as a beacon of democracy and the protector of human rights could come under global scrutiny soon as an American civil rights activist, Ms Valencia Williams, considers filing a deprivation of rights suit on behalf of businessman and philanthropist Seidu Agongo against the West African country’s government in the United States of America (USA).
Ms Williams said the Ghana government was persecuting Alhaji Agongo in a manner that “undermined his human rights under international law.”
She has, therefore, appealed to the government of Ghana to discontinue the “unlawful and meritless criminal prosecution against Alhaji Agongo” or face global activism in a manner that would undermine its credibility and sully the country’s judicial and democracy credentials.
Already, Ms Williams said she was considering filing a case on deprivation of rights in Houston, Texas, USA on behalf of Alhaji Agongo against the government of Ghana should her appeal for the discontinuation of the case against the businessman be dismissed.
“The allegations against Alhaji Agongo have no legal merit and the continued dismissive response to his legal filings should be considered a dereliction of duty on the part of the judge presiding over the case,” Ms Williams said.
The Texas-based advocate and three-time Presiding Judge for the Harris County in Houston, USA, said a review of the case documents showed that “the Ghana government contractor, Alhaji Agongo and his Agricult Company Limited, fulfilled their duties as stated in the government’s contract.”
“The government of Ghana renewed their contract with their government contractor, Alhaji Agongo. As I see it, Alhaji Agongo has positioned by the current Government of Ghana, to file a civil suit against the Government of Ghana for causing substantial financial loss to his business through defamation and slander,” he said.
Twists and turns
Ms William was commenting on the prosecution of Alhaji Agongo and his company, Agricult; and Dr Stevne Opuni that started in 2018 and has taken various twists and turns during her visit to Ghana.
Over the last four years, the state has been pursuing legal actions against the three accused for allegedly conniving to procure, supply and distribute substandard fertiliser worth GH¢271 million to cocoa farmers.
The case has led to the freezing of Alhaji Agongo and Agricult’s bank accounts and the seizure of his passport.
The malicious prosecution was also used as basis by the Bank of Ghana to withdraw the licence of the now defunct Heritage Bank Limited, which Alhaji Agongo established in 2014.
The central bank claimed in its document announcing the collapse of the bank that by undergoing the unlawful criminal prosecution, Alhaji Agongo was unfit to continue as majority shareholder of the bank and subsequently revoked the licence although it was found to be solvent and well managed.
So far, almost all objections raised by the legal team of the accused have also been objected by the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga.
Several attempts to have Justice Honyenuga recuse himself from the case on the bases of prejudicial verbal remarks made by him in the past have also failed.
Miss Williams said there was clear evidence of ‘political bias and violations of Alhaji Agongo’s judicial and legislative rights.
She said the development was also subject to a possible human rights violation under international law, citing the Deprivation of Rights with the United States Department in the U.S.A and human rights issues Ghana
Ms Williams said the contract that governed the supply of the fertiliser showed that “Alhaji Agongo and Agricult acted as a Ghana Government contractor, not a representative of the German company that Agricult sub-contracted the supply of the product described in the Government of Ghana’s contract with Agricult.”
She, therefore, wondered why the current Ghana Government, through the designated agency, the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), approved and authorised the usage of the fertiliser only to turn around and describe it as substandard.
The advocate also noted that “the situation has been worsened by the fact that the product had been used by COCOBOD, with cocoa farmers testifying to its efficacy. In fact, the same fertiliser is used by farmers in the USA,” Miss Williams added.
She said once the government, through the CRIG, approved the product, the burden had shifted to the manufacturer, not Alhaji Agongo and Agricult.
Ms Williams compared this to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the U.S. and the current Covid-19 Pandemic.
She said, “it is like the FDA approving Moderna and then coming back to charge the doctors and nurses for administering Moderna’s vaccinations that the United States Government authorised the usage of the product.”
Should this happen, Ms Williams said it would amount to a clear case of malicious prosecution, Deprivation of Rights and the judge to preside over such a case would have committed a dereliction of duty under USA laws.
“Therefore, I view the case against the Agricult CEO, Alhaji Agongo as a “violation of human rights” and I am looking at possibly filing a deprivation of rights case on behalf of Alhaji Agongo in the USA against Ghana.
“The reason why they cannot prosecute Alhaji Agongo is because the entire case and all criminal counts alleged against the Agricult CEO are frivolous and baseless”, she said, adding: “They are basically accusing him of deceptive business practices without probable cause. But the Government of Ghana approved and certified the use of the product in Ghana and the Government of Ghana certified the use of the product using several certification certificates.”
“But I see no deception nor fraud on the part of Ghana Government contractor and Agricult CEO, Alhaji Agongo. Therefore, all charges and counts against him should be dismissed.”
Ms Williams said it would be interesting to know the institution and individual that was currently behind the supply of fertiliser to the COCOBOD under the current regime.