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Ya-Na's Murder Trial : I Won't Sit On Case

2010-08-24 21:37:57
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Ya Naa Yakubu
Mr Justice Anthony Oppong, the judge who was to hear the murder trial of Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II, the Overlord of Dagbon, yesterday took a serious swipe at the Attorney-General’s office and declined to sit on the matter.

Accusing the Deputy Attorney-General, Mr Ebo Barton-Odro, of calling him “a drunkard and irresponsible,” the High Court judge challenged the deputy A-G to substantiate those allegations or render an unqualified apology to him.

The judge’s action stemmed from the fact that the prosecution had, on the arraignment of the 14 suspects before the court on August 16, 2010, indicated that it would raise objection to the judge hearing the matter on grounds of bias.

According to the judge, he felt unsafe in handling the case in view of what was happening in the country in respect of allegations of bias, particularly threats from the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) Chairman, Dr Kwabena Adjei.

He then urged the Chief Justice to transfer the matter from his court.

“I will not take anything for granted because this country has a history. In the circumstances, I will invoke section 104 of the Court’s Act, 1993 (Act 459) and crave the indulgence of Her Ladyship the Chief Justice, in all humility and with the greatest respect, to transfer this case from this court,” the judge said.

Taking judicial notice of a news item and what the deputy A-G is alleged to have said on air as to the reasons behind the application to object to him hearing the matter, Justice Oppong said Mr Barton-Odro had accused him of “going to a drinking bar and under the influence of alcohol made prejudicial comments about the case,” which the judge vehemently denied.

A Chief State Attorney, Mr Rexford Wiredu, told the court about the intention of the A-G to formalise the objection, after which Mr Justice Oppong adjourned the matter to yesterday and urged the A-G to file the necessary motion in respect of the objection to his hearing the matter.

At the court’s sitting yesterday, when the judge asked Mr Wiredu whether he had filed the application as directed, the state attorney replied in the affirmative but could not tell if the judge had received a copy.

Mr Wiredu added that he had filed a motion on notice for Judicial Review for Prohibition and in the exchanges the judge informed the court of his intention to give a short ruling, after which he went to his chambers and returned with his ruling.

Mr Justice Oppong said in his ruling that the unfortunate impression being peddled that the case was an NDC case was devoid of substance and in any event the A-G’s office was not an appendage of the NDC.

“The A-G, deputy A-G, both lawyers in that office, are not workers or staff of the NDC. They are on the pay roll of the Republic of Ghana and not the NDC.

“It is, therefore, expected that the lawyers there must first and foremost see themselves as professional lawyers and not party functionaries,” he added.

The judge stated that the fact that the Ya-Na suffered an unnatural death was not politics and the A-G’s duty was to bring cogent and convincing evidence capable of convincing the jury to return a verdict of guilty.

“This is a jury trial and the judge who will pronounce guilty or not guilty is not the jury and not me for anyone to accuse me of being biased,” he said and wondered why the deputy A-G could go on radio and use him as a pawn to score cheap and parochial political points by painting him as the worse judge in the country.

He said he felt insulted, scandalised and bastardised all because of the A-G’s attempt to play politics with the bench in general and with him in particular, saying he was not a politician but a judge who had taken an oath to dispense justice to all manner of persons irrespective of whatever.

Prior to the court’s session, a melee ensued between Mr Wiredu and the defence lawyers, who had positioned themselves on the left side of the bar, which he claimed was where he normally sat.

Therefore, Mr Wiredu wanted the court to come to his rescue by telling the defence lawyers to move to the right side of the bar but the court declined to be involved in the matter.

All the 14 accused persons, except one of them, Zakaria Yakubu, who is at large, were in court followed by a crowd of sympathisers and relatives.

On June 28, 2010, six of them, namely Alhaji Baba Abdulai Iddrisu, aka Zohe, Kwame Alhassan, aka Achiri, Mohamadu Abdulai, aka Samasama, Sayibu Mohammed, Alhassan Braimah and Alhaji Mohammed Habib Tijani, 45, a former District Chief Executive (DCE) for Yendi during the New Patriotic Party (NPP) regime, were indicted at the Adjabeng Magistrates’ Court in Accra.

Iddrisu Iddi, who was on admission at the Police Hospital in Accra at the last adjourned date, later appeared in court and was also committed to the High Court for trial.

And on July 15, 2010, the rest of the suspects were also committed for trial at the Accra High Court by the Adjabeng Magistrates’ Court, presided over by Patricia Quansah.

They included Alhassan Mohammed, alias Mohammed Cheampon, Abukari Nabeli, aka Kunkakums or Kooms, Mohammed Mustapha, Yakubu Yusif, aka Leftee, Abdul Razak Yussif, aka Nyaa, and Shani Imoro.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Ms Gertrude Aikins, indicated that evidence would be led to show that Nabeli, who had held two used lorry tyres at the time of the incident, put them on the body of the Ya-Na, while Mustapha held a gallon of petrol on the body to set it ablaze.

She said Yusif had also held a gun by the body and that Yakubu had been seen with a Dolmar machine (a chainsaw).

Abdul Yussif, she said, had also been seen holding a camera and taking pictures of the scene and that after all that, another group of men, including the suspects, led by Iddi, had drummed, sung and danced around the burning body.

According to the facts of the case, the two Royal Gates to the Dagbon paramount skin, namely the Andani and the Abudu, succeeded to the skin on a rotational basis.

The prosecution said, however, that that system was disrupted in 1969, bringing about a protracted litigation between the two gates, which led to the de-skinment of the late Ya-Na Mahamadu Abdulai IV and the enskinment of the late Ya-Na Yakubu Andani.

During the celebration of the Eidul Adha festival in February 2002, she said, disturbances erupted in Yendi and intelligence reports indicated that arms had been smuggled into the town by both gates.

The District Security Committee (DISEC) imposed a curfew and placed a ban on the celebration of the Bugum (Fire) Festival.
An approval of the imposition of the curfew was given by the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) on March 23, 2002.

While the Abudu Gate embraced the decision, the Ya-Na saw it as an affront to his position and on March 25, 2002 he decided to invite his elders to the Gbewaa Palace and sent Ziblim Abdulai to call one Mbadugu, Dugu-Lana.

While returning with Mbadugu, Ziblim was attacked and assaulted by some Abudu youth.

The attack by the Abudus was followed by sporadic shooting at the Gbewaa Palace later in the day, which intensified in the evening, leading to the death of some of the elders who were in the palace.

About 30 people lost their lives, with many others hospitalised following all kinds of injury. The situation worsened on the subsequent days, that is, March 26 and 27, 2002.

On March 27, 2002, the Gbewaa Palace fell to the Abudus. The palace was set ablaze and the shooting intensified, leading to many deaths. When some of the elders in the palace attempted to escape, they were shot dead.

The prosecution said Zakaria Yakubu, now at large, was seen by witnesses in the case decapitating Ya-Na Yakubu Andani near a kraal, after the Ya-Na had been dragged there by Mahamadu Abdulai and Shani Imoro.


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