In what is arguably the highest-profile judgement of recent times here, Tsatsu Tsikata was sentenced to 5 years in prison last Wednesday. A legal prodigy who was once ex-President Rawlings' counsel and went on to become a Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, Tsikata was found guilty of three counts of willfully causing financial loss to the State (& one count of misusing State property). Each count is worth five years' imprisonment, which - luckily for him - are to be served concurrently.
With some arguing that loss to the State remains unproven, Tsikata's team have called into question the High Court judge's impartiality. The defense hit a brick wall when Justice Abban refused to compel a key witness - the International Finance Corporation (IFC) - to give evidence, on grounds of immunity. Tsikata has since appealed to the Supreme Court but that decision has been put on ice pending a more urgent application for Abban to be removed as the judge for his appeal.
High drama indeed.
"Great: the NPP has gone Mugabe on us..." It's an election year and, while Kufuor and Company have the good sense not to be as blatant about it as Old Bob, some do smell the whiff of witch hunt around this.
Of course, it is worth noting that it is the Judiciary that sent Tsikata to jail and not the Executive. The two are supposed to be independent, but tongues are wagging as to why Abban was in such a hurry to wrap up the case before the Supreme Court made a decision on whether or not the IFC could testify.
The conspiracy theorists have their hearts set on executive interference being the answer to that particular riddle.
"... and who's going to take care of the oil?" My girlfriend is taking a course in Energy Law & Policy and says that she was surprised to hear her lecturers fairly despondent at the news of Tsikata's conviction.
Why? (After all, they are all the way over in Dundee, Scotland...)
Apparently these specialists feel that Tsikata is not only the most qualified Ghanaian to steer the country away from Dutch disease towards making good of our recent oil finds, but that he is the only Ghanaian qualified to do so.
It would be interesting to find out if our Goverment share their opinion and - if not - who they think is better-placed. I am probably not alone in hoping it is someone less qualified in pocket-stuffing (or giving way to pocket-stuffing) than in energy matters...
"A politician? Being sent to jail? Maybe the law isn't such an ass after all..." This sentiment captures much of what people are saying on the streets. Ghanaians share a deep distrust of politicians and after the unaccountability of yore, there is a feeling amongst some of comfort:
No-one, apparently, is above the law.
I'll let you know if I hear anything to the contrary.