FeaturedLatest NewsLeaks

Meet the man who rejected a Presidential Pardon and still did not serve his sentence

The time was 3pm in Ghana on Wednesday, June 18, 2008. Along the Accra-Nsawam road, the tyres of a blue Ghana Police Service vehicle screeched on the dark tarred road as the rays of the scorching sun gradually retired from its daily task.

In the vehicle was Tsatsu Tsikata, deep in thought as the words “I rescind my decision” reverberated in his pool of ideas. A 57-year-old lawyer with evident grey hair pushed the thoughts out of his head but his mind quickly moved to his words to his wife that he would return home. Tsatsu did not return home that day. Instead, he was making a 35-kilometer trip from the Ghana Police Headquarters where he had completed some formalities for his transfer to prison.

For various fleeting moments, he wondered: Where did I go wrong? When these moments popped up, he quickly flushed them out but could not help the sequence of another questioning the whole timeline of the day’s events.

Tsatsu Tsikata was coming off of a lengthy battle in Ghana’s judicial process. Having been accused of wilfully causing financial loss (GH¢230,000 then 2.3 billion Cedis) to the state and misapplying public property, he had been on trial for the past six years.

Latest News In Ghana. Click Here To Read Our Latest News Stories
The trial which was the longest between the state and a former government official had earned an audience in the West African country with a touch of political rivalry that echoed its solemn notes.

Throwing back to the event in 1993 that had eventually landed him a seat on a trip to the Nsawam Medium Security Prison, Tsatsu was in a state of ‘what if’ dilemmas. His attorney (who was outside the country on that Wednesday) had filed a motion at the Supreme Court fixed for a June 25 hearing, a week away from the day his verdict had been given at the Fast Track High Court by Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban. That Supreme Court case had a significant impact on his entire trial. June 18, 2008, was over 6 years from 2001, the start of the trial. Why could the judge not wait another week? The trend of events that had gone on throughout the day began to dawn on him. With a sense of critical analysis and paranoia, Tsatsu without any extra effort started to draw his conclusions. It was obvious but his state of oblivion had rendered him useless in the whole process earlier on in the day.

Now, seeing the Attorney General in court for the first time in over a year, the time for hearing the application his lawyer had filed, the presence of heavy police and prison guards even before his conviction had been made were all playing back in his head. Juggling the cards in his brian of how it all could have turned out if he knew, his seeming state of utopia was briefly interrupted.

Clang! The doors of the blue vehicle opened. Low rays of the sunset entered his eyes. As his iris controlled the diameter of his pupil to adjust the number of light rays entering his eyes for a clean see, Tsatsu realised he was already in Nsawam Medium Prison. All the scenarios had been wishful thinking for the moment. This would be his home for the next 5 years per the charge sheet. His only hope was the application for bail he had managed to file following his sentence. Looking back at how the day had turned out, that bail application was going to be a tough battle.

Tsatsu Tsika woke up on Wednesday, June 18, 2008, refreshed and ready to go about his daily activities as had been the case in the last 6 years of his trial.

The only difference was the court appointment at 8:00 am wasn’t the usual norm since courts in Ghana start proceedings at 9:00 am.

He had been in court the previous day but was late. The rains on June 17 had interrupted Tsatsu’s timely appearance as Mrs. Justice Henrrieta Abban adjourned the case.

In his mind, although the timing of the court delivery and schedule for the hearing made him a little skeptical, he planned to get to court in the absence of his lawyer Professor E.V.O. Dankwa who had written to the court about his unavailability at the set date on two occasions, get the case adjourned, also giving time for the Supreme Court to give its ruling on another motion his team filed to give his defense against the state a fair fight.

He said goodbye to his wife with the hope of seeing her after the day’s work and drove to court. On his way, Tsatsu picked his friend John Henry Martey Newman. Despite the court being quiet due to the early schedule of his case, the Ghanaian lawyer was hit with his first surprise in court on the day.

Attorney General Joe Ghartey sat in the courtroom with his full team Ms. Marina Atuobi, SSA, Mrs Evelyn Keelson, SSA and Mr Augustine Obuor, SA. The Honourable who had not been in court for over a year was teeming with passion and enthusiasm for work.

In a short while, the presence of the Attorney General was the least of Tsatsu Tsikata’s worries as his exchange with Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban was a matter of going home from whence he came or spending the night and subsequent ones in prison.

Tsatsu Tsikata instantly was short of words. His vocal folds were perfectly functioning, vibrating the air passing through them as he exhaled air from his lungs but the sound waves were missing. Words, that had come with ease a few minutes earlier were a lost resource. Hope for justice and a fair trial was slipping through the cracks.

Court proceedings started with Tsatsu apologising for being late the previous day. In words with a lot of ‘respectfully,’ the then 57-year-old outlined how he got the court order a few hours before his appearance stating he couldn’t get a replacement from Azinyo Chambers since his lawyer was outside the country. He explained his lawyer had written on two occasions about his absence and even notified the Registrar when the motion paper was being filed. The Judge then asked if Tsatsu Tsikata was in no position to go on with his application.

JUDGE: Well Mr Tsikata, in effect you are saying that you are not in position to go on with your application.

TSIKATA: That is correct my lord.

JUDGE: Erm …

TSIKATA: Not by myself at this time.

JUDGE: Pardon.

TSIKATA: Not by myself at this time.

– Tsatsu Tsikata vs The Republic on the 18th Day of June 2008

Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban reminded Tsatsu that the application in question was submitted and sworn by him and that he was capable of defending himself if he so wished. As Tsatsu highlighted the absence of his lawyer Professor E.V.O. Dankwa, the Judge question why the application was not submitted at a time where his counsel will be available.

With the accused trying to deep dive with an explanation, his “With respect…” was cut short as the Judge continued her point stating she did not see the urgency of that application that Tsatsu and his team needed it to be heard before further proceedings.

“I have been very, very, very, very patient with you. It is not for you to decide when the Court should sit and do business,” Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban told Mr Tsatsu Tsikata who quickly responded to put on record he had not sought to do that.

JUDGE: I do not intent adjourning this matter.

TSIKATA: My lord you just said that I am abusing the legal process.

JUDGE: That is it.

TSIKATA: Well respectfully I believe that that is …

JUDGE: I have been indulging you six years.

TSIKATA: My lord…

JUDGE: Six years.

TSIKATA: My lord I believe that …

JUDGE: This matter, please, please Mr Tsikata this matter you take it to the press if you so wish, but I don’t think this is a trial by the press…

TSIKATA: I am not…

JUDGE: It is not a trial by the press. It is a trial by a competent Court, seized with jurisdiction. Attorney-General …

– Tsatsu Tsikata vs The Republic on the 18th Day of June 2008

Joe Ghartey stood to make his point as the Judge called on him. Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban had earlier hinted she would take a reaction from the counsel of The Republic concerning the accused response about not being able to defend himself at the time.

The Attorney General stated since Tsatsu’s lawyer knew about his unavailability on the set date, arrangements could have been made for him to be in court with another lawyer as 8 days was enough for such arrangements.

Within moments and Attorney General Joe Ghartey not landing with his point, the Judge asked him to hold his breath as the application was struck out.

By this time things were unfolding quickly than Tsatsu Tsikata had imagined. Without his lawyer by his side, it was him and just him. Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban asked about the notice of appeal filed at the Supreme Court against her ruling. Tsatsu responded that it had not been resolved.

In a blink of eye, the substantive case had been called, putting the matter on the morning of June 18, 2008.

Joe Ghartey stood to announce his presence as a representation for The Republic, introducing his team once again. When Tsatsu was notified that the matter would go on and the Judge would give her judgement in the absence of any ruling by the Supreme Court, the only sound that came from him was “Huh” as he dripped from the drench of shock.

For the next few minutes, Tsatsu went fully armed with words of explanation and to his judgment reason for an unfair decision for the Judge to give her judgement.

He said that the Supreme Court’s decision which was scheduled for June 25, 7 days away was of important significance for his defence. Despite it not being the fault of the defence that the Supreme Court matter had not been resolved, Tsatsu reminded Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban that she had given a clear indication that she was going to wait on that decision and pleaded with her to proceed with the basis of what she had previously indicated.

The Judge asked the Attorney General, Joe Ghartey what he had to say. With a perfectly summarised legal submission, he stated that he was not aware of any legal proceedings that prohibited the Court from proceeding with the agenda.

After exchanging a host of submissions with regards to previous adjourned dates and Tsatsu constantly reminding the Judge that she had decided to hold on until the Supreme Court gave their verdict, Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban said the words that will leave the accused on thin lines between going home and going to jail that day. She rescinded her decision to wait for the verdict of the Supreme Court.

Jailing Tsatsu Tsikata: The Ghanaian law genius who rejected a Presidential pardon and won his appeal
“Eventually, she said: I rescind my decision. I rescind my decision. It was a kind of arbitrary thing. That was one of the reasons why the Court of Appeal said there was a miscarriage of justice. Because on the 18th of June, what was before the Court was an application that we had made which had been fixed by her on the 17th and adjourned to the 18th. There was no notice that she was going to rescind her earlier decision, there was no notice that she was going to deliver judgement.”

– Tsatsu Tsikata

Frantically trying to salvage all loose ends with the Supreme Court case in the exchanges that followed the Judge rescinding her decision to wait, Tsatsu failed to have a breakthrough as Mrs. Justice Henrrieta Abban went ahead with her ruling.

JUDGE: I adjourned this case to today in the hopes that the Supreme Court would have finished dealing with the Interlocutory Appeal being handled by them, which appeal was against the ruling of this Court delivered on 24/1/06 refusing accused’s application to compel IFC to appear before this Court.

As at now, there has been no order of the Supreme Court ordering a stay of proceedings as the lower court pending the final termination of the accused’s appeal. The Court suo motu decided all along, to abide the final decision of the Supreme Court before delivering its judgement. In the absence of any order staying proceedings, I am today reading the judgement in the case of Republic Vrs. Tsatsu Tsikata and I go on to read. This is the judgment.

– Tsatsu Tsikata vs The Republic on the 18th Day of June 2008

“The presence of the Attorney General with his full team was a complete surprise to me. He had not been in court for more than a year and a half. The clear indication when you go through that transcript is that the Judge then asks me to move the application that my counsel had filed. I said I don’t even have the brief with me. I can’t move it.

And she says you are a lawyer yourself. And again, this is legally very strange because whether I am a lawyer or not, I was being represented by another lawyer.

I had the right to counsel of my choice. The constitution guarantees me the right to counsel of my choice. That counsel had been acting for me. That counsel had notified the court of their absence.

– Tsatsu Tsikata

A Journey To June 18
Tsatsu Tsikata was appointed the Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) from October 1988 to December 2000 by former President Jerry John Rawlings.

In 2001, a Fast Track Hight Court set by former President Kufuor charged Tsikata with causing financial loss of GH¢230,000 (2.3 billion Cedis then) to the state and misapplying public property through a loan he, on behalf of GNPC, guaranteed for Valley Farms, a private company.

Having practised law for many years, Tsatsu fought back legally the best way he knew.

The Ghanaian lawyer with his representatives questioned the constitutionality of the Fast Track Court – after their earlier charges had been withdrawn from the Circuit Court – which they initially won at the Supreme Court with 5-4 decision. After two new judges were introduced in a review of that same case, Tsatsu and his team lost by a 6-5 decision.

Supreme Court of GhanaSupreme Court of Ghana
The case was back to another High Court but not a Fast Track Court after the Supreme Court’s reviewed decision. This time, the defense objected to the charges on the ground that Tsatsu had done certain acts in February 1993 which caused financial loss to the state was a retroactive application of the law which was unconstitutional in Ghana.

Ghana’s law that brought into being the offence of causing financial loss came into force in July 1993. Tsatsu claimed he could not be charged retroactively (being charged for an offence that at the time of the allegation, the offense did not exist) based on constitutional provisions.

The objection was upheld.

Prosecutors including the President of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who was then the Attorney General and his deputy then, Gloria Akuffo who is now Ghana’s Attorney General pushed in their fight for the state and protecting The Republic.

The case was taken back to the Fast Track High Court where the trial will prolong until June 18, 2008, when Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban gave her ruling.

Jailing Tsatsu Tsikata: The Ghanaian law genius who rejected a Presidential pardon and won his appealJailing Tsatsu Tsikata: The Ghanaian law genius who rejected a Presidential pardon and won his appeal
“When I was summoned at the time (2001), the summon was in the name of the president to appear before the Fast Track Court which had been newly constituted. I raised a matter of the constitutionality of the Fast Track Court. And that matter went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court initially decided in my favour by a 5-4 decision. I was being represented by my lawyer Professor E.V.O. Dankwa.”

– Tsatsu Tsikata

Tsatsu Tsikata The Lawyer
Right from childhood Tsatsu Tsikata’s love for books showed. Born in Keta in the Volta Region of Ghana, a young Tsikata started school at an early age because he wanted to follow his older brother Fui Sokpoli to school. In a few years, the young man had jumped classes and caught up with his older brother Fui.

Tsatsu Tsikata
When 26 children of employees showed up for an interview for the company’s secondary school scholarships in 1960, Tsatsu Tsikata was one of the successful candidates.

He placed second and won the scholarship, his brother Fui Sokpoli, taking the first position following the scholarship interview.

By the age of 9, Tsatsu Tsikata was already in Mfantsipim School pursuing his secondary education in Ghana. He gained admission to the University of Ghana where came out top with first-class honours in LLB (Bachelor of Laws) at the age of 18.

Mr Tsikata won a post-graduate scholarship from the University of Ghana to Oxford University. He went on to obtain first-class honours in Bachelor of Civil Law.

As a lawyer, being on the team of William Ofori Atta during the Acheampong period stood out for Tsatsu. He had been a counsel for Ghana’s former President Jerry John Rawlings and notably was the lead counsel for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) during the famous electoral petition in Ghana after the 2012 election.

He is married to Esther Cobbah and has three children including the award-winning Ghanaian musician, M.anifest.

The Ghanaian lawyer was not all about books as his past makes it look like. He loved sports but could only watch and not participate in.

His problem – he was asthmatic right from childhood.

Jailing Tsatsu Tsikata: The Ghanaian law genius who rejected a Presidential pardon and won his appeal
“I was close to Mr Willian Ofori Atta when he was alive. I got close to him at the University of Ghana. He had a certain impact on my life and subsequently during the Acheampong period, he was put in prison and I was a junior counsel representing him in trying to have him released.

William Ofori Atta was one of the Big Six. Representing him in court those days was one of the high points for me in my legal exposure.”

– Tsatsu Tsikata

Miracle On A Sunday
Around 9 pm on November 15, 2008, Tsatsu Tsikata started to have troubles with his breathing. The prison cell walls could not contain his stress. Having been asthmatic all his life, he tried to stay calm as he usually would. With mould as a trigger factor to his asthma, this was not the first time he had an attack at the Nsawam Prison. His medication complimented by his inhaler proved a useful remedy to all the previous attacks. Just that it was different this time.

An act of goodness saw Mr Tsikata give out his medication earlier on. What he had left when he started to have difficulties in breathing was his inhaler. When the attack was strong, he needed his medication instead and had none at the time.

In all of his attacks since the age of 4, that was the worst of them all. He struggled throughout the night without raising any alarm. With eyes set on God as the only hope, he murmured words of prayer to ignite the flame of his belief to see him through.

When the young men in his cell making the group of 12 prisoners asked if something was wrong and how they could help, Tsatsu lied that he was fine.

For him, it was a necessary lie. The reality was that he did not want to generate any sort of alarm in the prison at that time of the night. When alarms of such nature are raised in a prison context at that time of the night, it creates a state of chaos borne out of psychological situations with the idea that other prisoners were trying to escape. That could make his condition even worse. So, he kept his calm and resorted to prayer and hope for the rest of the night.

By morning on Sunday, November 16, 2008, he was still alive, not devoid of the pain he had been through in the night. Panting and still trying, it was time for him to be attended to.

The Prison Medical Nurse came to check Tsatsu out. Tsatsu was frank with the nurse right from the start saying he needed to be taken to the hospital. Being a Sunday, that suggestion was not immediately considered.

However, after the nurse reported the case to superior officials, a conclusion was made for Tsatsu Tsikata to be taken to the Nsawam Hospital. Before the journey to the hospital kicked off, the Ghanaian lawyer was in a bad state and had to be in a wheelchair.

When his wife got to the prison on Sunday to deliver Tsatsu’s food as she had done for all the days her husband had been in prison, the news of Tsatsu having been sent to the hospital was delivered. Tsatsu’s wife had sensed there was something wrong the previous day when she visited her husband. However, the prison ordeal was already tough on the family and Tsatsu always liked to deal with other things he saw as minor on his own. So, said he was OK although his body told him otherwise.

Immediately the news was delivered, Tsatsu’s wife rushed to the Nsawam Hospital. The second in command at the hospital disclosed to her that her husband needed to be transferred but the hospital did not have an available ambulance.

Upon request, the hospital director allowed Tsatsu’s wife as she arranged for an ambulance from Koforidua. The family saw this as a miracle. For a prisoner, personal arrangements like these were not allowed. And the director could have lost his job.

Within hours, Tsatsu Tsikata was on his way from Nsawam to Accra. The ambulance had an oxygen system which aided his breathing throughout the ride.

He was taken to the Intensive Care Unit at the 37 Military Hospital. Around 5pm that evening, the doctors realised they might not have the facilities to attend to the problems Tsatsu was facing and handle the problem adequately. Again, he had to be transferred.

Korle Bu Teaching Hospital
A call was made to the Cardiothoracic Unit at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. An ambulance was arranged for Tsatsu’s transfer. The unfortunate thing this time was that the ambulance from the 37 Military Hospital to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital had no oxygen system.

When he got to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, he was immediately taken to the Intensive Unit Care at the Cardiothoracic Unit where the Director was Professor Frimpong Boateng with his deputy Dr Frank Serebour. His oxygen level was low as it could get. Nearly taking his last breaths on earth. But the medical officials did their best and gradually, Tsatsu Tsikata got better.

The next few nights were difficult. Sleep eluded him. But he took solace from the fact that life hadn’t.

Incidentally, his difficult episode of a transfer from prison to the hospital would turn out to be the last time he was in prison walls as an inmate.

Jailing Tsatsu Tsikata: The Ghanaian law genius who rejected a Presidential pardon and won his appeal
“How I survived from that night of the 15th is what I describe as a miracle. Because asthma is something that can kill people in a few minutes and by God’s grace I lasted all that time.”

-Tsatsu Tsikata

The Presidential Pardon
The moment Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban delivered her ruling, Tsatsu Tsikata verbally notified her on filing an appeal. The Judge said there was no appeal before her. The Ghanaian lawyer was, however, determined to file.

By this time, people had started gathering at the court because the news had broke. His wife had been informed by his sister who got a notice from the friend Tsatsu went to court with.

With guards following him everywhere and the presence of heavy police force, a determined Tsatsu Tsikata filed his appeal at the Registrar before being taken to the Police Headquarters prior to his transfer to Nsawam Medium Prison on June 18, 2008. That appeal would be the first and important step to his acquittal.

Jailing Tsatsu Tsikata: The Ghanaian law genius who rejected a Presidential pardon and won his appeal
“It was important for me to file the appeal before being taken to prison because I wanted to file an application for bail as soon as possible because she (Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban) had refused to hear my oral application after she gave her decision.”

-Tsatsu Tsikata

Former President John Kufuor
In December 2008, the Court of Appeal reversed Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban’s refusal of bail and sent the case to be heard in the High Court.

On January 6, 2009, as Tsatsu lied on his hospital bed at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, a prison officer went to him. In a carefully delivered notice, the Ghanaian lawyer was informed with a warrant that that President John Agyekum Kufuor had pardoned him.

Immediately, Tsatsu asked for a pen and paper and wrote a letter to the president of Ghana to be delivered to that day. The lawyer knew at the time he had an appeal and application for bail pending before the courts.

Tsatsu Tsikata’s letter to the former president of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor rejecting his pardon on January 6, 2009Tsatsu Tsikata’s letter to the former president of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor rejecting his pardon on January 6, 2009

Tsatsu Tsikata’s letter to the former president of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor rejecting his pardon on January 6, 2009Tsatsu Tsikata’s letter to the former president of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor rejecting his pardon on January 6, 2009
For him, a pardon was not the same as an acquittal. A pardon meant the offence was committed but someone had forgiven the offence. Tsatsu was not going to accept that.

But it was tricky for him to walk back to jail as a point to back the rejection of the pardon. He was on his hospital bed. When the prison officer delivered the message from the president about the pardon, all guards around Tsatsu’s sickbed immediately left their post. To them, this was a free man despite the rejection letter he had sent to the president.

By early February 2009, Tsatsu Tsikata was granted bail pending appeal meaning he was no longer required to be in jail although he was still admitted at the hospital.

He used the judicial process instead of taking a pardon from executive power.

Jailing Tsatsu Tsikata: The Ghanaian law genius who rejected a Presidential pardon and won his appeal
“When people say, if you rejected the pardon, did you go back to prison? I was not in a position to go back to prison. I was in the hospital and the pardon was announced to me. I immediately said I was not going to accept it and notified the president. It was not my duty to walk back to prison.”

– Tsatsu Tsikata

Winning The Appeal
On November 30, 2016, eight years after being sent to prison on June 18, 2008, there was a unanimous decision in Tsatsu Tsikata’s favour by a 3-member panel at the Court of Appeal. Tsatsu Tsikata was acquitted and discharged of all charges. Psalm 94:15 quickly popped in his mind as had been the case in the last few months.

But judgement shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it – Psalm 94:15 King James Version

Tsatsu Tsikata
It was also a tricky ride. Two weeks before November 30 had been set to be the judgement day. When Tsatsu who was represented went with his team, the Court of Appeal indicated they wanted some additional legal arguments put forward before they could make a decision.

The team submitted the additional arguments while enduring a nervy ending to a 16-year battle in total.

Jailing Tsatsu Tsikata: The Ghanaian law genius who rejected a Presidential pardon and won his appeal
“One of the things the Court of Appeal relied on was the fact that the Supreme Court decided eventually that the IFC should have been compelled to give evidence.

The Supreme Court’s decision that the IFC should have given evidence was one of the reasons that were also used by the Court of Appeal in showing that there was not a fair trial and there had been a miscarriage of justice because the Judge proceeded in the way she did on June 18, 2008.”

– Tsatsu Tsikata

Finally, a decision was made. Tsatsu was a free man acquitted of all charges. No longer a man who had wilfully caused financial loss to the state in legal terms. No longer a man who had misapplied public property.

Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata had rejected a presidential pardon and won his appeal. This is a man who cried and proved foul in a judicial process in Ghana.

This story is based on narrations from Tsatsu Tsikata.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: