By Maame Agyeiwaa Agyei
The Presiding Judge of the five-member panel, Justice Sophia Akuffo, on Monday, cautioned Salifu Maase, popularly called Mugabe, to offer an explanation to his offence but not to furnish the court with his verbal testimonial, when he and two Accra-based Montie FM panelists, after threatening to kill judges of the superior courts, appeared before the Supreme Court to explain why they should not be committed to prison.
In courting the magnanimity of the court, he said: “My Lord, I was a morning show host for the Ghanaian Community Radio in UK. I was also a Cancer Ambassador.” Justice Sophia Akuffo then cautioned him to go straight to the point, saying, “This is [a] testimonial; it is not [an] explanation.”
“My Lords, with the greatest respect, I will like to apologise for what happened on that day.”
The outspoken political talk show host started his explanation giving his memoirs, by telling the court of his of 15 years experience in radio and other projects he has undertaken, but the court told him that his testimonial was unimportant.
According to him, he feels ashamed for what he did, and it happened because his producer was not around that day.
He said he lost control of the programme, but the Presiding Judge interjected and read a portion of the transcript to him, quizzing whether he was not the one who made that particular comment, and if he was clearly not in control of the programme? “’Alistair, open the fire,’ who said that, and does it show like someone who is not in control?”
“My Lords, I was the one who said that, and I am very sorry. I apologise unreservedly for that.” Recounting what led to the infamous programme that day, he told the court that his producer collapsed 15 minutes to the show and had to be rushed to hospital.
Salifu Maase further said he was unable to control the two panelists, who threatened to kill judges on his show, because his producer was not available to prompt him on the happenings.
The talk show host told the court that he used his last show on June 29 to praise the Supreme Court for their good works, which was no different from those of the 2012 Election Petition, where he constantly applauded the justices on a non-existent Montie FM at the time.
Audience, help me apologise to my lords -Alistair
One of the panelists, Alistair Taro Nelson, told the court that he was oblivious of the topic for discussion when he entered the studio, but was incited by an external force, making him comment uncontrollably.
“My Lords, it was something that entered in me, something like kpokpo gbligbli.” He also said that during the election petition, he was always on Montie FM to defend the Supreme Court. He apologised to the justices, saying: “I want to plead with the audience to help me apologise to my lords.”
Alistair Nelson also told the court that he made the comments because the producers of the show failed to brief him ahead of the programme. He, therefore, pleaded with the court to forgive him, and promised not to make such comments again.
Ako Gunn’s explanation
Godwin Ako Gunn, on his part, also apologised for his utterances, saying that he and his family were ashamed of what he had done. According to him, he was not aware of the particular tape in question until the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) invited him. He made it clear that he was not in the studio on the said 29, explaining his earlier dissociation from it.
“My Lords, there and then I realised what I have done and I regret it.”
All seven contemnors pleaded liable to contempt of scandalising the court, defying and lowering the authority of the court, and bringing the authority of the court into disrepute.
All of them, comprising the owners of the station, Harry Zakour, Edward Addo, Kwasi Attuah and Kwakye Bram Larbi, the host of the late afternoon political programme, Pampaso, Salifu Maase, the two panelists – Godwin Ako Gunn and Alistair Taro Nelson – told the court that they had explanations.
Ironically, when they were given the opportunity to explain, they turned round to apologise, making Justice Sophia Akuffo constantly remind them that an explanation is not apology, so they should explain to the court why they did that.
Nana Ato Dadzie, Counsel for the owners of the station, pleaded with the court that they were first time offenders, and that the court should have mercy on them. He told the court that the management of the station had put in place measures to avert the recurrence of any such comment.
Plea to stop playing tape
All the three lawyers representing owners of Montie FM, Mugabe and the two panelists – Nana Ato Dadzie, Nana Agyei Ampofo and George Loh – prayed the panel not to play the tape in court. According to them, they were ashamed of the unpalatable words used by their clients, and would not want the court to be reminded of the ugly things on the tape.
Nana Ato Dadzie said: “My Lord, we are here on bended knees,” resulting in a sharp response from Justice Akuffo: “And we are here with our judicial tooth.” The court declined the prayer not to play the tapes, which were played in court loudly around 11:45 a.m.
An aspect of the tape said: “When you go to Awudome Cemetery, there is no special grave for any Supreme Court Judge.” “Whether you are a judge or a lecturer, you are not above the law.” “I, Mugabe, came to Ghana to help Mahama, that is why my wife and children are not in the country, I am a loner and I am ready to do anything for Mahama.”
Convicted to Contempt
The five-member Supreme Court panel convicted the management, host, and two panelists for contempt and deferred sentence to July 27. They were, however, granted self- recognisance bail.
Why Justice Baffoe Bonnie left the panel
On Monday morning, when the five-member panel sat down to hear on the contempt case against Montie FM owners, host and two panelists, surprisingly, it had been reconstituted. It consisted of Justice Sophia Akuffo (President), Justice Julius Ansah, Justice Anim Yeboah, Justice Anthony Benin and Justice Gabriel Pwamang.
The court stated that one of the earlier panelists, Justice Baffoe Bonnie, had recused himself due to his relationship (family ties) with one of the directors, Kwasi Santie Baffoe Bonnie.
This change brings to three, the number of judges to have recused themselves from the case so far – Chief Justice Georgina Wood, Justice Sulley Gbadegbe, and now Justice Baffoe Bonnie.
Prior to the first hearing of the contempt case, the Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood, and Justice Sule Gbadegbe recused themselves from the bench, since they were specifically mentioned in the contemptuous comment by the two political activists and the host of the late afternoon political programme Pampaso.
Contention over Directors and Shareholders of Montie FM
There was a bit of contention in court regarding the owners of the FM station, when only two of them appeared before the Supreme Court with the Board Secretary.
Per the documents before the Supreme Court, it was revealed that the shareholders and directors were Edward Addo (Director and Shareholder), Kwasi Attuah (Director and Shareholder), Ato Ahwoi (Director and Shareholder, Kwame Addo (Director and Shareholder), Joseph Boateng (Director and Shareholder), Ida Brako (Director and Shareholder), Kwasi Santie Baffoe Bonnie, with Harry Zakour as the owner of the frequency (Montie), and Bram Larbi as Secretary.
The lawyer for the owners of Montie FM, Nana Ato Dadzie, in explaining what led to the absence of the rest of the owners, said Ato Ahwoi was currently on a medical check-up, so he was out of the jurisdiction.
He also said Kwame Addo was out of the jurisdiction, specifically, in the United Kingdom (UK), but was unwell, that was why he could not appear before the court. On Joseph Boateng and Ida Brako, he told the panel that he (Boateng) was incommunicado, while that the latter was a sleeping director.
Although Kwasi Santie Baffoe Bonnie was in court and was the reason Justice Baffoe Bonnie recused himself, he did not stand when the names were called.
Nana Ato Dadzi told the court that Kwasi Santie Baffoe Bonnie was no longer a member of Montie FM, a subsidiary of the Network Broadcasting Company Limited, because he had exited from the company.
He further explained that he was not part of the company’s returns since 2006, but did not have documents readily available to prove.
This brought a bit of back and forth between the lawyer and the justices, who could not fathom why Kwasi Santie Baffoe Bonnie’s name still appears as one of the directors of Network Broadcasting Company Limited.
Justice Sophia Akuffo then said, since it was a quasi-criminal case, the court would deal with those present first.