In the United States, the maximum number of Supreme Court judges has been set at nine. In Nigeria, 21 justices can be appointed to the apex court, excluding the chief justice. However, Ghana’s 1992 Constitution is silent on the maximum number of justices that may be appointed to the Supreme Court.
Since Article 128 of the Constitution only prescribes a minimum number of nine justices in addition to the chief justice, this affords the president the opportunity to appoint as many justices as he deems fit.
Concern is that, since the decisions of the apex court are often based on voting, the president can exploit the constitutional loophole by appointing his cronies to the supreme court in an effort to turn the wheels of justice in his favour.
While this concern has been raised numerous times over the years, it surfaced again when President Akufo-Addo increased the number of justices at the apex court from 11 to 14 earlier this year.
The new justices being considered were Justice Barbara Frances Ackah-Yensu, Justice George Kingsley Koomson and Justice Samuel Kwame Adibu Asiedu (all justices of the Court of Appeal), and Justice Ernest Yao Gaewu (Justice of the High Court).
When these new nominations were presented to Parliament’s Appointment Committee in October for vetting, the opposition kicked back. The Minority Leader in Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu, said the increase is worrying because of its financial implications.
“If you take the fourth Republican period, we have seen a significant number of appointments by the President in the exercise of his powers in Article 144.
“But note that President Mills contributed about 21.4%, John Dramani Mahama 28.6%, and Nana Akufo-Addo 78.6% from 11 to 14 Supreme Court judges. We wonder if he is mindful of the public purse,” he said.
The Ghana Bar Association voiced similar concerns, calling for a review of the Constitution to include a maximum number of supreme court justices.
Public Relations Officer of the Association, Saviour Kudze, told Citi News, “the way our constitution is now, if we don’t put a ceiling on it, it will not help us.” The ceiling to be adopted, Kudze said, will depend on "the work at hand”.
"Many more cases are going on appeal now and the Supreme Court happens to be the highest and final appellate court, so for me, going forward, we need to look at it and see if you can have some ceiling,” the lawyer noted.
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