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Supreme Court stops Justice Honyenuga from hearing Opuni case

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The Supreme Court has removed Justice Clemence Honyenuga from the Opuni case as a trial judge.

By this decision, the Chief Justice would have to assign a new judge to the 4-year-old case for the legal process to continue.

The Court has differed its reasons for the ruling to Friday, July 30, 2021.

Clemence Honyenuga, a justice of the Supreme Court, was sitting as an additional High Court Judge in the matter of the Republic against the former COCOBOD CEO, Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni.

Lawyers for Mr. Opuni had earlier argued that they wanted Justice Honyenuga to recuse himself from the case because he prejudged and determined the guilt of Dr. Opuni even before the accused person mounted the box.

Opuni’s lawyers had argued that Justice Honyenuga had voiced his eagerness to dispense off the case, so he could go back to his core duties at the Supreme Court. This according to the lawyers, had been manifested in all the judge’s rulings against Mr. Opuni in the ongoing case.

But Justice Honyenuga dismissed their motion, saying, “It is my candid opinion that the application was brought in bad faith. Accordingly, the motion is hereby dismissed”.

That was the third failed attempt by Opuni’s lawyers to get the judge to recuse himself.

Unsatisfied with the ruling, the lawyers for Mr. Opuni petitioned Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah and took the matter to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s latest ruling was a 3-2 majority decision presided over by Justice Jones Dotse.

The Presiding Judge, together with Justice Avril Lovelace-Johnson, dissented, while Justices Gabriel Pwamang, Agnes Dordzie, and Issifu Omoro Tanko Amadu held for Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni.

Background

The former COCOBOD CEO and Agricult Ghana Limited CEO, Seidu Agongo, are standing trial together with Agricult Ghana Limited for allegedly causing the state to lose over GHS 217 million in a cocoa fertilizer transaction.

Dr. Opuni and Mr. Agongo are facing 27 charges including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officers, and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges, and are on a ¢300,000 self-recognizance bail, each.

Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to the COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr. Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified as required by law.

Journalist and science writer for NewsAfrica24, the Atlantic, New Scientist, Aeon, Men’s Health, and many others. Author of The Intelligence Mafias, published by Stoughton (UK)/WW Norton (USA) and translated into six languages.

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Politics

Job creation is our focus – Ofori-Atta

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Ofori-Atta will be presenting the 2022 budget today

This is in accordance with Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution and section 21 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921)

The budget will focus on solving the rising unemployment rate in the country

Finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta has disclosed that the 2022 budget will address the rising unemployment issue in the country.

He said the creation of jobs for the youth will be at the centre of the 2022 budget.

Also, the government will create an entrepreneurial environment for the youth of the country to venture into.

“I don’t think we can wait any longer, because the time is now on how to create an entrepreneurial state and deal with this issue once and all,” the finance minister is reported to have said by Joy Business.

“Certainly, the issues of youth and jobs will be the centre of this budget presentation,” he added.

He also said the budget will focus on improving the revenue situation in the country.

Ken Ofori-Atta will present the budget statement and economic policy of government in parliament today, November 17.

The presentation is in accordance with Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution and section 21 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921).

Meanwhile, economic analysts have asked Ghanaians to lower their expectations of freebies in the 2022 budget.

According to them, the nation is broke and needs to be revamped.

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Politics

Ken Ofori-Atta presents 2022 budget today

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Ken Ofori-Atta will be presenting the budget statement today

This is in accordance with Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution and Section 21 (3) of Act 921

The budget is described as the most anticipated budget in Ghana’s history

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta will on behalf of the President lay before Parliament, the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of Government today.

This is in accordance with Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution and Section 21 (3) of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016, (Act 921).

The budget, which is termed as the most anticipated in Ghana’s history is said to focus on expanding Ghana’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Finance, ahead of the budget reading in a statement hinted that the budget will among other things dwell on “creating a climate-friendly entrepreneurial state to address unemployment and import substitution.”

It also mentioned the “digitalisation of the economy, skills development and entrepreneurship as among the key issues in the presentation.”

Ken Ofori-Atta in a Joy News report monitored by GhanaWeb stated that the government of Ghana is committed to putting in place measures that will help deal with the unemployment situation in the country as well as recent challenges with the employment of fresh graduates for the public sector.

“I don’t think we can wait any longer, because the time is now on how to create an entrepreneurial state and deal with this issue once and all. Certainly, the issues of youth and jobs will be the centre of this budget presentation,” the Minister said.

Ken Ofori-Atta, however, noted that creating an entrepreneurial state has been a challenge for the government, and hopefully the 2022 budget to deal with this problem.

Some interest groups including financial and economic analysts as well as professional and trade organisations have expressed varied expectations on the budget.

Whereas some analysts have urged the Government not to introduce new taxes, the Ghana Union of Traders Associations (GUTA) has, for instance, appealed to the government to implement policies that would reduce the cost of doing business in the country.

Other groups have also called for the widening of the tax net to enable the government to meet its revenue targets.

The Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) has also called on the government to review the payment of road tolls in the country.

Godfred Abulbire Adogma, the GPRTU general secretary, said Ghana should substitute paying of road tolls with a one-pesewa increment on the Energy Levy.

“When you come to the issue of road tolls, even if the government decides to raise the current amount of GHC1 to GHC2, that wouldn’t be enough.

“So, we have itemised all the reasons and the government could scrap all the toll booths and rather charge an amount per litre of fuel. That can be another measure to prevent revenue leakages,” Adogma was quoted in an Asaase radio report.

On his part, the Chief Executive of the Chamber of Pharmacy, Thony Ameka, in a Joy News report monitored by GhanaWeb, warned prices of medicines will increase if the government goes ahead to scrap the 50% discounts.

Eric Anti, Secretary of the Spare Parts Dealers Association at Abosey Okai in Accra, also expressed similar consequences.

But what is contained in the government 2022 budget?

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International

Biden and Xi Jinping virtual meeting: US president says the goal is to ensure competition with China ‘does not veer into conflict’

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The two leaders met on a video call amid rising tensions between the US and China, which have long had a strained relationship.

US President Joe Biden has held a virtual meeting with China’s Xi Jinping and began on a positive note – saying their goal is to ensure competition “does not veer into conflict”.

The two leaders met on a video call amid rising tensions between the US and China, which have long had a strained relationship.

Mr Biden has criticised Beijing over human rights abuses against Uyghurs in northwest China as well as the suppressing of democratic protests in Hong Kong and military intimidation towards the self-ruled island of Taiwan, among other things.

President Joe Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Image:President Joe Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping

In response, Mr Xi‘s deputies have lashed out against the Biden administration for interfering in what they believe are internal Chinese matters.

“It seems to be our responsibility as the leaders of China and the United States to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended, rather than simple, straightforward competition,” Mr Biden said as he opened the meeting.Advertisement

He added: “It seems to me we need to establish some common sense guardrails. To be clear and honest where we disagree, and work together where interests intersect, especially on vital global issues like climate change.”

Mr Biden said the US is “always going to stand up for our interests and values and those of our allies and partners,” before inviting Mr Xi into a discussion where his administration has concerns, “from human rights to economics, to ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

Mr Xi, who warmly greeted the US leader by referring to him as his “old friend”, said the two sides needed to improve communication.

President Joe Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, listens. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Image:Mr Biden discusses his concerns with Mr Xi, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) listens

He claimed a healthy and stable bilateral relationship is necessary for dealing with global challenges like climate change and COVID-19, and added he would like to work with Mr Biden to guide the positive development of US-China relations.

“I stand ready to work with you, Mr President, to build consensus, take active steps and move China-US relations forward in a positive direction,” he said.

“A sound Chinese-US relationship is required for advancing our two countries’ respective development and for safeguarding a peaceful and stable international environment, including finding effective responses to global challenges, such as climate change… and the COVID pandemic.”

Mr Xi pointed out that both China and the US are at critical stages of development, and the “global village” of humanity faces multiple challenges.

The more than three-hour virtual talk saw Mr Biden bring up the issue of human rights “multiple times”, according to a US official, and he made clear that he sought to, “protect American workers and industries from the People’s Republic of China’s unfair trade and economic practices”.

The two also spoke about key regional challenges, including North Korea, Afghanistan and Iran. Beijing’s behaviour towards Taiwan was also discussed, although nothing new was established.

BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 04:  Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shake hands with   U.S Vice President Joe Biden (L) inside the Great Hall of the People on December 4, 2013 in Beijing, China. U.S Vice President Joe Biden will pay an official visit to China from December 4 to 5.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Image:Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shake hands with then US Vice President Joe Biden (L) in Beijing in 2013

The two leaders previously travelled together when both were vice presidents and know each other well – and Mr Biden would have preferred to meet Mr Xi in person.

However the Chinese leader has not left his country since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The White House suggested the idea of a virtual meeting as the next best thing to allow for the pair to have a candid conversation.

Ahead of the meeting, the White House said Mr Biden would abide by the longstanding US “One China” policy, which recognises Beijing but allows informal relations and defence ties with Taipei.

It comes after Chinese military forces held exercises last week near Taiwan in response to a visit by a US congressional delegation to the island.

Mr Xi may be looking to stabilise US-China relations in the near term with Beijing set to host the Winter Olympics in February, as well as the Chinese leader expected to serve a third five-year term as president next year.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki earlier said that the “condensing of power” in China made the leader-to-leader conversations essential.

Meanwhile, Mr Biden has some domestic issues of his own after seeing his polling numbers fall over concerns about the lingering coronavirus pandemic, inflation and supply chain problems, and is looking to find a measure of equilibrium on the most consequential foreign policy matter he is facing.

The White House set low expectations for the meeting with Mr Xi, and said no major announcements or even a joint statement were anticipated.

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