The High Court in Accra has ordered the former Chief Director of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu to appear before the court within 48 hours to respond to charges.
Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu is the third accused person in a case in which he and four others including former ministers – Alhaji Collins Dauda and Dr Kwaku Agyemang-Mensah have been slapped with 70 charges in the Saglemi affordable housing case.
Following the amended charge sheet moved by the State in January this year, Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu through his lawyers has indicated to the court that he had since suffered a “stroke and cannot walk unsupported.”
While Alhaji Collins Dauda, Dr. Kwaku Agyemang-Mensah, also a former Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing; Andrew Clocanas, Executive Chairman of Construtora OAS Ghana Limited and Nouvi Tetteh Angelo, Chief Executive Officer and owner of Ridge Management Solutions Ghana Limited had their plea taken last week, the sick Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu was absent.
Hearing arguments from lawyers of the third accused person led by Godwin Edudzie Tamakloe and the prosecution led by Hilda Craig, a Principal State Attorney, the court ordered him to appear for at least his plea to be taken on the charges.
“I Order the third accused (Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu) to appear before this Court on Wednesday, June 7, 2023 (within 48hrs) at 12:30 pm for his plea to be taken.”
The court said, after the taking of his plea, the court will put him to the election of how he can be permitted to defend himself before the court in his present situation.
Addressing the court on the absence of the third accused person, Lawyer Tamakloe said, his client was put before the High Court differently constituted and the (previous) charges read to him and pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Counsel argued that he was then granted bail and the same orders were duly executed and that the 3rd accused was also attending the court “until he suffered a stroke.”
Counsel said, “We have variously brought to the attention of the court and his medical reports.”
He argued that, be that it is not the willful decision of the third accused to be absent in court, “we will pray the court to the fact that based on the medical reports before this court, to permit the third accused some time for the purpose of recovery from the stroke.”
“We also want to pray if the court can make other facilities available to the third accused either by way of video conference in the Tamale or Yendi Office of the Attorney General so that he can duly participate in the proceedings of this court,” Counsel prayed the court.
He intimated that “In making that prayer, I am minded to say that in this era of technology, it should be possible for this court to make an order so that the Republic through the Attorney General in Yendi or Tamale will make such facility available to the third accused.”
Counsel argued that “In view of the fact that the fair trial rule requires the trial to be conducted in the presence of the accused, I submit that the video conferencing facility will achieve the same aim of the constitutional provision that the trial be done in his presence.”
“With the video conferencing facilities the plea of the third accused can also be taken in respect of the specific charges that relate to him,” counsel argued.
Counsel said, “Because of the difficulties in transporting him (third accused) that’s why we pray the court to consider technology.”
Hilda Craig, a Principal State Attorney argued that the accused person in question (Third Accused) was present in court when the plea was first taken before another court and “he was regular until the unfortunate happened as counsel has informed the court.”
She said counsel for the third accused person has been presenting medical reports indicating the Medical condition of the accused person.
“Subsequently, when the charge sheet was substituted the accused person was not present for his plea to be taken and we indicated to the court then that the medical reports that they kept presenting had a “particular line” running through them.
In the particular line, she said all of them stated that “he (third accused) was put on specialist medication and responding to treatment however he still finds it difficult to walk unsupported.”
“We indicated to the court that the word ‘unsupported’ means he can be supported by the court for at least his plea to be taken,” the Principal State Attorney Stated.
“All the prosecution is saying is that without him being present and his plea taken and because he has the bulk of the charges the case would be scattered if not.”
On the issue of technology raised by Defence counsel, the Principal State Attorney said, “We have spoken about the issue of technology, but we were unable to and in our Office in Tamale and the Tamale High Court, we don’t have and it would be difficult for us to have him tried under video conferencing in Tamale court.”
While pointing to Article 19(2)(f) of the 1992 Constitution, she said “We are saying he should come for his plea to be taken and then when he cannot be in court his lawyer will do all that matters him adequately.”
She said all that Prosecution is asking was that the court makes orders for the third accused to be present in court for his plea to be taken.
His Lordship Justice Ernest Owusu-Dapaah, a Justice of the Court of Appeal sitting as an additional High Court judge after listening to the parties said both the Defence and prosecution in their arguments failed to point to a single precedent of an accused whose plea had to be taken via video conferencing.
He said the court has to exercise discretion judiciously and that no accused person is “inferior or superior” to the other.
The court said it is only “death that will practically prevent” an accused from standing trial or where an accused is “mentality unsound.”
The court said the third accused who is facing most of the 70 counts whether separately or jointly has not pleaded to the 70 counts yet.
Justice Owusu-Dapaah said, embarking on a separate trial without the third accused will create or result in unnecessary complications of evidence and cause “embarrassment to the rest” of the accused persons without the third accused.
The Court said, it has taken judicial notice and the fact that the prosecution does not have reliable internet facilities to enable the accused to give evidence in the comfort of his house or the Tamale Court or the hospital facility, he ought to appear before the court within 48 hours to respond to the charges.
The case has since been adjourned to June 7, 2023, for the third accused to appear to respond to the charges.
Alhaji Collins Dauda, the former Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing and four others have been slapped with 70 charges of causing financial loss to the state over the Saglemi Affordable Housing project.
The amended charge sheet replaced the previous 52 charges pressed against them in July 2021.
Alhaji Collins Dauda, together with Dr. Kwaku Agyemang-Mensah, a former Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing; Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu, Chief Director at the Ministry for Water Resources, Works and Housing, contributed to the Saglemi Housing deal when it was prepared and signed.
Also playing part is businessman Andrew Clocanas, Executive Chairman of Construtora OAS Ghana Limited and Nouvi Tetteh Angelo, Chief Executive Officer and owner of Ridge Management Solutions Ghana Limited.
In court on Tuesday, January 24, Hilda Craig, a Principal State Attorney told the Criminal Division of the Accra High Court that they have filed fresh charges on Tuesday morning.
The charges include intentionally misapplying public property and causing financial loss to the state.
While Alhaji Collins Dauda and three others were present Alhaji Zeblim Yakutia, the third accused was absent and he was said to be unwell per the medical report to the court.
Alhaji Collins Dauda, a former Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing who doubles as NDC MP for Asutifi South in the Ahafo Region, and four others are involved in the $200 million Saglemi Housing Project scandal.