Lawyer Martin Kpebu, Counsel for the petitioners in the ongoing Atewa bauxite mining case has told a defence witness in court that, Okyenhene Amotia Ofori Panin I is opposed to mining in the Atewa forest but favours National Park. Under cross-examination at the Accra High Court, Archibald Ntiri-Acquah who was a defence witness and immediate past President of the Okyeman Youth Association had told the court that, he was in favour of bauxite mining in the Atewa forest. But lawyer Kpebu drew his attention to the fact that Okyenhene who is the custodian of the area is opposed to bauxite mining in the Atewa forest, showing him media publications to back his claim. The witness, Ntiri-Acquah was however of the opinion that, the forest can be used for the two purposes of mining and national park. The defence witness explained to the court that “GIADEC made available experts at stakeholders meeting at Atewa, we interrogated documents made available to us and so I am speaking per the information that I have but it's the case that the total mineable area is about 10 percent of the total forest which will mean that 90 percent is still available for his Majesty dream of a national park”. He noted that, with the mining to be carried out in the northern plateau of the forest, the dream of a national park can be realized. Lawyer Kpebu however raised an issue of ambiguity regarding the location of the northern plateau mentioned by the defence witness. According to him, one of the expert witnesses by the defence team had said in his report attached to his witness statement that the location to be mined the bauxite is northeast of the forest and not the northern plateau. He therefore asked Ntiri-Acquah where he got the northern plateau information from. He (defence witness) mentioned Dr Richmond Antwi Bediako as the one who gave him the information after engaging him as well as reading from a report sourced from the Water Resources Commission. Lawyer Kpebu therefore asked him if he could furnish the Court with the report and he answered in the affirmative, adding that, “they were contained in a fact sheet submitted to me by GIADEC and can make it available”. Lawyer Kpebu therefore prayed that the court allow the witness to furnish the Court with the documents to be able to cross-examine him on the same. The High Court Judge, Justice John Nyante Nyadu agreed with Lawyer Kpebu and therefore ordered the witness to file the fact sheet by Monday 4th March 2024, with the same to be served on the counsel for the plaintiff via WhatsApp in addition to the normal service.
Discrediting the witness
Another issue that came up strongly in court during cross-examination was a bribery case in which the defence witness was involved. According to Lawyer Kpebu, the defence witness once admitted on a live TV programme that he paid a GHC 200 bribe to obtain his Ghana Card and it is a big crime in Ghana to pay a bribe. The defence witness who confirmed the allegation told the court that as a communication member of the ruling NPP, he heard numerous complaints from people paying bribes to obtain their Ghana card and wanted first-hand information so that he could rightly speak about it. When asked whether he complained to the police after paying the bribe, he told the court that, he didn’t report the incident. “No, I didn’t report it to the police and let me hasten to add that, as party officers we hear this complaint every time so I took it upon myself to go through that process after which my Lord I publicly and vehemently spoke about it. And I think that's what I intended to do and as far as am concerned I achieved the results am looking for”, he told the court. State Attorney and Counsel for the defence witness, Ayisha Kubura objected to the line of questioning by Lawyer Kpebu questioning its relevance vis-à-vis the witness statement of the witness. Referring to section 51 of the Evidence Act, Lawyer Martin Kpebu revealed that, his line of questioning revolved around the credibility of the witness. “Need I say more about witnesses who pay bribes? Bribe is a crime and we must cover all the bases on credibility before we arrive at his statement”, he argued. Justice John Nyante Nyadu overruled the objection raised by the defence counsel and Lawyer Kpebu continued with his cross-examination. The defence witness, Ntiri Acquah however maintained that his advocacy did greater good in dealing with the bribery issue at the NIA.
A Rocha Ghana, a non-governmental organisation on environmental protection, in a joint effort with some civil society groups, has sued the government over mining bauxite at Atewa Forest. The plaintiffs are seeking the following reliefs; A declaration that the right to life and dignity as enshrined in the Constitution of Ghana, 1992 include (a) the right to a clean and healthy environment and (b) the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations. A declaration that mining of bauxite in the Atewa Range Forest violates the right to life and dignity as enshrined under articles 13 and 15 of the Constitution of Ghana (1992). An order, compelling the Government of Ghana and its agents to take the necessary steps to protect Atewa Range Forest in accordance with its constitutional obligations as contained under article 36(9) of the Constitution (1992). An order, restraining the Government of Ghana, its assigns and agents, servants, workmen, allottees, and guarantees whatsoever and howsoever described from undertaking mining and its related activities in the Atewa Range Forest. Before closing their case, the petitioners called many witnesses including expert witnesses like Professor Sandow Mark Yidana, a lecturer at the University of Ghana with a specialty in Hydrology and Warrick Stewart, an Ecologist from South Africa, who doubles as a Mining and Biodiversity Expert and they all maintained that, any mining activity in the Atewa Forest will adversely affect its biodiversity. The case has been adjourned to March 26, 2024, for the cross-examination to continue.