THE KNUST IMPASSE AND THE NEW “OCTOPUS” by Samuel Kissiedu

In NPP v AG, (The 31st December Case) which was decided in 1993/94, Chief Justice Archer who was on the side of the minority cautioned that the Judiciary should not act like an Octopus and stretch it’s eight tentacles here and there looking for jurisdiction not constitutionally meant for it. In other words, he strongly admonished the Judiciary and the courts not to interfere with the functions of the other arms of government i.e. the Legislature and the Executive.

Today, the conduct of this government resonate with Chief Justice Archer’s words. It appears that Archer CJ’s words fell on deaf ears in respect of the other arms of government, especially the executive of this current administration, although the plaintiff in that case, NPP, is now the party in government. The Akuffo-Addo administration has turned itself into an Octopus stretching its tentacles here and there and is interfering with the management and control of Most Corporate Bodies all in the name of public interest.

It started with the Ghana Football Association (GFA) which is a private company registered under the Companies Code, 1961 (Act 179) and limited by guarantee. In the case of Daniel Rockson v Ghana Football Association (2010) Unreported, the Supreme Court per ADINYIRA JSC stated emphatically that, “the GFA is a voluntary association even though it may receive subventions or grants from the National Sports Authority under section 4(1)(i) of the Sports Act, 1976 (SMCD54). The statutes of GFA is definitely not an Act of Parliament and nothing in the statutes of the GFA made at its Congress on 1 December 2005 suggests that the GFA is a statutory body nor were its made under the authority or power conferred by this Constitution”.

The conclusion the Supreme Court arrived in that case was that the GFA is a private company and so any difficulties the applicant had with its statutes may be challenged at another forum under the companies code (emphasis is mine). Notwithstanding this decision of the highest court of the land, the government of Ghana this year initiated processes to dissolve the GFA in June after investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas uncovered widespread rot in all facets of Ghana football as though it was a public institution until FIFA issued a threat to ban Ghana if Government of Ghana does not discontinue with the dissolution of GFA.

Now it’s the turn of Public Universities which are established by special legislation making them corporate bodies. The first issue came up last month, thus, September 2018, when Professor Raymond Atuguba released an article cautioning President Nana Akufo-Addo that he would be abetting an illegality if he goes ahead with a planned induction of a new Vice Chancellor for the University of Education, Winneba (UEW) later on Monday. In a one fell swoop, Prof Atuguba suggested that the President was meddling into the affairs of the University and also interfering with the Judiciary as well, as the case was pending at the Supreme Court challenging the removal of the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mawutor Avoke together with six other Principal Officers of the University. He stated in his article, “…I withdrew my legal representation for the Vice Chancellor (VC) of UEW and his other embattled colleagues, in open court in the Cape Coast High Court because I sensed unseen hands operating to prevent one of the fairest judges I have ever appeared before, from dispensing justice speedily and justly, or at all”.

Now to the KNUST impasse. The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology was established by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi Act, 1961 (Act 80) as amended. Sec 1(2) states that the University is a body corporate and shall have perpetual succession and a common seal. Sec 7 establishes the University Council which is the governing body of the university. One may ask, so who then supervises the University Council which is the final decision making body of the university? The National Council for Tertiary Education (N.C.T.E) was set up by the National Council for Tertiary Education Act, 1993 (Act 454) to supervise the governing bodies of tertiary institutions. The Preamble to the Act states that, “an act to establish a National Council for Tertiary Education to oversee the proper administration of institutions designated as institutions of tertiary education in Ghana…The composition of the NCTE includes a representative of the Minister for Education, Minister of Finance and the likes.

Last Thursday, 25th October, 2018 Ghanaians woke up to the news that government had dissolved the KNUST Council and, in its stead, put in place a 7-member Interim Council to resolve the issues and reopen the university within fourteen days. Whiles others saw it to be a step in the right direction, many legal luminaries relentlessly outraged that the conduct by government was unlawful. Government‘s dissolution of the university’s governing council met the disapproval of members of the University Teachers Association (UTAG)Tertiary Workers Union (Yeah) among others.

Subsequent developments in the few days after the dissolution revealed that government had to dissolve it’s purported interim university council as the interim council it had put in place to deal with the matters arising from the violent demonstration was rejected by the lecturers who  felt disrespected by government’s decision not to include them on the new council. To this end, the Minister of Information at a press release announced that government had dissolved it’s interim council and has made arrangements for the reinstatement of the old university council after involving The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, who is Chancellor of the university. The university is now set to reopen on Friday, 16th November, 2018 and lectures will resume on Monday, November 19, 2018.

It is the opinion of the writer that if government wanted to intervene and maintain law and order at KNUST, they could have done so through the representatives they have on the NCTE. For government to wake up overnight and dissolve the KNUST governing board was an unfortunate adventure that may leave an indelible scar on the first term of the Akuffo-Addo government. KNUST is a body corporate and hence the President and Minister for Education ought not to meddle in the internal affairs of the university unless perhaps the issues escalated to a level that could be described as being prejudicial to the security of the state. The writer is of the opinion that the disturbances that took place at KNUST last Monday did not amount to acts prejudicial to the security of the state. The President therefore ought to have allowed the governing body and other lawful authorities to work and resolve the matter. For now, as a citizen and not a spectator, all I can see is an Octopus up there!