In a few weeks leading to the December polls, anti-corruption Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu has resigned. He cites government interference in his office. This seems to have now tarnished the incorruptible image of President Akuffo Addo.
Ghana for the longest time running has had an overwhelming battle with corruption. Ghana ranked 41 out of 100 in the 2019 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index which is a dissatisfying figure.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor was set up in 2018 by the current New Patriotic Party (NPP) government which was widely praised by Ghanaians. Martin Amidu was assigned the position to fight corruption. However, recent events tied to the Agyapa Royalties Deal has led to the resignation of the anti-corruption crusader.
Events leading to Martin Amidu’s resignation
Parliament, on August 14, 2020, approved the Agyapa Minerals Royalties Investment Agreement to allow Ghana’s future gold royalties to be monetized.
Under the agreement, Agyapa Mineral Royalties Limited was incorporated in Jersey near the UK to receive and manage royalties from 16 gold mining leases over the next 15 years or so. The firm, in exchange, will be listed on the London and Ghana Stock Exchanges later in the year to raise at least $500 million for government to invest in infrastructure, health, and education.
The deal was later a subject of controversy due to conflict of interest and monitoring difficulties, since the company is situated in a tax haven.
As part of his duties, The Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu, commenced investigations into the Agyapa Mineral Royalties transaction. He said in a letter dated September 10, addressed to the clerk of Parliament that the investigation was in line with his office’s mandate in the prevention of corruption.
“I write in pursuant to Sections 2(1) c, 29 and 73 of Act 959 and Regulation 31 (1) and (2) of L. I. 2374 mandating the Office to exercise the functions and powers of the prevention of corruption, to request you to provide this office with information and all documents related to and/or in connection with the approval given by Parliament to the Agyapa Royalty Transaction to assist this office to execute its prevention of corruption object,” he wrote.
“This Office will be concentrating on any potential of the said transaction to promote and facilitate the suspected commission of corruption and corruption-related offenses and advise government accordingly,” he further added.
In a press statement dated November 2, 2020, signed and issued by the Special Prosecutor, Mr. Martin Amidu, Mr. Amidu explained that the report was completed on October 15, 2020, and it was forwarded to the Office of the President on October 16, 2020, as well as the Minister of Finance, Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta.
“The analysis of the risk of corruption and anti-corruption assessment was completed and signed by the Special Prosecutor on 15th October 2020. The Special Prosecutor in a letter with reference number OSP/SCR/20/12/20 dated 16th October 2020 conveyed the conclusions and observations of the anti-corruption assessment to H. E. the President and the Hon. Minister of Finance as a matter of courtesy before informing the public,” Mr. Amidu said in the press release.
“Two weeks is more than too long for this Office to continue withholding the announcement of the completion of its sixty-four (64) page report to the public. It is important that this Office has the freedom to discharge its anti-corruption mandate and keep the public informed. I have, therefore, decided to bring the facts of the conclusion of the anti-corruption assessment of the Agyapa Royalties Transactions by this Office to the attention of the public and to avoid the continued speculations on this matter,” he further stated.
Amidu’s report raised the possibility of “bid-rigging, illicit financial flows,” nepotism, and favouritism. Amidu said on many occasions, President Akufo Addo interfered with his investigations by either trying to get him to hold on to the report or add the comments of his cousin, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to the corruption risk assessment report, but he declined. This led Amidu to send his resignation letter on Monday, November 16 to President Akufo Addo.
Martin Amidu’s resignation – highlights of the resignation letter
“Your Excellency insisted that I should withhold any further action on the report for one week. I reluctantly agreed to your terms but gave you notice immediately that I did not intend to continue as a Special Prosecutor because of your interference in the performance of my functions under the law.
You eventually invited me to your office in the evening of Sunday 1 November 2020 where I again asserted that I was not going to bargain over the Independence of my functions as the Special Prosecutor. I refused to take the copy of alleged comments from the Minister of Finance you offered me as that would have compromised my independence as Special Prosecutor.
I also refused to shelve my report to enable you handle the matter which explains my press release to the public on the morning of 2nd November 2020 and follow-up with the distribution of the full sixty-four (64) page Agyapa Royalties Transactions anti-corruption assessment report to the public.”
Martin Amidu in his letter stated another reason for his resignation.
“The events of 12th November 2020 removed the only protection I had from the threats and plans directed at me for undertaking the Agyapa Royalties Limited Transactions anti-corruption assessment report and dictates that I resign as the Special Prosecutor immediately. Fear is the enemy of change and I am prepared from the vacuum created on 12th November 2020 to meet the threats of my demise as the price to pay for serving my country without fear or favour affection or ill will” the letter stated.
Most have speculated the events of 12th November referred to the death of Jerry John Rawlings. One of such people included the former MP for Zebilla Constituency, John Akparibo Ndebugri who stated in an interview monitored by Ghana Talks Business that
“The sad incident removed the only protection he had and therefore he had no choice but to resign immediately. It only means that it was John Rawlings protecting him in the performance of his duty.”
Martin Amidu’s resignation – Staff limitation and lack of payment
Mr. Amidu’s resignation letter also revealed the limited number of staff sent to his outfit and the lack of payment of any emoluments and benefits.
“The compulsion to use a limited number of seconded staff in a three-bedroom and boys’ quarters accommodation undermined the achievement of the objects of the office and my undertaking on oath before Parliament,” he stated.
“One cannot seriously continue to prevent and fight corruption by depending on seconded staff of a two-year duration who are looking forward to and/or over their shoulders to returning to their main employers, who consequently may have more influence over them than the SP under whom they are supposed to work,” it added.
Martin Amidu further disclosed no attempts were made by the Government to ensure that he and his Deputy were paid since assuming office two years ago.
“It is essential for me to state for the purpose of the records, and contrary to public perceptions, that my appointment letter was received on 5th February 2020 (almost two (2)-years after my appointment). The copy addressees made no efforts to honour any of the conditions of appointment in terms of emoluments and benefits of the appointment ever since my warrant of appointment was issued on 23rd February 2018 to the date of my letter of resignation. I accepted the offer on 10th January 2018 to be nominated to be Special Prosecutor because Mr. President, and Ghanaians knew I have been an anti-corruption crusader all my life and not an anti-corruption entrepreneur. This explains why I have never put the emoluments and benefits of the Office as central to my commitment and my passion for the establishment of an independent, effective, efficient and impartial anti-corruption Office of the Special Prosecutor before the end of the first term of Mr. President. This has not been possible for several reasons,” his statement read.
“The Deputy Special Prosecutor has also not been paid any emoluments since her appointment, and there is the need to redress that situation for her now that I am out of the way,” he further stated.
President Akufo Addo accepts his resignation
In a press release signed by the Chief of Staff, Akosua Frema Osei-Opare dated Tuesday, November 17, 2020, the President has accepted Martin Amidu’s resignation letter as the Special Prosecutor.
“This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated November 16, 2020 (Ref: OSP/2/AM/14), addressed to the President of the Republic conveying to him your decision to resign from office as Special Prosecutor, which he has accepted,” the statement said.