On 3rd June, 2019, the body describing itself as the Independent Examination Board of the General Legal Council, published a paid advertisement on page 30 of the state-owned Daily Graphic Newspaper calling for applications from suitably qualified candidates to be submitted to it by 12th July, 2019 to qualify to partake in an examination called the ‘Entrance Examination For Admission To The Professional Law Course of The Ghana School of Law in October 2019’.
The Coalition for the Reformation of Legal Education in Ghana is calling on the body calling itself the Independent Examination Board of the General Legal Council and the General Legal Council to immediately withdraw the said advertisement, and if it is necessary to issue that advertisement again forthwith, to make it amenable to the 1992 Constitution, the laws of Ghana, rulings of the Supreme Court of Ghana, as well as the declared policy direction of the Chief Justice of Ghana, Ms. Sophia Akufo, when she was undergoing vetting for her current position. This is because as Chief Justice of Ghana, Ms. Sophia Akufo is also the Chairman, by statutory arrangement, through the instrumentality of Section 15. (1)(a) of the Legal Profession Act, 1960 (Act 32), of the General Legal Council.
We say that the advertisement should be withdrawn for the following reasons.
1. Throughout the world, the primary qualification for under-going a professional legal education is the Bachelor of Laws Certificate (LL.B). However, in some jurisdictions such as England, where we adopted the law as we know it in Ghana today, people with first degrees in other courses are allowed into the law program subject to a one-year law conversion course. The phenomenon of an entrance examination is a uniquely Ghanaian and unwelcome wrinkle on the route to qualification into the legal profession, and is uniquely cruel.
2. The entrance examination has once before been declared as unconstitutional in the case of Professor Stephen Kweku Asare versus the Attorney General and the General Legal Council (WRIT NO. J1/1/2016 dated 22ND June, 2017), and its constitutionality is again under challenge in the case of Kenneth Kwabena Agyei Kuranchie versus the Attorney General and the General Legal Council SUIT. NO JI/09/2019).
3. Conceptually, the Entrance Examination is cruel, in that the amount of work that is required of a candidate to develop a workable capacity to undergo the examination is inhumane and sins against Article 15 of the 1992 Constitution.
4. Again, it is discriminatory and sins against Article 17 of the 1992 Constitution in that it will prevent people who aspire and who are qualified to undergo professional legal training, from pursuing their dream.
5. On the face of the advertisement published at page 30 of the Daily Graphic of June 3, 2019, the examination format could only have been dreamed by people with very sadistic inclinations, in that
(i) It will have only two sections, comprising section (a) of twenty multiple questions on ten major law courses, and section (b) comprising just or only two essay questions derived from ten major law courses, which are compulsory and
(ii) This format of examination, requiring candidates to learn/review courses ten law courses that they took three years to learn, is an extremely cruel and sadistic exercise.
6. On the face of the said advertisement, even after going through this sadistic exercise, and even upon qualifying by every academic standard, the General Legal Council can still state that it will not allow the candidate to be admitted.
7. The ‘minimum threshold mark’ that the entrance examination requires is not stated on the face of the advertisement and is therefore subject to abuse.
8. People who would be failed have been barred from protesting because the decision of the General Legal Council would be final.
9. The advertisement also requires that admitted candidates submit police reports declaring that they are not criminals. This requirement presumes that some successful candidates may be criminals and that they should prove that they are not so by the producing ‘innocence certificates’. This is clearly a contravention 19. (2)(c) of the 1992 Constitution.
10. Further, the requirement to produce police reports is not a requirement of the Legal Profession (Professional and Post-Call Law Course) Regulations, (L.I. 2355) and is therefore unconstitutional and the Supreme Court of Ghana has severally ruled so in such cases as Awuni versus WAEC (Awuni v WAEC [2003-2004]1SCGLR 471) and Professor Stephen Kweku Asare versus the Attorney General and the General Legal Council. In the first case, the Supreme Court of Ghana, in a judgment written by Her Lordship Ms Sophia Akufo, Ghana’s current Chief Justice, held that if there is a prescribed lawful manner of doing a thing, it was the preferred way to do it. In the case of Professor Stephen Kweku Asare versus the Attorney General and the General Legal Council supra, the Supreme Court of Ghana affirmed the reasoning of Her Lordship Sophia Akufo in Awuni Versus WAEC supra. In the latter case the Supreme Court stated, “It is clear from the above speech that where power is conferred on an authority to make regulations dealing with its powers then that mode of the exercise by it of its powers must be preferred. We think that a similar observation can be made of the power conferred on the Council under section 14 of Act 32.”
The Coalition for the Reformation of Legal Education in Ghana says that for the above reasons, the General Legal Council and Independent Examination Board should withdraw the above advertisement with immediate effect and consider the points herein before the advertisement is re-issued, and we believe strongly that if the General Legal Council were to give due consideration of the points raised herein, it would withdraw the advertisement and wholly scrap the entrance examination.
That said, we wish to make the following comments;
(a) That no Ghanaian, no matter his or her position, has the right to stand in the way and create barriers to the lawful aspirations of other Ghanaians. It is improper and immoral.
(b) That the so-called moral authority in this country has a duty to speak up when the rights of some Ghanaians, particularly young and idealistic people, are being abused so flagrantly and indiscriminately by a state institution, headed by no less a person than the Chief Justice of Ghana.
(c) Again, these acts by these bodies are destroying real lives, and should be halted immediately.
That being the case, we call on all churches and religious organizations, all civil society groups, all political parties and interest groups, members of parliament and finally the President of Ghana, to take an interest in what is happening to legal education in this country.
We say so because a people who are aware of their rights, know when to stand up for same, and the people can only do so when they have access to lawyers and people with legal knowledge.
Every single proper policy reason demonstrates that the ideology driving the General Legal Council today in so far as legal education is concerned, is retrogressive.
Ghana currently has a population of about thirty million human beings. Less than three thousand of them are lawyers. It is the direct reason why the law courts are choked and innocent people are languishing in jail, leading to such ill-thought out programs like the ‘Justice for All’ program.
Ghana needs more lawyers, not less.
It is clear that the primary reason why we have these the retrogressive measures we are witnessing today, is to prevent qualified people from accessing professional legal education. It is just to keep the number of lawyers in Ghana down, when the number should be going up. It is not progressive, and it is unhealthy and unconscionable.
Finally, we call on all LL.B holders caught in this 2019 trap, and all those who have failed before, to begin calling their members of parliament with the simple threat that if these MPs do not take up their course, they, the LL.B holders, would begin political action across the nation to ensure that these MPs do not return to parliament.
Again, LL.B holders should make the strongest representation to political party branches at their local levels to ensure that their grievance is head. Every one of them should gather the courage to pick up pen and paper and write to their local branches and political representatives to complain.
To conclude, we are by this letter serving notice on the General Legal Council, and notice is hereby served, that if it fails to publicly withdraw the advertisement placed on page 30 of the Daily Graphic of June 3, 2019, we would initiate all legal actions allowed by the 1992 Constitution to ensure that they listen to the voice of reason.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” -Martin Luther King Jr., in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, April, 1963.
Kenneth Kwabena Agyei Kuranchie
10th June, 2019, Accra
The President of Ghana, Jubilee House, Accra
The Speaker of Parliament, Office of Parliament, Accra
The Majority Leader, Parliament of Ghana
The Minority Leader, Parliament of Ghana
The Chief Justice of Ghana, Supreme Court Building, Accra
The Attorney General of Ghana, Attorney General’s Department, Accra
Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice
The National House of Chiefs, Kumasi, Ashanti Region
Former President Jerry John Rawlings, Ridge, Accra
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor, Accra
Former President John Dramani Mahama, Accra
The Chairman, New Patriotic Party, Asylum Down, Accra
The Chairman, National Democratic Congress, Adabraka, Accra
The Chairman, the Convention Peoples Party, Asylum Down, Accra
The Chairman, Peoples National Convention Party, Pig Farm, Accra
The Chairman, Progressive Peoples Party, Coconut Grove Hotel, Accra
The Executive Secretary, CDD, Airport Residential Area, Accra
The President, IMANI Ghana
The Ambassador, Embassy of the United States, Cantonments, Accra
The High Commissioner to Ghana, United Kingdom High Commission