An Accra High Court has given Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu, former Chief Director at the Ministry for Water Resources, Works and Housing, 48 hours to show up before it for his pleas to be taken in connection with charges relating to causing financial loss to the state in the $200 million Saglemi Housing project scandal.
The accused has been absent from the trial a number of times due to ill health and his counsel, Godwin Edudzi Tameklo, has consistently presented the prosecution and the court with a medical report indicating that he would not be able to attend court unaided.
Alhaji Yakubu is standing trial together with former Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Alhaji Collins Dauda, who doubles as NDC MP for Asutifi, over 70 charges of causing financial loss to the state among others.
The prosecution has amended the charges against the accused persons and the case has been placed before a new court differently constituted and presided over by Justice Ernest Owusu-Dapaa, a Court of Appeal judge sitting as an additional High Court judge.
The court on May 31, 2023, took the pleas of Alhaji Collins Dauda, Agyeman-Mensah, a former Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing; businessman Andrew Clocanas, Executive Chairman of Construtora OAS Ghana Limited as well as Nouvi Tetteh Angelo, the Chief Executive Officer and owner of Ridge Management Solutions Ghana Limited, who all pleaded not guilty.
The court could however, not take the pleas of Alhaji Yakubu who was absent on that day, and subsequently adjourned the case to yesterday to hear arguments from the prosecution and defence counsel with respect to Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution and decide on how to proceed with the accused person.
Mr. Tameklo, counsel for Alhaji Yakubu, yesterday told the court that it was not a willful decision by the accused person to be absent in court and prayed the court that based on the medical report, the accused should be given time to recover from his illness.
Alternatively, he prayed the court to make other facilities available to the accused either by way of video conference at the Tamale or Yendi Office of the Attorney General so that he can duly participate in the proceedings of the court.
He further suggested that in view of the fact that the fair trial rules requires that the trial be conducted in the presence of the accused person, video conferencing facility would achieve the same end of the constitutional provision which requires that the trial be done in his presence.
Hilda Craig, a Principal State Attorney said that all the medical reports that were submitted to the court indicate that the accused could not walk without any support and therefore suggested that Alhaji Yakubu could be supported to come to court at least for his plea to be taken given the fact that he is facing a bulk of the charges.
She said the accused could be duly represented by his counsel at subsequent sittings if he would not be able to appear in person.
She also told the court that neither the Tamale office of the Attorney General nor the Tamale High Court has the facility to allow the plea of the accused to be taken via a live video feed.
Justice Owusu-Dapaa, in his ruling, said it is only death that prevents an accused from standing trial or when there is a proper medical report pointing to the fact that the accused is not mentally sound.
He said conducting a separate trial for Alhaji Yakubu will not favour the other accused persons and, therefore, ordered him to appear before the court on June 7, 2023, for his plea to be taken while a decision is taken on his subsequent appearances.
Meanwhile, the court has given the prosecution up to June 9, 2023, to file the witness statements for their remaining two witnesses.
Source: Gibril Abdul Razak/Daily Guide
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