The usually energetic and ready-for-action Special Prosecutor of Ghana, Mr. Kissi Agyebeng on Wednesday, November 29 looked downcast and capped an unusual press conference with the singing of a dirge after wailing about the dismissive attitude of the judiciary towards anti-corruption cases and actions taken by his office. Two days before his press conference, a High Court nullified an indicting report by the Office of the Special Prosecutor implicating two former Commissioners of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority for exceeding their authority and allegedly treating a frozen foods company with more favourable tax concessions than the law permitted. The same court slapped a ten thousand cedi cost on his office for daring to harm the reputations of the accused former tax men and issued a restraining order that effectively granted the accused persons an unusual immunity from future investigation and prosecution. And this judicial impediment to his work and to the fight against corruption followed right on the heels of the refusal of Ghanaian courts to order a freeze on unexplained cash and wealth of former government officials despite mounting evidences of corruption-related dealings involving the accused persons.

I honestly don’t know what Kissi Agyebeng expected to happen. When he accepted the government’s job offer as Special Prosecutor, did he think corruption would roll over without so much as a “How do you do?” and allow him to end a practice that was the backbone of all political and public sector activity in Ghana? Perhaps the young man, having an outsized view of himself after the President appointed him, had believed he could do what Mr. Martin Amidu, his predecessor could not. Tucking his tail between his legs, Mr. Amidu had ran huffing and puffing from a government he had described as the Mother-Serpent of corruption. Perhaps the young Agyebeng has become a victim of the adage, “small boys are young”.

When you fight corruption, it fights back!

Nuhu Ribadu, the man who said the above profound words, was the head of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, or EFCC, for four years (2003 to 2007), during which he won more than 275 convictions and recovered an astonishing $5 billion in stolen Nigerian assets. He survived several assassination attempts, lost two of his staff to assassinations and did not even have an office to work with when his commission was created. In spite of a lack of funding for his office, Ribadu worked so hard that Nigerian governors and millionaires worried when he mentioned their names publicly. A minister was fired from office, and three of Nigeria’s 36 governors were impeached during his tenure because of the work he did. The Chief of Police, who was Ribadu’s boss at the time, was tried, convicted and sentenced to time in prison as a result of Ribadu’s fearless anticorruption work.

But Ribadu had no illusions about the nature of corruption. He knew enough to know that corruption would fight back. Stolen loot and laundered money finance crime, terrorism and political parties in Africa. And corruption is the oil that greases the wheels of political patronage and economic advantage in Ghana. No arm of a corrupt government would take the actions of a young upstart Special Prosecutor lying down.

No, sir! So what is the Special Prosecutor whingeing about?

I doubted that the creation of an Office of Special Prosecutor was going to make any difference in this country’s fight against corruption. The most powerful anticorruption officer created by the 1992 Ghana Constitution is the Auditor-General, but the last one who asserted his constitutionally-enabled powers was illegally removed by the Mother-Serpent (his nationality was also heavily questioned) and the locks to his office changed. His name is widely known but which of you readers knows offhand the name of the current Auditor-General?

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

As with many anticorruption offices created by the laws of Ghana, the institutions work only as far as the beneficiaries of corruption let it. CHRAJ, the Police CID, the Auditor-General, the OSP, the CAGD, the Office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, EOCO, NIB, National Security and all the other abbreviations, all of them function to the extent, and the extent only, that the mighty beneficiaries let it. It gets to that point where they declare, “hitherto shall thou come and no further”, and you know they are about to call in overdue debt.

I think the OSP is about to discover just how hard corruption can fight back.

I hope he survives it.

But whingeing isn’t going to cut it.

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