Until recently, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Efutu, Alexander Afenyo Markins, was one of my favorite MPs. In an article I wrote a few months ago, I singled him out from the opposition MPs for praise. The other opposition MP I also celebrated in that article was Dominic Nitiwul, the Deputy Minority Leader of Parliament and MP for Bimbilla.
Investigative journalism in this country does not easily get government’s backing if the thieves exposed are politicians or have affiliations with the government. Journalists would therefore need some amount of pressure from civil society groups and other weighty voices to force government to pay attention to the rot when exposed. That is why Alexander Afenyo Markins and Dominic Nitiwul became people I liked. They kept the government on its toes.
Afenyo Markins, in particular, has gone to court to either correct a constitutional wrong or stop an opaque transaction affecting the state. I admired him. I saw him as a citizen vigilante. I considered him the NPP’s version of Martin Amidu. He is the NPP’s apostle of integrity. But that perception is fast changing. You know the reason, don’t you?
A leaked tape recently released to the media had a voice that sounds very much like Alexander Afenyo Markins’. The voice on that tape is heard negotiating with the other person, who is suspected to have recorded him. The voice allegedly attributed to Afenyo Markins is demanding a bribe of GHc1million in order to perform “legal gymnastics” at the Supreme Court and have a case he was handling thrown out. The argument is that once that was done, no aggrieved party can take up the matter in court again because the SUPREME COURT has ruled. “Supreme Court has ruled. Period! Nobody can do anything about it.” the voice said.
That is criminal, isn’t it? I think it is. Striped pin criminality!
It is believed that the case in question is the ADB’s Initial Public Offer (IPO), which the minority in parliament has kicked against. An NPP MP for New Juabeng South, Dr. Mark Assibey Yeboah, took the case to court, and Afenyo Markins is his lawyer. In that audio, the voice allegedly attributed to Afenyo Markins admits accepting an earlier bribe of GHc250, 000 and argues that he did part of the work, a temporary withdrawal of the case which allowed the bank to begin the initial process of the IPO.
The information I have is that the ADB case was finally withdrawn from the Supreme Court. The reason? I don’t know.
Three persons have petitioned the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service to investigate Afenyo Markins. The petitioners, Dzifa Gunu, Stephen Kwabena Attuh and Fred Adomako Williams, want the police to institute investigations into allegations of “bribery and extortion” against the Efutu MP based on the leaked tape. Some critics of the petitioners have taken only the issue of the extortion and rubbished the petition. They say no official of the ADB has gone to report that Afenyo Markins has extorted money from the bank.
Some have also contended that the action of the petitioners amounts to political witch-hunting. According to the MP for Manhyia South, Mathew Opoku Prempeh, Afenyo Markins is being targeted because he has been tough on the government and trying to correct wrong. In short he believes the petitioners are NDC members and their target is selected because of political reasons.
The whole issue “smells, walks and talks political interference,” he stressed.
According to the MP, Afenyo-Markin has been a “thorn in the flesh” of many especially those in government. Some forces, he claimed, have decided to orchestrate the allegation to “smear him to lose his seat.”
When I listened to the argument Matthew Opoku Prempeh raised on Joy FM, I felt disappointed that he is a lawmaker. His argument is not different from one that would be advanced by a serial caller to a radio discussion.
In the first place, there is nothing wrong with the fact that the petitioners are NDC members. NDC members are not Iranians. Or were their names found in the Togolese Voters register? They are Ghanaians who have the same rights Afenyo Markins has for which reasons he had taken or supported actions against the state or state institutions. When Afenyo Markins was “firing” government on the GYEEDA and SADA scandals, did anyone say he was an NPP member and that his arguments lacked merit? When he represented a client to win a case against the Electoral Commission in the District Assembly Elections case, was he doing that as a citizen who wanted the right thing done in the country or not? Has Matthew Opoku Prempeh ever said that any of the actions and pronouncements of Afenyo Markins in the past lacked merit because the ruling NDC were sufferers of his vigilantism?
The allegation of bribery against Afenyo Markins and the murky dealings in the ADB IPO must not be treated lightly. If the allegations are found to be true, it would have serious implications for Afenyo Markins. To accept bribe and intentionally lose an important case in court is a serious offence. As a lawyer, such conduct is unprofessional and unethical and makes him a candidate for disciplinary proceedings before the General Legal Council and possible disbarment if found guilty.
Article 94 (d) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana also states that a person shall not be qualified to be a member of parliament if he or she “has been found by the report of a commission or a committee of inquiry to be incompetent to hold public office or is a person in respect of whom a commission or committee of inquiry has found that while being a public officer he acquired assets unlawfully or defrauded the State or mis-used or abused his office, or willfully acted in a manner prejudicial to the interest of the State, and the findings have not been set aside on appeal or judicial review.”
Let’s give the CID and other state investigative bodies the support and inputs, if anybody has any, to get to the bottom of this. If, on the other hand, that voice is not that of Afenyo Markins’ and he is cleared, it will be good for his reputation. At this point, it will be dangerous to dismiss this case on account of accusations of political witch-hunting. For me, political witch-hunting is not a bad idea, if indeed, the culprit is a witch.
Afenyo Markins has denied the allegations. I have also learnt that the Managing Director of ADB, Stephen Kpodzi, has told the CID that the bank did not pay any money to Alexander Afenyo Markins. This alone is not the basis to stop the investigations if only the police are serious about getting to the bottom of this. When I was investigating GYEEDA, a case of bribery was leveled against an official of GYEEDA, one Betty Mensah. After allegedly demanding a bribe of GHc52,000 to facilitate the implementation of the Youth in Film making, sources within GYEEDA said she later went back to demand more money from the service provider. It resulted in a scuffle and the case went to the Airport Police because the service provider allegedly threatened to kill her.
When EOCO started investigation into GYEEDA, the man reportedly told the investigators that he gave the money to her but it was a gift. And the case closed. The payer and the giver of bribes are both guilty so no one would readily admit they gave or took the bribe. The police must go beyond the words of the parties involved.
There have been many issues with ADB in recent times that need thorough probing. The desperation to get the bank listed on the stock exchange and some transactions in recent times raises questions. In the heat of the brouhaha, I discovered that GHc100,000 was given to a private company as a fee for organizing a press conference. I was surprised because I attended that press conference at the ADB’s head office. The press conference was facilitated by the ADB’s public relations unit and not even water was offered to journalists. So the question was: where did the GHc100,000 go?
When I followed up, I was told that the money was paid to journalists. Some journalists, I was told, received up to GHc2,000. Yes, GHc2,000 for covering a press conference at the ADB head office. You can classify this amount under the holy name of “soli” or “transportation” but I call it bribe! It was bribe paid to some shameless journalists to tell the story in a favourable way. That is the only possible reason a bank that was collapsing would throw money away in that manner.
The Bank of Ghana was given the task to investigate the numerous allegations of financial and managerial malfeasances leveled against management of ADB by workers.
Where is that report, Bank of Ghana?
Since this tape surfaced, Alexander Afenyo Markins has refused to answer my calls or reply my text messages. His closest journalist friends have also told me that he has stopped answering their calls as well. It is alleged that one Kwasi Bonzoh, the NPP parliamentary candidate for Ellembele Constituency, recorded him. That name is mentioned in the tape at least three times. I have tried on several occasions to reach Bonzoh, someone I know personally, to no avail.
Afenyo Markins has decided to hide from the media. But for how long will he remain hidden? This is not one of the cases we should allow to die a natural death. It is for his good that this case gets to its logical conclusion. It may turn out that he is innocent of what he is being accused of doing. He should come out and answer questions in the same way he demanded answers from government officials implicated in acts of corruption. Hiding from the media may create the impression that he has something to hide.
The CID, the Bank of Ghana, and the Financial Intelligence Centre should team up and get to the bottom of this. Even if it means going to America or Europe to establish whose voice is on the tape.
The NPP should also be interested in this case. There are allegations of financial malfeasance among the party’s top hierarchy, which is being investigated by the CID. With constant reference to Woyome, NPP have never missed an opportunity to accuse the NDC of corruption. If your forerunner in the fight against corruption is not cleared, how do we trust you to fight the canker if you win?
If the NPP’s Martin Amidus are worse than the NDC’s Woyomes, then where would we turn?
The Minority Leader of Parliament, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, was recently re-elected the Chairman of the Africa Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption. Last week Thursday, he was elected Vice-Chairman of the Governing Board and Executive Committee of the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC). This was at the 6th Global Conference of GOPAC which happened in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu , who, presided over the conference, called for the UN to establish an international court to prosecute the perpetrators of grand corruption.
My advice to him is that charity begins at home.
The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a senior broadcast journalist with Joy 99.7FM in Accra, Ghana. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org