Justices of Ghana’s Supreme Court have commended Chief Justice Georgina Wood for her sterling leadership spanning a decade, and described her achievements as “unprecedented”.
The Justices, who visited the CJ, who retired today on her 70th birthday, at her residence, presented her with a set of jewellery and a birthday card, for which she expressed her gratitude and delight.
Mr Justice William Atuguba, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, including the nominated Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, said they were dealing with the departure of Ghana’s first female CJ from the Bench, as a matter of both joy and sorrow.
He said they were, however, consoled that the larger Ghanaian society would continue to benefit from her ingenuity and selflessness in her next role as a Member of the Council of State.
“We are already proud of you and your foreseeable achievements there,” he declared.
“When you came into office, I had been there several years but nothing was happening; but with your innovation and dedication to succeed, you transformed the justice system as a whole, developed our infrastructure, improved our conditions of service among other things,” he said. “Indeed, I cannot recount all your achievements; indeed, they are unprecedented.”
On the infrastructural development, Mr Atuguba cited the state of the art 42-courtroom Law Court Complex sited along the 28 February Road, which he said replaced the Cocoa Affairs Courts, whose nature he described as “a real contempt of justice.”
“This was a thing that was formerly used to house cocoa beans and was converted into offices for circuit court judges and high justices to serve in,” he recalled. “It was so appalling that sometimes a ladder would even collapse in the heat of affairs.”
Mr Justice Atuguba also mentioned the five-storey accommodation complex at Ridge for superior court judges, the construction of an official residence for the Chief Justice and the refurbishment of the Supreme Court were very much appreciated.
He said the retired CJ’s resolve to get justices of the lower court and administrators official vehicles, the overseas training programme for Justices to pursue their Master’s programme, the Justice For all Programme as well as the initiative to establish a Law School Village were astounding.
“All these and more are laudable legacies; but above all we cherish your friendliness and humility in your relationship with us; through it all, you never showed in any way that there was a gap between us; we shared all the jokes together,” Mr Justice Atuguba said to applause from his colleagues.
Later in an interview, Justice Bernard Bentil, who worked with Mrs Justice Wood as the Head of her secretariat for nearly a decade, described his former boss as an “epitome of integrity” saying, she succeeded because she combined her Christian values with her judicial principles.
He told the GNA that Mrs Justice Wood was driven by the passion to make justice easily and speedily accessible to the poor; hence the many reforms, which expanded and improved court infrastructure; the creation of specialised courts; establishment of the Complaints Unit and many Ethics Committee and the electronic distribution of cases.
“She is focused and keeps her eye on the ball to ensure that she accomplishes the task to the best of her ability,” he said of her. “She doesn’t let the condemnation of her detractors get to her; she’ll sorely be missed.”
Other members of the Secretariat said their former boss worked round the clock, hardly took a vacation, worked from home, even on holidays.
Mrs Efua Ghartey, the Greater Accra President of the Ghana Bar Association, said Mrs Justice Wood proved her worth in both her qualification and her competence as a role model.
“We considered her a good player, ready to state her position, open-minded to suggestions and determined to execute the initiatives brought on board,” she said.
She said her tactfulness and excellent human relations resulted in a healthy dialogue that averted situations that otherwise would have created mistrust between the Bar and the Bench.
“She was transparent in the affairs of the Justice system; indeed, her leadership skills are excellent,” she concluded.
“I remember when she was first nominated as the Chief Justice, the then Attorney-General, Mr Joe Ghartey said, ‘Mr President, this is one appointment you will never regret, and he has been proven right”
Mrs Justice Wood who was appointed in May 2007, by former President John Agyekum Kufuor, developed a five-year strategic plan (January 2014 to December 2018) to guide the Judiciary’s vision. The plan is dubbed “Justice without Barriers”.
She championed the review of Procedural Codes and Court rules. These rules have led to transparency and efficiency on the part of judges, whose role have been diversified with the establishment of specialised courts such as: the Financial Crime, Commercial, Human Rights and Electoral Courts and Labour Courts.
The just-retired CJ in her bid to help decongest the prisons introduced: the “Justice For All Programme”, which has given the platform for individuals on remand whose cases had not been heard, to have them investigated for the appropriate remedies to be applied.
She vigorous championed and promoted Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in a bid to encourage out of court of settlements, especially for various commercial cases, towards decongesting the courts.
From a career as a Public Prosecutor in the Ghana Police Service, she joined the Judicial Service as a District Magistrate Court, in 1974.
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