June 24, 2024
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Torgbiga Wenya III, 3 others haul Chieftaincy Ministry before court for ‘unconstitutional conduct’

The Dutor of Anlo, Torgbiga Wenya III, and three other traditional heads have hauled the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs to court for alleged unconstitutional conduct.

The applicants are seeking a judicial review, pleading with the court to examine the actions of the respondent concerning Anlo Chieftaincy Affairs and the organisation of the upcoming Hogbetsotso Za.

Background

Following concerns about the lack of accountability of proceeds from the Hogbetsotso Za, authorities in charge of the proceeds were sued by leaders of the Anlo Progressive Youth for Accountability and Development.

The applicants among other things appealed to the Sogakofe High Court to instruct the planning committee to render accounts of proceeds from the festival between 2011 and 2022.

The defendants included Awadada Agbesi Awusu II, Torgbi Zewu II, Cilas Aidam, Dan Abodakpi,
G.A.S Ladzekpo, Torgbi Zewu IV and Agbotadua Kumasah.

A new committee inaugurated by the Dutor of Anlo, Torgbiga Wenya III, took charge and launched the 2023 Hogbetsotso Za in Keta.

That notwithstanding, the embattled committee, which has the backing of the Awomefia, Torgbi Sri III also distributed flyers and subsequently launched the same festival.

The Chieftaincy Ministry gauging the sensitive nature of the issue held separate meetings with the two factions, in the spirit of resolving the impasse.

The Ministry, thereafter, issued a letter addressed to Torgbiga Wenya III on the 27th of September, 2023 indicating the stool name Torgbiga Wenya does not exist in the records of the National House of Chiefs.

The letter signed by the Minister, Stephen Asamoah Boateng, therefore, instructed him [Torgbiga Wenya III] to desist from holding himself as Dutor of Anlo and desist from organising the 2023 edition of the Hogbetsotso Za.

“In view of the above information, you are to desist from holding yourself as Dutor of Anlo and not to organize any Hogbetsotso Za Festival as your actions have the potential to breach the peace of the Anlo Traditional Area.

“According to section 63(a) of the Chieftaincy Act of 2008, Act 759 it is an offence for a person to “act or perform the functions of a Chief when that person is not qualified to act.

“I am by copy of this letter informing the National Security Minister of my decision and to ask him to put necessary measures in place to prevent you from organizing any festival”, the letter concluded.

Response from Torgbiga Wenya III

Torgbiga Wenya III through his lawyers responded to the Chieftaincy Minister’s letter on 29th of September, 2023.

The lawyers indicated that the letter was “actuated by bias, prejudice and a capricious use of your executive powers as a minister” and described as unfortunate and a breach of Anlo customary laws for the Minister to address Torgbiga Wenya III by his private name.

“Further, we hereby inform you that you do not have those powers or authority to decree that a particular
traditional ruler should desist from using his traditional title. The title Dutor which means the “founder and Overlord” attached to the Wenya dynasty is more than 400 years old and does not need any registration in the National House of Chiefs or Regional House of Chiefs to give it a recognition”, it added.

The letter further indicated that “from the foregoing, we have our client’s instructions to demand from you a withdrawal of your letter in reference within 72 hours upon receipt of this response failing which, the jurisdiction of a court of competent jurisdiction will be invoked to curb your administrative excesses”.

Judicial review

Upon expiration of the 72 hours ultimatum, Torgbiga Wenya III together with the three others filed a writ for a judicial review of the Chieftaincy Minister’s action.

They requested an order to restrain the Minister for Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs and the Minister for National Security from interfering in Anlo chieftaincy affairs and the upcoming Hogbetsotso Za.

They are also demanding GH₵1,000,000.00 damages from the chieftaincy minister for “desecration and breach of Anlo custom and tradition” which forbids installed leaders to be addressed by their private names.

The writ sighted by Joy News argues that the 1st Respondent [Chieftaincy Minister] does not have jurisdiction to order the 4th Applicant [Torgbiga Wenya III] to desist from holding himself as Dutor of Anlo and organizing the 2023 Hogbetsotso Za.

It also argued that the content of the Chieftaincy Minister’s letter could cause a possible threat to the peace and order being enjoyed in the Anlo Kingdom.

“That the decision of the 1st Respondent (Minister for Chieftaincy) and his call on the Minister for National Security (2nd Respondent) to prevent the 4th applicant from organizing the 2023 Hogbetsotso Za evinces a clear abuse of his administrative power and disregard for the jurisdiction of both the Judicial
Committee of the Volta Regional House of Chiefs and the High Court in Sogakope”, the writ stated.

The plaintiffs, therefore, prayed the court to quash the letter, “littered with bias and lacking jurisdiction”, adding that the Chieftaincy Minister’s action was in breach of Article 23 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana.

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