Supreme Court Justice involved as Judicial Council takes controversial ‘bull gift’ from Tongraan who has multiple court cases

The Judicial Council delegation with Tongraan (left) and Ghana's new Chief Justice, Her Ladyship Justice Gertrude Araba Esaaba. Torkornoo.

Ghana’s Code of Conduct for Judges and Magistrates frowns strongly on members of the bench accepting gifts from parties who have, or are likely to have, a case before them.

Rule 5 of the code states that “Neither judges nor members of their families residing in their households shall accept a substantial GIFT, bequest, favour, or loan from anyone.”

Section 5 (c) of Rule 5 says: “Judges or members of their families residing in their households may accept any other gifts, bequests, favour, or loan only if the donor is not a party or other person whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge.”

The Paramount Chief of Talensi, Tongraan Kugbilsong Nanlebegtang, currently is involved in multiple court cases he filed against some natives and nonnatives of Talensi.  

The paramount chief, Tongraan Kugbilsong Nanlebegtang.

One of his self-initiated cases titled “Tongraan Kugbilsong Nanlebegtang versus Samuel Sapak, Charles Boazor, Augustine Mmi-Oni Guure, Zumah Bismark, Albert Naa” is currently at an appellate court.

The civil case progressed from a Circuit Court in Bolgatanga, the Upper East Region’s capital, in 2021 to the Court of Appeal in Tamale, the Northern Region’s capital. The outcome is yet to be determined. And it may progress to the Supreme Court should any of the parties involved so decide.

One of the ongoing cases involving the paramount chief.

He has another case at a High Court in Bolgatanga, titled “Tongraan Kugbilsong Nanlebegtang, Richard Sunday Yinbil versus Robert Tampuri Boazor, Zumah Bismark”.

This case is pending at a District Court in Bolgatanga.

And there is one more lawsuit involving the same paramount chief at a High Court in Bolgatanga named “Tongraan Kugbilsong Nanlebegtang versus Abraham Azumah Lambon, Rural Waves Network and Simon Agana”. All the cases are pending at the various law courts inside and outside the Upper East Region.

The paramount chief also filed this suit against a journalist, a social worker and a media house.

Besides, some people have expressed opinions that he also has interests in the multiple cases involving Talensi-based Earl International Group Ghana Gold Limited, a wealthy Chinese state-backed mining firm formerly known as Shaanxi Mining Company Limited.

But the plaintiff paramount chief offered a bull to a 5-member delegation from the Judicial Council as a gift during a visit by the delegation to his palace on Monday, 26 June 2023. He told them the bull was ready and that they could take it away whenever they wished. He also assured the delegation that the bull was not “the anthrax type”.

Watch video of Tongraan as he talks about his bull gift before the Judicial Council delegation at his palace in Talensi.

The Judicial Council’s delegation, led by a Supreme Court judge, Justice Gabriel Pwamang, did not object to the gift. They welcomed it with gratitude.

A Supreme Court judge, Justice Gabriel Pwamang, led the Judicial Council delegation to the palace.

The other members of the delegation were: Justice Aboagye Tandoh, a High Court judge; Yaw Acheampong Boafo, National President of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA); Prof. Kwasi Opoku Amankwa, former Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES) and Rosemary Gaisie, Deputy Director of Communications, Judicial Service of Ghana.   

Public fears grow over bull gift

Many, particularly natives who have court cases and say they are not in the good books of the paramount chief for openly criticising his style of leadership, are not comfortable with the Judicial Council’s visit to him at his palace and with the bull the delegation (particularly the judges involved) received from him as a gift.  

Those natives and those who are in court against the paramount chief have expressed their personal views that the ‘forbidden gift’ the paramount chief presented to the Judicial Council will have effects on their cases.

The Judicial Council delegation at the Tongraan’s palace on Monday, 26 June 2023.

“With this latest revelation, to be frank, I also have that fear because it can influence judgment. We have this case with him even at the Bolga District Court. There is also a case [where] he has even sent me and [four] others [to] court where we have even gone on appeal in Tamale. This case can even travel to [the] Supreme Court.

“And when we have judges receiving such a gift from him, it can influence judgment. And I think that it would not be fair for us who are having cases with this same Tongraan. I think it is not the best of the judges. The judges shouldn’t have done that since it is in their ethics that they shouldn’t be receiving gifts from people who may be having cases with them,” said Bismark Zumah.

Listen to the voice of Bismark Zumah, a defendant in one of the paramount chief’s court cases.
Some eyewitnesses say the bull presented to the Judicial Council delegation by the litigant paramount chief was this size.

He added: “And this case, potentially, we can get to Supreme Court looking at the trend of the issue, because we know we have not committed any crime for which he has sent us to court. And that is why we have gone to appeal. And as it travels, if it succeeds for us, fine. If it doesn’t, it will go to Supreme Court. And when it gets there and we have this same man giving gift to people even to that high-rank people, then we are afraid that, Ghana, justice is being bought but not being served well.”


Media Without Borders did not cover the Judicial Council’s visit to the paramount chief. But after receiving information and confirmation concerning the gift offer through eyewitnesses, Media Without Borders got its own independent confirmation in an interview with an authority on the Talensi Traditional Council.

The Chief of Tindongo, Naab Tampelgsong Kun Gaadzom, is no less an authority on that traditional council. The last public statement the traditional council issued in March 2023 was written and signed by him on behalf of the paramount chief.

He revealed more as Media Without Borders engaged him in a telephone interview on the issue on Thursday, 29 June 2023.

“Normally, you arrange for a vehicle to come and take it (the bull) away. But since he (Justice Pwamang) is a native, from Navrongo. I mean the one who led the delegation is from Navrongo. He could have sent it to the house so that they would kill it and share the meat. That is all.

“They (the Judicial Council) have taken it (the bull). This Supreme Court judge (Justice Pwamang) who came said there was nothing wrong with Tongraan asking the judge (Justice Alexander Graham) to come to his house so that he would brief him about some land disputes in his traditional area,” said the Tindongo chief.

The paramount chief, Tongraan Kugbilsong Nanlebegtang, during the meeting with the Judicial Council delegation.

When Media Without Borders contacted Justice Pwamang (the Supreme Court judge who led the delegation) on Friday, 30 June 2023, for his comments, he said “the bull was offered publicly to the delegation and not to me personally”.

The Code of Conduct for Judges and Magistrates, however, does not exclude gifts given or received in public from the forbidden favours coming from such donors.

Reason for visit

The council visited the paramount chief in relation to the conviction of two of his men whom he sent to a High Court judge, Justice Alexander Graham, in Bolgatanga on Friday, 10 March 2023.

The Judicial Council delegation and its entourage with the paramount chief.

“The unfortunate incident involving the emissaries of the Tongraan was one of those procedures which may not be easily appreciated by most people. But the judge was exercising a jurisdiction the way he deemed appropriate under the circumstances that were presented to him,” the Judicial Council said Monday in a statement read by Justice Pwamang.

He added: “We wish to [state] that this gesture by the Judicial Council is not intended to affect the decision of the judge that led to the reaction of the Paramount Chief.”

Aim of visit

The council said it was in Talensi to hold deliberations with the paramount chief and his elders on how the judiciary and traditional authorities were expected to work together, particularly in the area of customary arbitration and mediation, in the “overwhelming interest” of the public.

“The aspect of the matter that was of great concern to the then Chief Justice, His Lordship Justice Anin Yeboah, the current Chief Justice and then the general membership of the Judicial Council was the effects the incident appeared to have had on the existing cordial relationship between the Tongraan and his elders and the Judiciary in Bolgatanga.

Her Lordship Justice Gertrude Araba Esaaba Torkornoo is Ghana’s 15th Chief Justice. Her close friend, Erika Mamley Osae, described her recently as a person of high integrity.

“When we arrived here this morning, we started by holding indoor deliberations with the paramount chief and his elders. And I can assure you that the deliberations were fruitful and chief and his elders now have a better appreciation of the incident and have indicated their willingness to restore the longstanding cooperation between the Judiciary and the traditional [heads],” stated Justice Pwamang.

Continuing, he said: “Within the Judicial Council, this assurance from the traditional leaders convinces us that the atmosphere under which our judges, staff shall continue to work in the Bolgatanga and the surrounding communities shall be devoid of suspicion and mistrust.”

Why Justice Graham convicted the paramount chief’s agents

Before he convicted the two agents of the paramount chief on their own plea on 10 March 2023, Justice Graham first of all asked them to tell a crowd in his courtroom what they had told him privately in his chambers.

They did not speak. Then, the judge narrated their mission to the court. He said the two men, Naab Nyarkora Mantii and Richard Sunday Yinbil, came to him saying the paramount chief had requested to see him the following day (Saturday, 11 March 2023) at his palace.

The purpose of the invitation, they told the judge, was for the chief to have a private discussion with him on some mining-related cases filed at his court by some Talensi natives.

The forecourt of the law courts in Bolgatanga, Upper East Region.

Deeming it as an attempt to influence his decisions on those cases, the judge held the men in contempt and ordered them to sign a bond of good behaviour for six months.

But for some lawyers who were in court on different matters at the time and intervened, he would have handed them a custodial sentence. He also asked the two men to produce the paramount chief. But he relaxed the order following intense intercessory prayers from the lawyers, numbering 12.

Just five days after convicting and sentencing the men, the judge came under a violent attack at his official residence in Bolgatanga. The attack resulted in his premature departure from the region around dawn on Thursday, 16 March 2023, as former Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah reportedly asked him to proceed immediately to Accra, Ghana’s national capital, for his own safety. His successor, Justice Frederick Kwabena Twumasi, also fled in no time after another reported attack. The perpetrators are yet to be identified.

Justice Alexander Graham was among some 10 judges who were promoted by President Akufo-Addo at the Jubilee House in 2022.

Meanwhile, Justice Alexander Graham has continued to receive overwhelming accolades from countless members of the public including public figures and civil society organisations to this day for “exposing” the Tongraan and his agents.

Some have strongly suggested that some streets in the region be named after him not just for administering justice without fear or favour but also for the reason that the highly principled judge was almost martyred in the line of duty.

Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/



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