Prime News Ghana

Remembering two outstanding but low-profile lawyers

By Nana Susubribi Krobea Asante and Dr Seth Bimpong-Buta

When the history of the evolution of our liberal constitutional order is written, we must recognise not only those who participated in the drafting of the Constitution but also those who systematically and conscientiously prepared the legal infrastructure for the interpretation and application of the Constitution.

Dr Seth Bimpong-Buta indeed belonged to both categories of constitution makers.

His sterling contributions to Ghana’s constitutional and legal order traversed four critical areas.

First, he was an eminent legal educator.

He served as Director of legal education and Head of the Ghana School of Law (Makola) for many years with distinction.

In this capacity, he superintended the transition of law graduates into admission to the Ghana Bar through a rigorous practical training programme.

Second, the legal profession of Ghana has benefited immensely from Dr Bimpong-Buta’s outstanding legal scholarship.

His illuminating writings on the Constitution and interpretation and other subjects have been widely cited by the Bench, Bar and law students.

His legal scholarship earned him an election to the fellowship of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (FGA) and a Noma literary award for distinguished writers.

Third, he made a major contribution to the evolution and application of the 1992 Constitution by participating in the deliberations of the Consultative Assembly, writing an erudite treatise on the Constitution and facilitating the interpretation of the Constitution by publishing reliable and timely reports of Supreme Court decisions on the Constitution.

I had the honour of presiding over launching of Dr Bimpong-Buta’s magnum opus on the 1992 Constitution.

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Dr Bimpong-Buta to Ghana was his editorship of Ghana Law Reports and, after retirement, of the Supreme Court Law Reports.

It can be safely asserted that the interpretation of the 1992 Constitution could not have been meaningfully undertaken by the Supreme Court without his dedicated and single handed production of a steady stream of Supreme Court Law Reports.

This critical service made a unique contribution to the evolution of the jurisprudence of the Courts in the interpretation, clarification and elaboration of the basic concepts of the 1992 Constitution.

Bimpong-Buta therefore eminently deserves to be recognised as one of the principal founding fathers of the Constitution and an architect of the legal infrastructure of the Constitution.

As a person, Bimpong-Buta struck me as a quiet and modest but extremely capable colleague in the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Council of the Ghana Arbitration Centre.

He was kind enough to present me with complimentary copies of his Supreme Court Reports.

We shall sorely miss his deep commitment to the law and our constitutional order and his stoic sense of duty.

My deepest sympathies go to his family, both nuclear and extended.

Tribute to James Nii Tettey Chinery Hesse: the consummate legislative draftsman

The popular conception of legal practice usually depicts high drama in which two adversaries, peculiarly attired in wig and gown, engage in a battle of words and wit before a judge.

Many aspiring lawyers are attracted by the thrill and glamour of this drama.

The uninitiated is therefore unaware of vast areas of non-contentious legal practice in which dedicated lawyers make critical contributions to law and society without the theatrics of litigation in the court room.

One such critical area is legislative drafting, and Nii Tettey Chinery Hesse was one outstanding practitioner in this field.

He devoted his entire professional life to legislative drafting.

He could have become a judge, an Attorney-General or a high profile public officer.

But he studiously eschewed the glare of publicity, preferring to work unobtrusively and conscientiously in his “chambers” to produce critical legislative and constitutional documents not only in Ghana, but in Sierra Leone, Zambia and Uganda.

I was privileged to be Nii Tettey’s colleague in three phases of my professional life.

I recall that when I was a young Assistant State Attorney in 1960-61, the then Attorney-General, Geoffrey Bing QC, proudly introduced Nii Tettey to me as a bright up and coming law officer who had drafted the Interpretation Act of Ghana.

A decade later, as Solicitor General and later Deputy Attorney-General (1969-77), I witnessed the prodigious legislative output of Nii Tettey, then Chief Parliamentary Draftsman.

He supervised a small band of dedicated parliamentary draftsmen and worked for long hours to produce major enactments crucial to the administration of the country.

His industry, meticulous attention to detail and his appreciation of the larger implications of the legislative process were exemplary.

My third professional collaboration with him took place in 1991 when we both served as members of the Committee of Experts charged with the formulation of proposals for the 1992 Constitution.

As Chairman of the Committee, I observed Nii Tettey at his professional best, patiently drawing our attention to lessons from his international experience, carefully studying the constitutional formulations and meticulously translating them into sophisticated legal drafting.

Nii Tettey’s role in the making of the 1992 Constitution continued during the deliberations of the Consultative Assembly in 1991-1992.

When the Consultative Assembly rashly dispensed with the services of the Committee of Experts as technical advisers, it was ultimately compelled to rely on the expertise of the two legislative draftsmen in our Committee, namely, Nii Tettey and Sabina Ofori-Boateng, in drafting the final constitutional document.

The contribution of these two outstanding public servants to the drafting of the 1992 Constitution is yet to be properly recognized by this country.
Nii Tettey’s professional services were not confined to Ghana.

He served with distinction as consultant in legislative drafting in Sierra Leone, Zambia and finally in Uganda.

In Uganda, he played a major role in the drafting of that country’s Constitution.

A grateful Government of Uganda has already held a memorial service in Nii Tettey’s honour.

On the personal side, Nii Tettey literally loved to surround himself with people.

He was extremely affable, kind and compassionate.

A social encounter with Nii Tettey, enlivened by his irrepressible sense of humour, was an unforgettable experience. When my international assignments took me to Uganda in 1995, Nii Tettey graciously hosted dinners on two occasions to facilitate my interaction with key personalities in that country.

Back home in Ghana, his birthdays were always celebrated with grand and convivial reunions of family and friends.

At his last birthday party, he promised another such party if, by God’s grace, he attained 88. Alas, that promise did not materialise. However, we are taught by our common faith that a more joyous and eternal reunion in the company of our Lord and Maker awaits us.

And so, dear Nii Tettey, Fare Thee Well. Rest in peace till we meet again.

The writer is also known as Dr. S.K.B. Asante. He is the Omanhene of Asante Asokore.