The Chief Justice, Justice Sophia A. B Akuffo, has inaugurated a solar power plant at the Winneba High Court, as the first of the courts selected for a pilot project, to connect the courts of Ghana to continuous supply of energy.
The project in collaboration with the Australian High Commission marked the beginning of a programme to provide the courts with renewable sustainable energy, harnessing the power of the sun to assure energy independence in the quest to assure quality justice delivery.
Justice Akuffo said it was imperative to achieve energy efficiency and independence to assure the seamless operation of the courts in the automation strategy, and the inauguration marked a milestone in the ongoing and sustained reform agenda.
She said even as the country worked hard at improving the legal and constitutional framework within which it operated, addressing the enforcement of the highest standards of integrity, it was important to deal with the infrastructure and operation of the courts.
She said closely following the installation of solar energy on the premises of each court would be the establishment of Direct Transcription Services to facilitate efficiency in court proceedings through full and reliable recording and storage of all proceedings.
“We have already planned for automation at this Court so as to assure our Court users, as well as anyone who relies on our procedural outcomes, speedy resolution of case.
“It is my personal vision that we harness the tools of technology to make justice more accessible to our citizens, especially women, the physically challenged and all other vulnerable groups. By deploying technology, we can oil the wheels of justice and deliver it more speedily and efficiently.”
She noted that delays in, and impediments to the tools of justice, affected the poor and vulnerable disproportionately, while a long dragged-out case might be a great inconvenience to a person with ‘deep pockets’ and to the poor widow, it is more often than not a matter of life and death.
“It goes without saying that our efforts to speed up the delivery of justice will be hindered in the absence of energy independence. Thus, our programme to provide solar power at our courts is among the most significant interventions in the infrastructure of our justice delivery system.”
Justice Akuffo said apart from being relatively cheaper, solar power provided energy reliability, energy security, energy independence and environmental preservation, saying sunlight was free and cannot be monopolized by any person or groups of persons.
She said whilst harnessing it had investment costs, the source was unending and limitless, making the utilization of solar energy one of the most prudent strategies for sustainable quality service delivery in all areas of national life.
She said from this inauguration they would proceed to scale up their nationwide solar programme for all court buildings over the next five years, adding that before the end of this year, a significant number of courts would be ‘solarised’ and also automated.
She noted that the success of this project would bring massive benefits to the courts, the Judicial Service, businesses and individuals and the nation as a whole. “The use of solar power reflects the need for us as a nation to promote sustainable, environmentally friendly ways to address the power needs”.
The Chief Justice expressed the belief that this example would inspire other national institutions to also seek out similarly sustainable solutions in addressing power generation.
She expressed appreciation to the Government and People of Australia for their partnership and assistance in this essential project, and affirmed Ghana’s commitment to meeting its obligations under the partnership to ensure the sustainability of a programme which was a critical success factor for the Judicial Service of Ghana.
She encouraged the Chiefs and people of Winneba to collectively own and support the project. She directed the staff of the Winneba High Court to treasure what they have been given and exercise proper stewardship of the solar installation, as well as all equipment and, indeed the entire court premises.
The importance of timely maintenance cannot be overemphasized, Justice Akuffo said, and added that much of the overall success of the project would depend on how well the equipment was managed.
Justice Akuffo reiterated the steadfast commitment of the Judicial Service to the cause of national development as evidenced by projects of this nature.
Mr Andrew Barnes, Australian High Commission to Ghana said the idea to solarize Ghana’s courts was a means of improving the effectiveness of Ghana’s judiciary, and that they were pleased to be Ghana’s partner of choice.
He said the project was funded through the Australian Direct Aid programme.
“This project matters for a number of reasons, as confidence in the judicial service and judicial system, the government’s ability to resolve legal issues fairly and effectively is critical,” he said.
Mr Barnes said by ensuring a reliable power supply, the solarisation of the Winneba Courts would help the magistrate and judicial staff, to report for work without interruption. It would increase the capacity of Ghana’s judiciary to implement the rule of law to the benefit of the local community.
“The powering of this court with solar energy will also generate financial savings for the judicial service to be directed to other particular areas.
“This is a demonstration of Ghana and the Australian Commission to environmentally conscious development. As Ghana moves towards the digitization of its judicial records, the provision of a reliable power supply would become even more important,” he added.
He hoped that the project would be the start of the opportunities to extend this project to other courts.
The solarisation of the courts in Ghana is a fulfilment of the a component of the Chief Justice’s vision to use solar energy to power courts in the rural and peri-urban areas to achieve seamless linkage of all courts across the country.
The judicial service in collaboration with the Australian High Commission agreed in February 2018, to conduct a pilot project selecting three courts for solarisation. The Winneba High Court, Weija Circuit and District Court, and Sege District Court.
The nationwide solarisation programme would proceed to 10 other selected courts, Assin Fosu District Court, Mampong Ashanti District Court, Bawku Circuit and District Court, Sandema District Court, Adenta District Court, Sowutuom District Court, Dzodze District Court, Kpando District Court, Amasaman District Court and Assin Nyankumasi District Court.