ACCRA, GHANA - Less than three weeks ahead of Ghana's election, anti-corruption Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu has resigned, alleging political interference with his work. Political analysts say Amidu's resignation may affect the December polls.
Ghana has had a long-running battle with corruption, with scandals under multiple governments and corruption seen as entrenched throughout society. In the 2019 Transparency International Corruption Perception index, Ghana ranked 41 out of 100, with 100 being the cleanest.
As part of a 2016 campaign promise, the Office of the Special Prosecutor was set up in 2018 by the current New Patriotic Party (NPP) government. In a move that was widely praised, it gave the position to Amidu, a member of the opposing political party but known in Ghana as a strong anti-corruption campaigner.
Amidu resigned this week after submitting a report about the government's plans to sell the rights to most of the country's precious metals royalties to Agyapa Royalties Limited, a special-purpose vehicle company registered in the British Crown dependency of Jersey.
Forty-nine percent of Agyapa Royalties shares are to be sold on the London Stock Exchange. The idea of the deal is that Ghana will get cash now, against income from royalties in the future.
But many Ghanaians are critical of the deal and how it was set up, with accusations of nepotism, conflicts of interest and poor transparency. Amidu's report raised the possibility of "bid rigging" and "illicit financial flows."
Amidu said he resigned because President Nana Akufo-Addo tried to interfere with the report, something the presidency has denied. Amidu also said his office was not adequately resourced for him to undertake investigations, which has also been denied.
Governance expert Patrick Stephenson said the resignation reflected poorly on the government and perceptions of its willingness to fight corruption.
Despite the high hopes pinned on this new office in 2018, Stephenson said it now joined the ranks of Ghana's other institutions that have failed to fight corruption meaningfully.
"It shows that we have a very limited commitment to fighting corruption beyond the establishment of institutions," Stephenson said. "It shows that we are willing to subvert rules and regulations so long as certain individuals and characters are involved, and this reflects poorly on the thinking of the ordinary Ghanaian in terms of the commitment of not just this government but any government in fighting corruption."
The executive secretary of the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, Beauty Emefa Narteh, also worries about what this resignation will mean for society's will to combat corruption.
"The moment citizens come to that conclusion - that if Martin Amidu as a special prosecutor cannot fight corruption, then what will be the incentive or motivation for any citizen to want to play their part in the fight against corruption - they will see it's too complex. They will see it as endangering," Narteh said.
In the 2016 election, corruption was a major campaign topic, with the NPP pointing to the many scandals and allegations under then-President John Mahama. This year, Mahama and his National Democratic Congress party are trying to win power back.
Kobi Annan, from risk advisory group Songhai Advisory, said voters should use the opportunity to reflect on the track records of both parties.
"The reality has to also be that they look at the previous administration and see what they did and decide whether it's going to be any better," Annan said. "We are in a unique position that we are able to do an almost direct compare and contrast - we are talking about the 2012-to-2016 period and the 2016-to-2020 [period]."
Despite this, Annan expected voters would be more likely to vote on issues that they saw personally affecting them, like education and the COVID-19 response.