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General News of Monday, 14 July 2008

Source: GNA

Court discharges AMA boss of contempt charge

Accra, July 14, GNA - An Accra Fast Track High Court on Monday dismissed a contempt motion brought against the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) for failing to eject hawkers at Knustford Avenue in the Central Business District of Accra.

It further discharged Mr Stanley Nii Adjiri Blanskon, Chief Executive Officer of the Assembly, noting that he had carried out the orders of the court in a judgement delivered on April 10, 2006. The Court, presided over by Mr Justice Kofi Aseidu awarded cost of 700 Ghana cedis to AMA and its Chief Executive Officer. Delivering its ruling, the court noted the applicant had not been able to show the court that the respondents had wilfully disobeyed its order.

The court said it was satisfied that the respondents did carry out the order of the court.

It noted that the fact that the hawkers had come back to the street did not mean that the respondents did not carry out the orders of the court.

"The order is not a continuing order which would call for a continuing policing of the place," the court declared. In May this year, an Accra Businessman dragged the AMA and its Chief Executive Officer to court for failing to eject hawkers at Knustford Avenue (AMA).

Mr Labib Seraphim, a businessman, filed a motion on notice to impose a heavy fine on the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and commit its Chief Executive, Nii Adjiri Blankson to prison for refusing to evict hawkers from the Knustford Avenue in the Central Business District. He was seeking orders that the AMA and its Chief Executive discharged their obligations by evicting hawkers from Knustford Avenue and provided vehicular access to stores in the area. On February 28, 2005, the plaintiff commenced action against the AMA and on April 10, 2006, the Fast Track High Court granted the plaintiff all the relief he had sought.

The relief included an order compelling AMA to provide vehicular access to the Knustford Avenue and another order restraining the defendants from converting Knustford Avenue into a market. The court, in granting the relief in its judgment, declared that the action of the AMA in converting the Knustford Avenue into a market for hawkers was unlawful and asked the AMA to discharge its obligation of evicting the hawkers.

It further asked the AMA to provide vehicular access to Knustford Avenue and restrain the Assembly from ever converting the place into a market for hawkers.

The plaintiff said the AMA had for the past two years refused to carry out the orders and the hawkers had continued to exercise "absolute dominion" at the place.

"Respondents' wilful violation of the orders of this court contained in its judgment is infringing on the constitutionally guaranteed property rights of myself and other property owners on the Knustford Avenue.

"The situation is gravely hampering the lawful business activities of myself and other property owners."

The plaintiff contended that in spite of the orders of the court, AMA had erected pillars, which should have been removed as part of the process of executing the court's order. Plaintiff said the refusal of the respondents to carry out the orders of the court was calculated at interfering with and obstructing the due administration of justice as well as undermining the authority of the court.

The AMA said it had complied with the order of the court by ejecting the hawkers and regretted that the hawkers had gone back after decongesting the place.

According to the AMA soon after the ejection, there was free movement of vehicles, adding that, the assembly had mounted pillars at the end of the road, near the avenue.

The AMA denied that it had turned the avenue into a market pointing out that soon after the various decongestion exercises at Kaneshie, Accra Central and Kwame Nkrumah Circle it put up a Pedestrian Shopping Mall for the hawkers.

Displaying the various exhibits of newspaper cuttings, the AMA drew the attention of the Court to the decongestion exercises it had carried out. According to the AMA if for any reasons the hawkers had gone back, the AMA could not be held liable for "the illegal actions of the hawkers".