The Mayor of Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA) Mr Felix Mensah-La has been found guilty for contempt by an Accra High Court for issuing a public notice for the demolition of structures at the Sakumono Ramsar site despite a court injunction.
The TMA Mayor was cautioned and ordered by the Court to within 14 days issue another notice “retracting what you have published in the same Daily Graphic.”
The order came after the court presided over by Justice Kweku Tawiah Ackaah-Boafo had found Mr Mensah-La guilty of contempt and was slapped with a cost of GHc2,500 in favour of the applicant who owns a property at the Ramsar site at Sakumono.
Mr Mensah-La who is the Metropolitan Chief Executive of TMA was said to have sanctioned a public notice to demolish building and structures on the face of a pending order and his decision “was unlawful and flagrant violation of the court order dated June 20, 2014.”
The court said it is worth noting that, it is not the business of litigants and their counsel to determine which orders or processes of the court are lawful and deserving of obedience and which laws must be disobeyed.
Prior to founding him guilty of contempt, the court said the respondent – the MCE of TMA – is the official head both politically and administratively of the assembly and therefore could be held liable for the act of “commission or omission of the assembly.”
The bone of contention in the application before the court was “whether or not the respondent disobeyed the orders of injunction by carrying out or caused to be carried out act alleged by the applicant in the case.”
Based on evidence before the court, it said it has no difficulty in dismissing the respondent averment, alleging that he was not aware that there has been an order of injunction against the assembly.
The court said, even though it was the contention of the respondent that he assumed the position of the MCE only a few months ago, his argument that he was not privy to the order is “as attractive” but they were misconceived.
Justice Ackaah-Boafo said explained that the said appeal was filed by the same lawyer Emmanuel Avenyogbor who works at the legal department of the TMA and therefore such submission is inaccurate on the face of the law.”
Hiding behind ignorance
According to the court, the MCE cannot hide behind the submission that he was not aware of the case because the TMA solicitor before he came in was on leave and therefore had known knowledge of that, but the court described his argument as “unworthy of consideration” and therefore rejects it.
The court said, the respondent himself admitted that there is a high court order for injunction in favour of the applicant, restraining the TMA and other respondents in that suit, and also “does not also deny that the TMA which he heads filed an appeal against the order and same is yet to be determine by the court of appeal.”
Justice Ackaah-Boafo added that, the respondent has submitted that the publication was made against ‘Mounting Destruction against the Sakumor Ramsar Site” to preserve Ghana’s international reputation under LI1659.
Issue to determine
The court was to ascertain whether there is a restraining order against the TMA headed by the respondent from doing something” in this case from pulling down any structures or houses within the landsite and from using land guards and other person or persons from disturbing the occupants of the land pending the determination of the suit.
The court held that, the publication undermines the authority of the court because while the buildings may not have been pulled down, the publications can speak eloquently in plain language that it would have been done without further notice to the applicant and the owners whose development the court “injunction order protects.”
Justice Ackaah-Boafo said form the tenure of the respondent’s affidavit in opposition, it is clear that the respondent takes the position that because the TMA has a mandate to develop the metropolis, it has the legal right to proceed notwithstanding the order of the court.
And that, so long as the order of injunction issued by the court remains and has not been set aside or vacated, it is bidding on all persons and entities required by law to obey.
In the courts opinion, it said it is a dangerous position to take because, the respondent by that deposition is saying the court order cannot be the impediment to the TMA developmental agenda and therefore it does not respect it.