Civil Law Court “B” Judge Boima Kontoe has ruled that the Ministry of Public Works should pay a total of US$39,511.00 to Cllr. Robert N. Gbarbea for wrongly damaging his property.
The judge handed the ruling Friday, 25 August after hearing a bill of information filed by the lawyer against the Ministry of Public Works. Cllr. Gbarbea on 7 April, filed the action with the Court, informing it that following an administrative hearing on 14 March that did not favor him, the Ministry ordered the destruction of his property on the same day of the ruling while a judicial review was still pending in the matter.
He complains that his fence, water tower, a water reservoir, a well with hand – pump, a concrete pavement and a six – bedroom-house, all valued US$38,011.00 were destroyed around the Baptist Seminary area off the Roberts International Airport (RIA) highway.
He says the Ministry of Public Works denied him his right to due process, contending that the Ministry did not have the right to destroy his property without a court order.
In seeking court’s intervention, the lawyer asked for US$38,761.00, which is divided into the value of the property at US$38,011.00 and US$750 as assessment cost.
Lawyers for the Ministry of Public Works have taken exception to the ruling, and announced they would appeal against it. The Ministry’s counsels have argued that the writ of summons which brought the Ministry under the jurisdiction of the Court did not stay (or halt) any proceedings.
The Ministry insists that Cllr. Gbarbea did not obtain construction permit from it in carrying out his project, claiming that it did not violate any law. The Ministry contends that Section 5.1 of the Zoning Law of Liberia gives it the sole authority to regulate zoning activities including the issuance of permit. The ministry denies violating the plaintiff’s right to due process.
But in addressing the matter, the Court found that after the Ministry of Public Works ruled in an administrative hearing, ordering the demolition of Cllr. Gbarbea’s property, the plaintiff filed a petition for judicial review while the Ministry’s ruling had not yet been executed.
The Court notes that when a summon was issued against the Ministry as a result of the petition for judicial review, the Ministry moved on to execute its own ruling rendered as a result of administrative hearing, when it had not yet responded to the writ of summons.
But the Court ruled that the issuance of the writ of summons brought the Ministry under the jurisdiction of the Court and had required the Ministry to have halted all proceedings into the case, pending the outcome of the petition for judicial review filed by Cllr. Gbarbea.
–By Winston W. Parley