Nimbaians Take Leadership to Supreme Court

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As a result of the ongoing laying out of the city and the opening of streets in three cities in Nimba County, some of the cities’ residents have petitioned the Supreme Count demanding for compensation from their county administration.

Some of the affected residents believe that the county administration has failed to compensate them for damages to their properties during the development processes.

The aggrieved residents, who are mainly from Bahn and Tappita, claimed they have been affected, while others think they too will be affected by the ongoing road construction earmarked by the county authorities.

Therefore, they have, through their lawyer, Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah Sr., petitioned the Supreme Court demanding compensation for structures already destroyed and the ones that are marked for demolition.

The opening of streets and alleys was completed in Karnplay City, Gbelay-geh District, where no one complained, a resident from told the Daily Observer yesterday via mobile phone.

The Daily Observer reported back in August that Bahn City was faced with an ultimatum from the county authorities, mandating that the city open up its streets and alleys, or be demoted of its status as a city. To this, the residents of Bahn City agreed, including its mayor, who lost at least two structures in the exercise. However, the decision to comply was not without opposition, especially from residents who said they had nowhere else to go. An elderly woman said they “would die” if her home got demolished in the exercise.

The 520 plus residents of Bahn and Tappita cities, including members of local civil society organizations, said in a petition for prohibition that their structures have been marked for demolition without the county paying them a dime.

Cllr. Kruah, who is also a son of Nimba County, said the citizens “petitioned the high court to prohibit the county authority from constructing checkerboard streets in the two cities, which, if done, could destroy several structures.

He said about 512 structures worth US$ 1.2 million will be demolished if the exercise is carried out by the county’s leaders as they have said there is “no compensation involved.”

In his argument Wednesday before the high court, Cllr. Kruah said Article 24 of the Constitution provides that if one’s property is destroyed, as in the case of residents of Bahn and Tappita, compensation shall be given to them.

“Article 24 of the Liberia Constitution provides that if one’s property is destroyed, as is in the case of the residents of the two cities, there must be compensation given them,” said Cllr. Kruah.

He continued that if the county’s authority has announced to construct roads in the two cities, they should concentrate on the old roads rather than the construction of new ones that will cause problem for “peaceful citizens.”

He said since he filed the writ of prohibition to the Supreme Court, with a subsequent stay order placed on the project, Nimba Superintendent Fong Zuagele has mandated that no other projects from the county administration should go ahead in Tappita, while the stay order is in place.

Solicitor General Cllr. Betty Larmin Blamo, who represented the Nimba County authority, argued that there is separation of powers in the constitution and that the Judiciary Branch cannot come out to say where to build or not build roads.

“The county authority has projects to implement and that the Judicial branch of government cannot tell them what project to carry out or not because they are under the authority of another branch, which is the Executive, as there is nothing before the court to identify them,” said Cllr. Blamo.

According to the Solicitor General, before the project was earmarked by the county’s authority, a series of town hall meetings were held with the locals where they were told that the money intended to build the roads was taken from the County Social Development Fund, which was not sufficient to pay compensation.

After listening to the two arguments, Presiding Justice in Chambers, Kabineh Ja’neh, ruled to transfer the case to the full-bench of the Supreme Court, “because of the constitutional matter raised by Solicitor General Blamo.”

Meanwhile, Supt. Zuagele has denied stopping any other projects in Tappita until the road project is complete.

He said what the petitioners did not understand is that during their town hall meetings, they were not forced by any of the parties to agree for the project to proceed, adding, they have to also subtract politics from development.

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