Judge Emery Paye of the Civil Law Court has threatened to jail Madam Matilda Parker, Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), and other senior staffers for 30 days on a Contempt of Court charge.
The threat comes after Madam Parker and the deputy head of NPA security failed to appear before the Court last Friday, June 6.
They were expected to provide clarity as to whether they disrespected the Supreme Court’s mandate, ordering NPA not to remove the Management of Liberia Materials Ltd. from the Port’s 7,414 acres of swamp land, which the company alleged.
Surprisingly, Cllr. Dexter Tiah, legal counsel of NPA was the only accused person to attend Friday's proceedings.
Their absence prompted Judge Paye to hold them in contempt of court.
In his ruling, the Civil Law Court Judge declared, “The court stands for justice and fair play. Since their lawyers admitted that the Company was not in possession of said property contrary to the mandate of the Supreme Court and orders from this court, they are held in contempt of the court, which requires punishment.”
“They are hereby fined US$200, which is the limitation of the court and made to be paid into government’s revenue within 72 hours,” Judge Paye announced in open court.
He further ruled that “failure on the NPA officials' part to make the payment, [will result in] arrest and incarceration in the Monrovia Central Prison for 30 days each.”
Judge Paye also ordered the Sheriff to make sure that the company possesses said property.
He echoed the Court notice as saying, “We are warning everybody to desist from disrespecting the authority of the Lower and High Court.”
The case began in early May 2014, when the NPA Management filed an “Action of Petition for a Cancellation of Lease Agreement” entered into between it and the Liberia Material Ltd. to the Civil Law Court.
On May 21, Cllr. Peter W. Gbeneweleh, then assigned Judge to the Civil Law Court, handed down a ruling against the Company.
In that ruling, Judge Gbeneweleh directed the Clerk of the court to prepare a Writ of Possession in favour of NPA to have the Material Company ousted and evicted from the said premises.
The ruling did not go down well with lawyers representing the Company, who announced an appeal before the High Court.
Despite their appeal to the High Court, Judge Gbeneweleh went ahead and instructed the court’s sheriff to execute his instruction.
Interestingly, on May 27, Lawyers representing Material Company quickly ran to the High Court to seek for a Writ of Prohibition, which was granted by Associate Justice Jamesetta H. Wolokollie, then Assigned Justice in Chamber of the Supreme Court.
Following the Chamber Justice’s intervention, Judge Gbeneweleh issued a directive to the clerk, revoking the writ he had earlier approved.
Even though, the writ was never served, NPA Management instructed the deputy director of its security to enter the premises and forcibly remove those contracted by the Company including private security guard, in total disregard of the High Court's decision.