The Accra Fast Track High Court yesterday refused to vacate its judgement which ordered the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to evict illegal traders from the Knutsford Avenue in the central business district (CBD) of Accra.
It, accordingly, ordered the AMA to evict hundreds of illegal traders who carried out their trading activities on the Knutsford Avenue, which spans an area of more than 600 square metres between UTC and the Makola Market and is popularly known as Old Metropole Area.
The court, presided over by Mr Justice P.K. Gyaesayor, maintained that the operations of the illegal traders posed a nuisance to the plaintiff, Mr Labib C. Seraphim, other shop owners, as well as impeded the free flow of vehicular traffic in those areas.
It awarded additional costs of ¢5 million against the AMA in favour of the plaintiff. In its previous judgement on April 10, 2006, the court awarded ¢20 million costs against the AMA, thus bringing total costs awarded against the AMA to ¢25 million.
In its ruling on a motion filed by the AMA requesting the court to set aside its judgement to enable the AMA to put up a defence, the court declared that what the AMA was requesting it to do amounted to “injustice”.
It said the AMA had failed to raise any serious issues or provided any valuable reason to warrant the court to set aside its judgement, adding that “the AMA will not suffer any harm when it carries out the court order”.
It maintained that the AMA was given every available opportunity to put up a defence during the trial but it failed to do so and had now turned round requesting the court to set aside a relevant judgement.
The court further ruled that what the AMA was asking the court to do was to put all its (court's) efforts in vain “for the public to blame the court for not expediting justice”.
It further pointed out that evidence led in court indicated that the AMA had blocked vehicular access to shops on that avenue for hawkers to use as a marketplace, to the detriment of the plaintiff and other legal shop owners.
It, accordingly, dismissed the application for stay of execution on the award of costs of ¢20 million and maintained that the court took into account the expenses incurred by the plaintiff, the conduct of the defendant during the trial, among other matters, before awarding costs of ¢20 million.
The court, in its judgement on the substantive matter, established that "the activities of the hawkers have in fact devalued the commercial value of all those shops along that street and have indeed deprived them of engaging in their lawful business”.
The AMA, however, filed a motion for an order of stay of execution and the setting aside of the judgement on the grounds that the AMA had a good defence to the plaintiff's claim and, therefore, prayed the court for the matter to be heard on the merits.
On Tuesday, May 23, 2006, counsel for the AMA, Mr Gilbert Addae Kyereme, had argued that he appeared in court on March 16, 2006 to cross-examine the plaintiff but the court did not sit on that day.
Besides, he said the next adjourned date was not properly communicated to him and as a result he appeared before the court two days after the judgement.
Counsel further stated that his inability to appear in court on April 10, 2006, which was the day of judgement, “was not deliberate or out of disrespect for the honourable court but due to a genuine mistake in the date”.
Mr Kyereme, accordingly, prayed the court to set aside its judgement to enable the defendant to appear and defend the action.
Opposing the motion, counsel for the plaintiff, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, said the application was brought out of time because the High Court rules required that such motions should be brought 14 days after the judgement but counsel for the AMA brought it almost a month after the judgement.
He said counsel for the AMA had been duly informed of the date for judgement, adding that the defendant's averments were laced with falsehood “and are characteristic of the lack of candour which defendant's counsel had exhibited before this honourable court throughout the trial”.
Mr Dame argued that he was amazed as to how Mr Kyereme came by March 16, 2006 as the next date for hearing, “since, as evidenced by the results of a search conducted in the registry of this court, plaintiff testified before this honourable court on January 31, 2006”.
He said the conduct of the defendant's lawyers in disregarding hearing notices served on them was highly deplorable and unbecoming of them as officers of the court “and should be deprecated in the harshest terms by this honourable court”.
“The defendant, as borne out of its own pleadings, has no credible defence to the illegality of the acts complained of by plaintiff and no useful purpose will be served by setting aside the judgement, especially as it was afforded reasonable facilities of contesting the suit,” he further argued.
Mr Dame, therefore, prayed the court to dismiss the motion with punitive costs and further order the AMA to carry out the court's judgement in order to bring sanity into the city.
In its judgement, the court held that the rights of the plaintiff and others had been trampled upon by the hawkers, "with the active connivance of the AMA".
The court described AMA's action in converting the Knutsford Avenue into a market for hawkers as unlawful and, accordingly, ordered the AMA to provide vehicular access to the Knutsford Avenue, among reliefs.