ECOWAS Court dismisses Liberian’s property rights violation claims

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The ECOWAS Court has dismissed a suit instituted by a Liberian, Mr Jack Rockson, and a company, Global Agriculture Development, challenging the Liberian government’s violation of their rights to property.

Delivering judgment in Abuja, Justice Edward Asante, held that the Liberian government did not violate the applicants’ rights to own and possess property under Article 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The court’s President and Judge Rapporteur, leading a three-member panel, comprising Justices Gberi-Be Ouattara and Dupe Atoki, dismissed all the claims of the applicants.

Justice Asante also ordered all the parties in the suit to bear their own costs.

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The court noted that it had jurisdiction to entertain the suit and also dismissed the applicants’ demand for one million dollars compensation for Rockson, who owns 5 per cent shares in Global Agriculture Development.

It also dismissed the applicants’ demand for a total of 20,700,383 dollars with interest per annum from November 2015 to Global Agriculture Development for loss of profit on its investment in a cocoa farm.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the applicants had filed the suit marked: ECW/CCJ/APP/31/17 before the court on Aug. 18, 2017.

Their lead counsel, Mr Celestus Ejezie, had in his submission, alleged violation of his clients’ right to possession and enjoyment of their property as guaranteed under Article 14 of the African Charter.

He had argued that the First Applicant, Mr Rockson, obtained an allocation for land in Todee District of Liberia and leased it to Global Agriculture Development for the cultivation of a cocoa farm.

The applicants’ counsel claimed that the delay and/or neglect by the President of Liberia to sign and release the title deeds to the land prevented the applicants from defending the land and the farm against encroachment and vandalisation by third parties.

Ejezie had, therefore, prayed the court to declare that the delay and/or neglect by the Liberian government to sign and release Mr Rockson’s title deeds infringed on his right to property.

He also requested the court to declare that the government’s failure to protect the cocoa farm from vandalism violated the applicants’ right to property, including the loss of expected profits, totaling 20,700,383 dollars.

The Liberian government had, in its defense, however, told the court that merely forwarding the title deed to the office of the President was not a guarantee that it would be signed as necessary due diligence needed to be conducted.

It argued that the destruction of farmlands was carried out by private individuals, and that the relevant state agencies were notified for necessary action. (NAN)

By Mark Longyen

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