The Accra High Court has fined the Managing Director of the State Housing Company Limited (SHC), Kwabena Ampofo Appiah, and the Estate Manager of the company, Edward Awuah, GH¢15,000 each for contempt of court. In default, the two contemnors will serve 21 days each in prison.
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Graphic Online’s Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson reports from the High Court that Ampofo Appiah and Awuah were found guilty of contempt by the court, presided over by Mr Justice Kweku T. Ackaah-Boafo, because the SHC leased a house that was the subject matter of a legal suit to the Ablekuma West Municipal Assembly (AWMA) before the final determination of the suit.
That move by the SHC, the court held, had undermined its authority and interfered with the administration of justice.
“It is my finding that despite the denial, the SHC, through the 1st and 2nd respondents (Appiah and Awuah), adopted a tactic of disposing off the property which, to my mind, was a well-orchestrated plan to end-run and undermine the court’s authority and same was, therefore, a wilful and flagrant of the court’s authority,’’ Justice Ackaah-Boafo held.
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A third respondent, Mr Jacob Beechem, who is the Head of the SHC Task Force, was, however, acquitted of contempt after the court absolved him of any wrongdoing.
Payment to applicant
In the ruling that found Appiah and Awuah guilty of contempt, the court also ordered that GHc10,000 of the total fine of GHc30,000 be paid to the applicant, Mrs Patience Atta-Affram, the 74-year-old widow of Mr Francis Atta-Affram, a former employee of the SHC, to help her offset part of her legal costs.
Mrs Atta-Affram wanted the court to commit the respondents for contempt following her eviction from the house located at Dansoman, despite another High Court’s judgement that ordered the SHC to allocate her a house.
Judgement in favour of Mrs Atta-Affram
Per court documents, Mrs Atta-Affram sued the SHC on January 10, 2018, with the case that the beneficiaries of her late husband were entitled to be allocated a house under the Staff Housing Scheme of the SHC.
On July 12, 2018, the Accra High Court, presided over by Mr Justice Samuel Asare, entered judgement in favour of Mrs Atta-Affram and held that, indeed, per the Staff Housing Scheme of the SHC, Mr Francis Atta-Affram (deceased), represented, by his beneficiaries, must be allocated a house by the SHC.
The judgement included a declaration by the court that “the plaintiff or beneficiaries of the estate of Francis Atta-Affram are entitled to stay in House No. 168/19, also known as H/No A 232, Dansoman Estates, Accra until such time as a house is allocated to the plaintiff by defendant (SHC) under the Staff Housing Scheme”.
The said house, located at Dansoman Estates, had been occupied by the Atta-Affram for more than 30 years.
Also, the court ordered the SHC to allocate the house located at Dansoman Estates to the beneficiaries of the late Mr Atta-Affram if the SHC failed to allocate any other house.
It further granted a perpetual injunction restraining the SHC, either by itself, servants, agents and/or privies, from intermeddling with the plaintiff’s peaceful enjoyment of House No. 168/19, also known as H/No A 232, Dansoman Estates.
On October 19, 2018, Mrs Atta-Affram filed a contempt application at the Accra High Court, with the case that the SHC had failed to obey the judgement of the court delivered on July 12, 2018.
According to her application, after her victory, she issued a writ of possession of the house and served the SHC accordingly.
With the assistance of the police, she said, the sheriff of the court put her in possession of the house on September 24, 2018.
She, however, contended that soon after she took possession of the house, a task force from the SHC moved into the house, removed her from the house and put all her belongings outside.
She averred that after her eviction from the house, the police and the sheriff of the court padlocked all the rooms in the house but the SHC invaded the house again and broke all the padlocks.
The applicant argued that all attempts to restrain the SHC to abide by the tenets of the judgement of the court proved futile and, therefore, they had disobeyed the orders of the court.
In their response, Appiah and Awuah denied assertions by Mrs Atta-Affram that they had engaged in any contemptuous act.
It was their case that they did not deploy any member of the SHC Task Force to remove Mrs Atta-Affram from the house and that they were in Tamale during the time she was removed from the house.
Again they argued that after the judgement of the court in July 2018, the SHC allocated a house to Mrs Atta-Affram at Buduburam in the Central Region but she refused.
They further contended that on March 1, 2018, the SHC received a letter from the New Patriotic Party Member of Parliament for Ablekuma West, Madam Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, on behalf of the Ablekuma West Municipal Assembly, requesting that the house at Dansoman Estate be allocated to the assembly to be used as an office.
In view of that, the respondents said, the SHC, in a letter dated March 12, 2018, allocated the house to the assembly, for which reason the company had no interest in it to warrant their sending a task force to evict Mrs Atta-Affram and her family.
Delivering his ruling, Mr Justice Ackaah-Boafo held that although Appiah and Awuah had denied acting in a contemptuous manner, their admission that the SHC leased the property in March 2018 was a clear indication of contempt of court.
The leasing of the property to the assembly, he said, was done when the suit filed by Mrs Atta-Affram on January 10, 2018, was yet to be determined. He said the respondents also failed to inform the court before the judgement in July, 2018 that the property had been leased.
“My understanding is that the SHC needed the house for its staff who were commuting from Winneba and Nsawam. The above submission was in February 2016. So why was the property leased to the municipal assembly in March 2018? It is also to be noted that in the suit the applicant (Mrs Atta-Affram) sought for perpetual injunction as part of her reliefs. Therefore, for the SHC, through its officers, the 1st and 2nd respondents, to dispose of the property during the pendency of the suit clearly is not a trivial matter.
“Undoubtedly, the applicant has met her onus of proving the 1st and 2nd respondents’ (Appiah and Awuah) guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Consequently, I hold the 1st and 2nd respondent in contempt of court and convict them accordingly,’’ the presiding judge held.