Liberia: Illegal Seizure - Court Rules Liberia Fumbles Legally - Must Pay Back Ayika's Us$508,200

The landmark case brought against the government of Liberia by a Nigerian national over the seizure of huge sum of money from him by security officers at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) has ended with a big legal slap in the face of Liberia as it is being found guilty of acting illegally and told to resettle the amount seized.

Liberia was found guilty by court set up by member countries of the West African region, otherwise referred to as ECOWAS Court to adjudicate cases of trans-border interests in the case Liberia Vs Valentine Ayika.

The guilty verdict followed careful revision of all evidence presented before the Court as well as the final argument of both lawyers from the Government of Liberia and that of Ayika.

Judges who presided over the trial informed the Government of Liberia's lawyers that the Liberian Government acted illegally by seizing the then Nigerian businessman money, and as such should pay back the money in the tune of US$508,200 to Mr. Ayiak.

The ECOWAS Court which is currently situated in Abuja, Nigeria has been hearing said case not in its chambers, but in Kotonou, Benin.

In 2011, a lawsuit was issued against Liberia by lawyers representing the interest of the Nigerian businessman, who is currently a member of the Nigerian parliament, a lawsuit to which the Government of Liberia replied and asked the ECOWAS Court to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds that the time it was filed was belated as required by law in line with the treaty signed by member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

In theirs argument contained in the motion, lawyers who represented the Liberian Government said Mr. Ayika should have filed said lawsuit three years after she (Liberian Government) seized the US$508,200 from the plaintiff (Ayika).

Solicitor General, Cllr. M. W. Wright

But the panel Judges in the just ended case denied the Government of Liberia's motion to dismiss and ruled in favor of Mr. Ayika by ordering the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led administration to pay back Ayika's US$508,200.

Following the ruling of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice which was handed down few months ago in 2012, the Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia disclosed that the Government had made an application to the court in order to review its own ruling and correct it in keeping with two cardinal issues raised by the Liberian Government.

According to Cllr. Marcus Wilkins Wright, one of the issues raised in its application before the court was that the plaintiff(Ayika) did not complete domestic remedy in Liberia before taking the Liberian Government to the ECOWAS Court of Justice.

He added that the Nigerian businessman turned lawmaker also failed to follow up his case he currently has at the level of the Supreme Court of Liberia which according to Cllr. Wright which is presently pending before the Supreme Court after the US$508,200 was seized from him by state security.

Cllr. Wright, one time Associate Justice of Liberia, said while the Government of Liberia's application is before the Judges of the court for revision and awaiting the court's reaction as to whether or not the court will hear said application, the Government of Liberia will write the court appealing to it to assign said application for hearing.

He stressed that the Government is in readiness and preparedness to accept any reaction from the court and did not ruled out any possibility of the Government of Liberia paying back Ayika's US$508,200 if the court denies its(Government of Liberia) application and maintain its(Court) original ruling.

In 2006, the Government of Liberia through its security apparatus arrested Mr. Valentine Ayika at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), allegedly with half of Million United States Dollars in cash strapped and plastered on his body.

Few months later, the then Minister of Justice, Cllr. Philip Banks now serving as one of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the Republic informed the Liberian people and the rest of the World that the Government of Liberia has spent said money(US$508,200) on national security.

Prior to the arrest, seizure of his US$508,200 and subsequent deportation from Liberia, Mr. Ayika is on the list of persons wanted by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for drug trafficking and money laundering.

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