Liberia: Children’s Playground Advocate Vows to Use Adverse Possession to Reclaim Demolished Playground Near LBS

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Monrovia – Mr. Allen B. Neblett, an advocate of the children’s playground adjacent ELBC Radio Station, has vowed to use the five pillars of adverse possession to reclaim the land of the vandalized playground. Neblett wants to get the land from Mrs. Princess Andrews Howard, wife of John Wesley Howard, and a son to J.C.N. Howard, Sr., who is claiming the land. 

According to Mr. Neblett, the land was given to the Children of Paynesville by J.C.N. Howard, former Commissioner of Paynesville in 1975, therefore, nobody should rob the children of their rights to a playground.

“In 2011, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf paid US$75,000 to upgrade the playground with modern equipment, including a Merry-go-Round, a See-saw, a slide, a swing, a basketball court, etc. The Howards were here and didn’t lay claims to the land, why now? Or because the property is ideally located? Without any prior notice, Mrs. Howard destroyed all the equipment and the basketball court with a bulldozer. But we will use the five pillars of adverse possessions to take the place back. The children have been using the playground for the intended purpose for which JCN Howard Sr. allotted the land for. The children have shown open possessions since 1961-2017. The possessions have been continuous for more than 60 years! The possessions of the playground by the children of Paynesville have been exclusive, for free public recreational purposes. And from a single mini football pitch in 1961 to a full playground with equipment pleasurable for the children in 1975,” Neblett said.

The site, which used to be a playground, is now a dug up land, the aftermath of the yellow machine. The empty land is now fenced with a security guard posted to prevent anybody from entering fence.

Mrs. Howard is said to be responsible for vandalizing the playground and fencing it in away from the public.

When contacted via email, regarding her husband’s ownership to the land, Mrs. Howard in her respond said: 

 “So, to answer your question about my ownership, the land has always been in the Howard family and the late JCN Howard Sr. allowed the children of Paynesville to play there but that land was never given to the children, so it was never taken from them and I have deeds to that effect.

Thanks for reaching out to us, and for your concern. If anyone has a problem with us controlling our property, they have the right to take us to court. We have procedures concerning land issues,” she said.

According to a close family source, who chose to remain anonymous, the land was contented in court between the two brothers, John Wesley Howard and the late JCN Howard Jr. with each brother having two different deeds claiming ownership of the land and other properties.

In 2011, during former President Sirleaf’s administration, the land was once claimed by the late JCN Howard Jr., another son of the deceased JCN Howard Sr. JCN Howard Jr. said their late father willed and deeded him the land. He threatened to take the land away from the children, but when FrontPageAfrica published the story that year, President Sirleaf stepped in and compensated Mr. Howard Jr. for the land. However, the land remained vacant for the children without anyone laying claims on it, until the demise of JCN Howard Jr. two years ago and thereafter, his brother’s wife is laying claims on the land as her husband’s property. 

In 2011, former President Sirleaf, through Varney Sirleaf then Assistant Minister of State for Logistics under President Sirleaf, was in charge of handling the Paynesville playground, and he arranged a meeting between President Sirleaf and the late JCN Howard Jr. regarding his claims to the playground.        

When contacted at His Internal Affairs office, Minister Varney Sirleaf said Madam Sirleaf asked him to find JCN Howard and arrange for her to meet him.

“I can remember President Sirleaf sending me to look for JCN Howard because she wanted to speak with him regarding the children’s playground, but I was not in the meeting to know if she compensated JCN Howard or not,” said Minister Sirleaf.

In a brief interaction with President Sirleaf last year at the Gbowee Peace Foundation in Margibi, regarding her meeting with the late JCN Howard Jr., President Sirleaf said she remembered meeting with Howard, and compensating him for the playground, but she could not remember the amount because it had been long.

 “The Howards should not take away the playground from the children, because once a property is dedicated by a past Presidents, it means that property is for the state and should not be taken by any individual. So let the Howards leave the children to enjoy their rights to play,” said former President Sirleaf.

Gathering information in the area regarding the existent of the playground, Madam Pam Taylor, Paynesville City Mayor, via mobile phone regarding the records of the playground, said there is no deed or records in the Paynesville City’s record room about JCN Howard giving the land to the children.

“I believe this was a gentleman’s agreement between JCN Howard Sr. and former President (William R.) Tolbert, and maybe they probably shook hands and JCN Howard told Tolbert he could build a playground for the children as part of the City’s Corporate Social Responsibility. Because I have checked the records and there is no document of JCN Howard giving the land to the children,” said Mayor Taylor.

FPA contacted Rev. Jimmy Diggs, a nephew of JCN Sr. and a cousin to John Wesley Howard. He also claimed to have played on the playground as a child.

“The playground was given to the children of Paynesville and was opened in 1975, when Paynesville celebrated its 100 years of existence from a township to a City was done! The Paynesville City Hall was also dedicated the same day and in continuation of the program, President Tolbert dedicated the playground,” he said.   

Rev. Diggs promised to engage his cousin John Wesley Howard, to know why he wants to undo what JCN Howard Sr. had done for the children.

Mr. Neblett said he is soliciting thousands of signatures from many schools within Paynesville and its environs, to present to the Legislature to intervene and take action.

“The community and school children are angry and wanted to protest, but I have been stopping them and telling them to use the right approach. Deed or no Deed, the children must play. I want Representatives Thomas Fallah and Samuel Enders to step in and help the children reclaim the only recreation center they know,” said Neblett.

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