The challenges and problems facing land administration in Ghana is well document by academics and some legal practitioners. One would have thought the numerous land litigation cases should have caused us to find a lasting solution to these problems. Unfortunately today self-appointed land guards backed by Chiefs are the people policing our lands.
The 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana beginning from Article 257 to 269 sets out the framework for land administration in the country. The Constitution clearly states in Article 257 (1) that all public lands are vested in the President on behalf, and in trust, for the people of Ghana. Stool and Skin lands, on the other hand, are vested in the appropriate stool on behalf of and in trust for the subjects of the stool in accordance with customary law and usage. Traditional rulers and Chiefs are therefore custodians of land and not landlords.
The Constitution also establishes the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands to perform three key functions which include:
- Establishment of a stool land account for the payment of rents, dues, royalties, revenues etc.
- Collection of all such rents, dues, royalties, revenues or other payments.
- Disbursement of such revenues.
If these responsibilities are discharged judiciously there is no doubt most people would be very pleased. However one wonders how much revenue has been generated for the country in fulfilment of these duties considering there has been exponential increase in real estate development in the last 20 years. Ironically Article 267 (3) also states that there shall be no disposition or development of any stool land unless the Regional Lands Commission certifies the development is consistent with the development plan of that area.
With such clearly defined provisions and the establishment of the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands in 1992 land administration and management duties should have been discharged with little or no problems. But the haphazard development occurring in our towns and cities reminds us of the lack of coordination between the Administrator of Stool Lands, Regional Lands Commission and real estate developers and how the current systems have failed us.
The greatest concern of land administration is the inadequate records kept on stool and skin lands. One wonders who owns what at where. This is impacting Real Estate developer’s ability to secure and undertake long term development. With the introduction of the Ghana Post GPS system it is imperative action is taken to register all parcels of stool and skin lands under the respective stools even if they are sold.
Subsequently, this will make it easier to identify lands available for physical development. Though this might be a costly exercise it will help produce a central database of all land entitlement in the entire country and eliminate land litigation. It must be recognise that the lack of reliable data on land and property is undermining our spatial development efforts. Since infrastructure and built environment development also largely depends on land our approach to land administration must therefore change.
Despite the poor land administrative systems and disappointing conduct of some of our traditional rulers the Constitution provides a safety net to protect our lands. Under Article 266 (1) the framers of the constitution inserted this clause: “No interest in or right over any land in Ghana shall be created which vests in a person who is not a citizen of Ghana a freehold interest in any land in Ghana.”
In other words if you are not a citizen of Ghana you cannot have a freehold interest in or right over any land in the country. Ghanaians can, therefore, take comfort in the fact that our motherland is forever protected in law. Hence chiefs and landowners who keep selling lands to foreigners under the pretence of transferred gifts must note it is illegal and void.
In conclusion, the geographical integrity of our land needs to be preserved at all cost. The 21stCentury Digital Age also offers us great new opportunities to transform our built environment and neighbourhoods. With strong will and determination let us manage our lands effectively to turn Ghana into a Paradise.