Provide legal basis governing public lands being returned to alleged pre-acquisition owners – OccupyGhana

OccupyGhana meets Lands Ministry over public lands being returned to alleged pre-acquisition owners
Ace Anan Ankomah is a member of OccupyGhana
Pressure group, OccupyGhana has engaged the Ministry of Lands and the Lands Commission on concerns over public lands.
OccupyGhana has specifically demanded that the Lands Commission and the Ministry should produce the legal basis and Policy Directive governing the recent return of public lands to alleged pre-acquisition owners.

At the meeting, chaired by a Co-Chair of the Ministry’s Advisory Board, OccupyGhana asked why the government, although it was under no legal compulsion to do so, would take Public Lands that belong to all Ghanaians, and return them to alleged pre-acquisition owners for next to nothing, only for the lands to end up in the hands of the rich and government officials.


Below is a copy of a press statement issued by OccupyGhana on the engagement

OCCUPYGHANA ENGAGES LANDS MINISTRY AND LANDS COMMISSION ON CONCERNS OVER PUBLIC LANDS

Accra, 23 August 2022: On 11 August 2022, OccupyGhana met with officials of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, members of the Ministry’s Advisory Board and officials of the Lands Commission.

The meeting was held at the instance of the Ministry’s Advisory Board to discuss OccupyGhana’s concerns over alleged returns of Public Lands to alleged pre-acquisition owners.

This followed OccupyGhana’s incessant inquiries following the Achimota Forest Lands saga.

OccupyGhana has specifically demanded that the Lands Commission and the Ministry produce the legal basis and Policy Directive governing these returns.

This meeting was held after both the Ministry and Lands Commission responded in writing to candidly concede that there is no such Policy Directive in place.

At the meeting, chaired by a Co-Chair of the Ministry’s Advisory Board, OccupyGhana asked why the government, although it was under no legal compulsion to do so, would take Public Lands that belong to all Ghanaians, and return them to alleged pre-acquisition owners for next to nothing, only for the lands to end up in the hands of the rich and government officials.


OccupyGhana also stated its view that these transactions breached both the President’s constitutionally imposed duties as the trustee of all Public Lands on behalf of all the people of Ghana (under article 257 of the Constitution), and the Lands Commission’s constitutionally imposed fiduciary and accountability duties (under article 36(8) of the Constitution.) We repeated our further view that the direct involvement of the government in these matters, instead of issuing ‘general directions in writing to the Lands Commission on matters of policy in respect of the functions of the Commission,’ is also a breach of the autonomy of the Lands Commission in land management matters (under articles 258 and 265 of the Constitution.)

OccupyGhana finally reiterated that it stood by all of its demands in the several letters to the Minister and Lands Commission, including (i) full disclosure of all such transactions since the Constitution came into force, (ii) a public inquiry into them, (iii) a freeze of all pending returns (including the Achimota Forest), and (iv) the issuance of a Policy Directive by Government, so that Ghanaians, who are the beneficiaries of those lands, can raise questions about and challenge the policy.

TAKE OUT FROM MEETING

Lands Commission is still compiling the information of all returns of Public Lands from the regions and will submit that to OccupyGhana when it is ready.

Within one month, the Lands Commission will draft the Policy Directives and submit them to the Ministry to consider for adoption.

Lands Commission will, before sending the draft policies to the Ministry, engage all stakeholders, including OccupyGhana, in working on and reviewing the draft policies.

Lands Commission is very concerned about private encroachment of Public Lands and would want OccupyGhana’s advocacy to also focus on that matter.

CONCLUDING COMMENTS


While OccupyGhana appreciates the opportunity to have met with and express our concerns to officials, we remain deeply concerned about the current state of affairs and the admission that after almost 30 years of the coming into force of this Constitution, there is no Policy Directive on the management of Public Lands in Ghana. The effect of this is that we have an opaque, ad-hoc system, which in itself is unconstitutional. We remain resolute that there must be a freeze of every planned return of Public Lands until the entire system has been reviewed by a duly constituted Commission of Inquiry, and the constitutionally required and relevant Policy Directives have been put in place.

OccupyGhana is also concerned that while section 13 of the new Land Act criminalises the breach of the fiduciary and accountability duties by managers of stool, skin and family lands, the Act stops short of specifically criminalising the same breach by managers of Public Lands.

This is especially shocking because article 36(8) of the Constitution imposes the same duties on all ‘managers of public, stool, skin and family lands.’ Thus, the selective criminalisation in the Land Act is discriminatory, wrong and therefore unconstitutional. Our view is that the list of specific crimes that public officers may commit under section 277 of the Land Act, does not cover the breach of their fiduciary and accountability duties.

We therefore call for the amendment of section 13 of the Land Act to bring in managers of Public Lands, because the universal criminalisation of these breaches will make public officials more careful and circumspect in the performing their duties relating to the management and disposal of Public Lands.

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