Ghana will soon have a formal legal regime to guide and regulate land acquisition and usage as the Land Bill reaches consideration stage at Parliament.
The Land Bill, 2019, seeks to consolidate reforms made so far in Ghana’s land sector following the implementation of the National Land Policy (NLP) in 1999.
It aims to address long-standing challenges and problems embedded in the sector as it would better define land management and acquisition after it’s passage into law.
According to the Lands Commission, the regime would revise and consolidate the laws on land by harmonizing them to ensure sustainable land management administration system, effective land tenure and efficient surveying and mapping regimes.
This would harmonise into one simplified form, about 166 existing laws relating to land and regulate it’s usage. To this end it will repeal most of the major legislation relating to land including the Lands (Statutory Wayleaves) Act of 1963 (Act 186).
The bikll was first introduced to Parliament in 2018, but had to be withdrawn and subsequently referred to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Forestry for some key amendments to be Incorporated by major Stakeholders.
Stakeholders affirm that the new regime would enhance transparency and accountability in land governance; expand coverage for electronic registration and conveyance; and mitigate the risks of transaction-based registration and recording among others.
The policy seeks to address major fundamental problems associated with land management which include general indiscipline in the land market as a result of land encroachments, multiple land sales and use of unapproved development schemes, among other factors which largely affect business activities.
It also aims to address compulsory acquisition by government of large tracts of land, which
have not been utilised as a result of weak land administration system as well as mitigate the time-consuming land litigation cases at the courts. Significantly, the bill proposes to do away with the right of the user as exists under Act 186, and which has supported illegal land encroachment by allowing it to become a fait accompli. Rather the impending new legislation provides for land required in the public interest to be compulsorily acquired by the State.
To resolve the knotty issue of compensation for such lands compulsorily acquired, the Bill further requires that provision is made to the satisfaction of the Lands Commission for the payment of compensation and related costs for the acquisition into an escrow account prior to undertaking the acquisition. The new legislation introduces a two year time frame within which the process of compulsory acquisition must be completed and the compensation paid.
Under the Bill, a registered interest in land is made subject to the overriding interests of a right of way, right of entry or an electricity supply line or dam, erected, constructed or laid, in pursuance or by virtue of a power conferred by an enactment. The right of way need not be registered to have such effect. This clause will effectively prevent land owners from extorting utility service providers and other providers of public services whose infrastructure needs to pass through, over or under their properties.
Some accountability groups such as Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) – the local chapter of Transparency International – recently entreated government to speed up the passage of the land bill into law stating that it was imperative the Bill takes into account provisions that would enable the vulnerable groups, particularly women, to have access to land, thereby eliminating inequalities that exist in the land sector.