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Regional News Wed, 11 Feb 2004

Brong Ahafo lands officer advises Ghanaians to avoid land litigations

Sunyani (B/A) Feb 11 GNA - Mr. Sandy Anthony Mensah, Brong-Ahafo Regional Lands Officer said on Tuesday that land litigation and its attendant problems could be avoided if Ghanaians did the right things.

If we do the right things and follow laid-down rules, regulations and procedures in the acquisition of land, there would be no need for the engagement of land guards to protect plot of lands, he said. Mr. Mensah was addressing a forum organized by the Commission for officers and other ranks of Three Garrison at Liberation Barracks in Sunyani.

The forum was aimed at enlightening the soldiers about laid-down rules, regulations and procedures in the acquisition of plots of land. Mr. Vincent Asigbee, Regional Director, Town and Country Planning and Mr. Opoku Agyeman, Regional Officer of Administration of Stool Lands accompanied Mr Mensah.

Mr. Mensah noted, "Peace is not the absence of war", explaining that "several factors, including social and economic ones can combine to disturb one's peace, where a person is litigating over land".

Mr. Mensah said there were more than 17,000 land cases in the courts "because those who sought for a piece of land for development in most cases contacted wrong persons".

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The Regional Lands Officer mentioned four major categories of land ownership, namely stool or skin, public, family and private lands, saying each category had its own administrative procedure of acquiring a plot.

Mr. Mensah noted that land litigation was not common at areas where state lands and vested lands are both classified under Public Lands and controlled by Lands Commission Under Act 483, Lands Commission Act of 1994 and Article 258 of the 1992 Constitution.

He explained that this was because "in the Public Lands administration the Lands Commission is the only legal authority that has the power to allocate public lands".

Mr. Mensah said lands in Sunyani, Goaso, Mim, Kukuom, part of Techiman, Seikwa, Nsoatre and others in Brong Ahafo were all vested ones entrusted in the care of Lands Commission.

Mr. Mensah noted that non-adherence to planning schemes had resulted in squatter settlements and the creation of slums, citing the distortion of Kotokrom South planning scheme in Sunyani Municipality by some encroachers who did not build in line with the scheme.

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In view of their disregard for proper procedural lines to acquire land, the Lands Commission is now spending about 120 million cedis to redesign and demarcate the area, Mr. Mensah said.

He explained that to acquire a family land or stool land the head of family or the chief concerned and their principal elders played an essential part in the allocation process while on public lands the applicant was to direct his or her request through the Lands Commission.

The Regional Lands Officer advised participants to take note of the advice and to do the right things to avoid the pulling down of their structures in the long run.

He announced that, apart from ground rents received as returns or revenue on land, the Commission also generated customary premiums to the traditional councils, stressing that in 2002, the commission generated 398,079,028 cedis from the management of vested lands.

The figure, Mr Mensah said, increased to 805,137,733 in 2003 and 55 per cent of such revenues went to the district assemblies for development projects.

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Most district assemblies in the region were blamed for reneging on their traditional role under the Local Government Act 462 empowering them to ensure that every developer obtained a building permit before developing a plot of land.

In an open forum, Mr. Charles Yeboah, a civilian worker at the barracks alleged that after paying 12 million cedis in 2002 for a plot of land to an official of Lands Commission, the Commission wrote to him in 2003 requesting him to pay an additional 1.3 million cedis for the plot.

In response, Mr. Mensah said the Commission did not undertake such personal transfer of plots and so what transpired between him and the official to whom he paid the 12 million cedis was not an official transaction.

He said the 1.3 million cedis was the official fee.

A retired soldier spoke against the Commission's demolition exercise in some areas where buildings belonging to some pensioned soldiers, some of them put up since 1970.

He called on the Commission to compensate such victims "since at the time of constructing their buildings they did not know anything about Lands Commission and had their allocations through local chiefs". Mr. Mensah stated that there was no compensation for such people.

Source: GNA