General News of Friday, 2 May 2003
Source: Public Agenda
Participants at a workshop have raised the stakes on Ghana’s dual citizenship policy and urged Ecowas chairman, President John Agyekum Kufuor to ensure reciprocal laws on dual citizenship and immigration in other West African countries.
Debate on dual citizenship formed part of an ISODEC organised two-day round table discussion on “Land Administration Reform” at Swedru in the Central Region.
After a day’s brain storming on the human and administrative obstacles besetting land administration, participants drawn from the Ministry of Lands and Forestry, Lands Commission, the National House of Chiefs, Town and Country Planning, the Judiciary, NGOs and civil society groups and the media broke into groups and thoroughly debated various topics bordering on land use.
The Group was tasked with discussing “Sub-regional migrants, strangers and pastoralists and the modelling of a common land regime for Ecowas.” It was also to recommend solutions on (1) how to develop a land use policy to respond to the case of Fulani herdsmen within the context of regional integration (2) Define areas that must be reformed to accommodate immigrants in situations of war or famine and (3) Propose reciprocal laws for the other countries of the sub region.
Led by Justice Steven Allan Brobbey, a Supreme Court Judge members of the group which also included, Na Banamini Sandu 11(Kaleo-na) and Vice President of National House of Chiefs, Matilda Fiadzigbey, Administrator of Stool Lands and Kofi Tsikata of the World Bank, was of the view that Ghana has ceded too much of her sovereignty in the interest of regional integration in return for nothing.
The group pointed out that in Ghana’s over zealousness to woo dollar-wielding African -Americans with dual citizenship, other West African citizens could take advantage of the situation to become Ghanaian citizens.
The group therefore appealed to President Kufuor, Ecowas Chairman, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary to ensure the enactment of reciprocal laws on immigration and dual citizenship. Given the fact that other countries in West Africa do not have reciprocal laws on dual citizenship Ghanaians could be on the losing end. The group noted that if Ghana retains its dual citizenship policy it would create a scenario where for instance Nigerians could become Ghanaians and own land in Ghana, while Ghanaians would not be allowed to have citizenship and own land in Nigeria because that country has no laws on dual citizenship.
Justice Brobbey explained that the need for reciprocal laws on dual citizenship and immigration in West Africa has become urgent because many Ecowas citizens have families living across the borders.
“Because of these cross border ownership of land and property Ecowas countries should have dual citizenship”, Justice Brobbey emphasised.
The group urged security agencies to enforce the laws on immigration and ensure that refugees leave for their countries anytime peace returns. The group also appealed to security agencies to ensure that refugees do not use their status to acquire land for permanent settlement.
The group stressed that any refugee who wishes to stay in the country permanently should go through the legal process. In view of the closeness of the Budumburam Camp to the capital, the group added its voice to earlier calls that future refugees camps should be sited far from the capital and other city centres.
On the thorny issue of land acquisition, the group appealed to all chiefs and land administrators to stop outright sale of land to refugees and immigrants. The group’s stance was provoked by reports of refugees and illegal immigrants buying large plots of land in Accra and surrounding towns.
In the view of the group, immigrant settlers should be limited to a size of land for immediate use and not for future sale. It called on all landowners to enforce this in order to discourage land speculation.
In view of the fact that Ghana is one of the freest countries in West Africa, the group urges the Minister for Regional Integration with the assistance of the Chairman of Ecowas to push for the rationalisation of Anglophone and Francophone laws on immigration and dual citizenship. It also asked Ecowas authorities to pursue a common lands regime in the sub-region.
The need for a common land regime is very crucial given the fact that many West African countries are using common sources of water. It is envisaged that countries that share common water resources could cause the next world war. To avoid border conflicts in West Africa, Na Banamini Sandu 11(Kaleo-na) and Vice President of National House of Chiefs, suggested that countries using common water sources should harmonise their use to avoid conflict. Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Ghana share the Black and White Volta Rivers. Na Banamini Sandu said the Bagri river in Burkina Faso, which is the source of the Volta river is a potential source of conflict between Ghana and Burkina Faso and urged the two countries to cooperate to manage the water judiciously. The group also recommended that Ghanaian farmers should create the right of way for elephants migrating from neighbouring countries. Every local council should identify these routes and ensure that nobody farms around the routes. This is because the movement of the elephants is a natural occurrence which cannot be avoided. The group also condemned the killing of marked elephants migrating from Burkina Faso, adding that the preservation of West Africa’s dwindling elephant stock is the responsibility of all.
On Fulani herdsmen the panel tasked District Assemblies to institute appropriate form of taxation because many of the herdsmen usually flee from taxation at home. In addition, chiefs and opinion leaders harbouring herdsmen should be identified and prosecuted.
The group also noted that because some powerful people in Ghana have cattle banks, which are handled by the alien Fulani herdsmen the assemblies, are unable to enforce the regulations on the movement of cattle into Ghana’s territory. There is therefore a need to identify the owners of the cattle banks and call them to order.
Some key recommendations from the other five groups say chiefs and family heads should be sensitised to lead their communities in changing customary laws that exclude women from land ownership. Further, the policy of auctioning state lands to the highest bidder should be reviewed to ensure that the auction is restricted to lands in prime areas.