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General News of Saturday, 1 May 2021

Source: GNA

Chiefs, family heads to be accountable to government on sale of lands

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A chief, tendana, head of clan or family in charge of the management of stool, clan or family land, who fails to be transparent, fair, open and impartial in matters affecting land management commits an offense.

Justice Sir Dennis Dominic Adjei, a Justice of the Court of Appeal, said the person upon summary conviction shall be liable to a fine of not less than five thousand penalty units (GHc60,000.00).

Justice Adjei, delivering his inaugural lecture as a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, said the person who commits the offence was also liable to not more than ten thousand penalty units (GHc120,000.00) or to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than 10 years or to both.

The inaugural lecture was on the topic: "The Changing Trends in Land Law, Policy, Governance and Management under the Land Act 2020 (1036)."

On December 5, 2019, Justice Adjei was elected into the Fellowship of the Academy.

He said at present, both civil and criminal actions may be used against a chief, tendana, head of clan or family, who failed to account in respect of income gained from the land transaction in which he or she held a fiduciaries right.

The judge said until the coming into force of the Land Act 2020 (Act 1036), only a head of family was accountable to the members of his family in respect of family properties under his management.

"An action against the head of family to hold him accountable is brought under the Head of Family (Accountability) Act, 1985 (P.N.D.C.L 114)," he added.

Justice Adjei said accountability, transparency, fairness and impartiality, which were hall mark of good governance had been extended into land management to hold fiduciaries accountable.

He said the Act had criminalised persons who did not have interest in land and unlawfully exercise or purport to supervise or control land development in an area or use unlawful means to extort money and other benefits from the person developing their lands.

The judge said the Act further criminalised an act by a person, who unlawfully use force to drive away another person or prevent a person, who had interest in the land from having access to that person's land.

He said a person, who was summarily convicted of an offence shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of not less them five years and not more than 15 years.

"A person, who engages a land guard to unlawfully use force, intimidation or violence to drive another person away from that other person's land or prevent the other person from having access to that other person's land commits an offence,” he added.

The Academy of Arts and Science Fellow, said that person was liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than 10 years and more than 15 years.

He said the Land Act had introduced several policies into the land law, administration and governance to hold persons who alienates lands for development, while the area had not been approved by the planning authorities accountable.

Justice Adjei said the Act had improved upon land policy and management system in the country and the foreign statutes which continued to form part of the local statutes and had outlived their usefulness, which should be changed to meet the needs of the people.

He said the Act was a substantive enactment and, therefore, had prospective effects and not retrospective, while the sanctions prescribed in the Act took effect from December 23, 2020.

The Court of Appeal Judge quoted a scripture in the Bible saying, "the seriousness of land encroachment is evident when Moses instructed the Levites to declare to the Israelites the offences when committed will bring curses upon them".

He said according to the Bible, curses were brought upon a person who removed a neighbour's landmark to encroach upon that person's land and it was in the right direction that the Act criminalised land guards, persons, who used landguards and persons who encroached on State lands and engaged in double sale of land.

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