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Opinions of Saturday, 10 April 2021

Columnist: Kwesi Atuahene

Chiefs now answerable to the state on land sales - New land law

It does not require many words to speak the truth but for many years our chiefs, family and clan heads who in many cases have been the custodians of most traditional lands in Ghana have enjoyed immunity from accountability but thankfully this protection from accountability ends with the emergence of section 9 of the new land law.

Interestingly, many experts like Kwame Gyan, a lecturer at the University of Ghana School of Law, strongly share the opinion that this reform now gives the state authority to take interest in the sale of lands in the country. Today, the traditional stewards of our lands cannot sell the lands as they wish to.

Many traditional areas in Ghana have seen occupant of stools, heads of clans selling lands and keeping the proceeds to themselves sometimes they even go to extent of selling lands that are flood-prone areas.

I strongly share in the school of thought that, there was no difference between a stool, clan and family land under the Trusteeship Act. Previously, the trusteeship concept in stool lands per article 267 clause 1 of the 4th republican constitution expressed that ‘stool lands shall be held by the appropriate stools as trustees for their subjects in accordance to the Customary Law in usage.

Nevertheless, section 9:1 in the New Land law indicate that family and clan lands have also been brought under trusteeship. It is very notable, that the idea of trusteeship is currently seeing an extension from exclusively stool lands custodians to clan lands and family lands with a very stern implications to those who may act contrary to the new land law.

I strongly believe, it is very important for those who are managing clan and family lands not to think that this is our family land so the government is not interested. Our chiefs were not held accountable in the past possibly as a result of the absence of no clear caption of such directive in our 4th republican constitution but thankfully, the state is now interested in how clan and family lands are managed.

Like Mahatma Gandhi, I strongly believe that it is wrong and highly immoral to seek to escape the consequence of one’s acts. Accountability of sale of land by chiefs, such a beautiful move!

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