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Opinions of Monday, 30 January 2006

Columnist: Agyepong, Benjamin Opoku

Reducing Land Litigation In Ghana-The Way Forward

I just conceived this idea whilst reflecting over the numerous land cases saturating our courts today; I inadvertently thought it might be an interesting debate, which has the potential of bringing positive minded people to contribute towards finding solution to the serious nightmare we all face in land acquisitions especially, our brothers in the Diaspora.

Many a times, people buy building plots in Accra and Kumasi that have been sold to sometimes ten other people: though Accra has attained notoriety for this practice, nevertheless, the practice is well embedded even in the minor towns, it seems, to me that chiefs, in particular find that as a way of getting money from Ghanaians living abroad. They contrive that, after all, the diasporan has only a month or so to stay in Ghana when he/she comes home for vacation, and as such, has no time to litigate in our courts considering how long cases take to go through our legal system.

As a practical way to solve this problem, I have this suggestion to make, and do hope people will come out with more ideas to encourage our politicians to act on this serious issue, that is causing a lot of harm to people including loss of lives.

I am thinking of a situation where the government, would license private agencies in the various communities to be the sole authority required to sell plots to the public, whether new allocations or resale of existing plots. I am proposing something in the likeness of stock brokerage firms or agencies.

Now, how do I intend this to function? In a situation where a chief has land to sell to the public, he employs his surveyors to do the demarcations, which as usual must be approved by the town and country planning department, whatever plots he comes out with, after all public spaces have been accounted for, he takes the plan and the number of plots he intend to sell to any agency of his choice, and tell them the price he is asking per plot, the agency then publishes the area plan in a land gazette and ask for interested people to inspect the site and take a buying decision at the chief?s price plus the agents commission and government tax. The agency would then enter into a contract with the prospective buyer, to whom it issues an indenture after payment. Then, the agency pays to the chief, his asking price, which had been so collected from the buyer. The buyer then takes the indenture to lands title registry which will recognize and accept only indentures from a dully registered agency, with the appropriate seal and then register the plot in the buyer?s name. In similar manner, resale of existing plots can only be done by the agencies on behalf of the existing owner for a commission, after it had also been dully published in the gazette and its authenticity verified from the land title registry.

What are the intended merits of this suggestion? Well, I believe this will reduce the incidence of the sale of plots to multiple owners. It will also enable the government to have a good oversight over the sale of plots which is now getting out of hands. That aside it will create jobs for the agency staff and contribute revenue to the government in the form of taxation. Above all, it will prevent the chiefs from dealing directly with the public; thereby salvaging the eroding confidence the people have in them.



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