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Opinions of Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Columnist: Edusei, Eric K.

Resolving Land Acquisition Problems

Ghana, our motherland, is a unique nation characterized with strange and peculiar circumstances which undermines the foundation of our development. At a time when the real estate industry is on the decline worldwide, the trend in Ghana unfortunately is a sharp contrast of reality with its attendant astronomical prices. As a result, nothing conforms to reasoning in our real estate market which invariably explains the madness associated with land acquisition in Ghana. As to be expected, the industry is fraught with dishonest people and tricksters who seem to know how to handle the law enforcement agencies as they swindle innocent citizens in their pursuit to buy land. Notable players in the industry are our Chiefs, land owners and troublesome land guards.

Currently, it is almost impossible to acquire a problem –free land devoid of any encumbrances in any of our metropolitan areas i.e. Kumasi, Accra. Consequently, almost everybody on the street is prone to land fraud which translates into unending legal cases, waste of economic resources and time. How can we as a nation develop under these debilitating circumstances when we allow such menace to germinate, grow and destroy us, as a people? How do we grow when we lack policy to deal with major issues that subvert our growth including robbery with violence? How many parliamentarians have been robbed or entangled in a land acquisition battle? My guess is as good as any person of sober conscience. It is regretful to state that the energies and priorities of our parliamentarians are misdirected and miscalculated. These dangerous problems that confront our nation are getting out of hand and the earlier our law makers (Parliament) evolved measures to deal with them, the better to ensuring orderliness and growth. Our parliamentarians have to be up and running on the issue of land acquisition in Ghana before we all get consumed by the inadequacies in the law enforcement system.

Currently, many people including myself have been duped whilst attempting to owe a piece of land in Accra. There is none trustworthy on our streets when it comes to acquiring land in Ghana since we do not have any streamlined arrangement or policy on the issue. Anybody can sell a land with fake documents or otherwise; some Chiefs are able to sell a piece of land to more than two groups of people. The modus operandi in land acquisition is fraught with inconsistencies especially in areas like Accra where land arrangements are indicative of jungle warfare. People are losing the fight against these fraudulent land owners and tricksters who parade on our streets with impunity and disrespect for our laws. Land Guards and macho men are having a free day terrorizing innocent citizens who have invested so much in their properties without any genuine help from any Police. The fundamental rule ‘covert emptor ‘ ( buyer beware ) permeates through the life blood of our lives today as caution has to be our friend in order to survive because the government has no functional land bill to protect us. Presently, there are many fraudulent cases pending at our courts and other law enforcement agencies because we do not have a functional prescribed formula to deal with this menace in our complex socio- economic system.

The Police Stations and the court system are a living hell. You have to have time, resources and connections to be able to deal with some of these institutions. A resolution on a land case can easily take you 10(ten) years or more in our law courts which is very apprehensive and dreadful. Consequently, a lot of people grow old at the court while others lose their lives dealing with cases at the court. Now, the most important issue which requires our utmost consideration is the need to prevent these debilitating factors that hinder our development economically and socially. This land issue requires a political will, zeal and character from our leadership because it will be confronted by the Chieftaincy Institution which very often work hard to maintain the status quo.

It is unfortunate that, most of the fraudulent land cases are orchestrated by some few dishonorable Chiefs, land owners and tricksters who operate fearlessly because of the ineffectiveness of our enforcement institutions. It is no longer news to hear of a Chief having sold a piece of land to 2(two) or more people. Similarly, there are others who sell properties that they have no rights on, to innocent citizens and yet manage to manipulate the legal system when the need arise. Land guards are the law and you either conform to their prescription or you are toast. These categories of people are a menace to our nation and must be weeded out immediately without any recourse to any influence. In an attempt to resolve these alarming land acquisition tribulations in Ghana, I wish to recommend for consideration, the creation of A UNIFORM BILL OF SALE for all related land issues. The bill in character must be structured in such a way that it will protect buyers and make it easier to prosecute all fraudulent cases. The design of the Bill of Sale, if considered, should including following details. (1).it must be administered by the Lands Department. However, to ensure easy access to the forms, other state institutions like G.C.B., A.D.B., SIC, District Councils etc may be tasked to sell them on behalf of Lands Dept. (2) The bill of Sale shall be the official enforceable transaction form for all immovable properties. (3) The Bill of Sale shall be formatted in 5(five) copies:- 1(one) each for the buyer and seller ; the 3rd copy for Lands Dept ,the 4th copy for Internal Revenue Dept and the 5th for Local Assembly Office ie MCEs, DCEs.(4) The Bill of sale shall be signed and thumb printed before a COMMISIONER OF OATH OR ANY LEGAL OFFICER with pictures of the buyer and seller before registration with the Lands Dept.

This proposed Bill of Sale must have a preamble which clearly informs the seller or sellers of the legal ramifications thereon to sell an unauthorized landed property. This detailed caution information will make prosecution easier while it gives the buyer of access to seek redemption in our court of law. I believe that these suggestions will be the beginning to evolving a way to resolve the land acquisition menace in our nation. We may help ourselves better we could institute LAND COURTS especially in the cities to specifically deal with landed properties. The current situation where land related issues take up to 20 (twenty) years to resolve is just unacceptable. In most instances, the parties to the cases die before the end of their cases. What a shame!

The IGP has to plan and organize a ferocious attack on LAND GUARDS who have taken the laws of the nation into their own hands in a way commensurable with the magnitude of the problem. This has to happen in order to safeguard us and the future generation. I know that some of these issues could be attributed to the current unemployment problems in Ghana but this does not give some of our youth the right to be involved in these unacceptable acts. Our nation is not a jungle and must be guarded by laws to protect the innocent.

In Ghana today, cases of land fraud and other immovable properties are getting out of hand. A case in point is a New Jersey couple who in their attempt to buy a property at East Legon and migrate to Ghana lost their fortune of $375,000.00(three hundred and seventy five thousand dollars). This is not a story and there are many countless cases of fraud in the system. Surprisingly, these fraudulent people have good Lawyers and some corrupt Police officers to defend them; visit the court houses and have a feel of the real Ghana, everything is a joke. Recently, the Vice President made a call to Ghanaians abroad to come home and my answer is for what? Ghana is very lawless country and almost everything is out of control. All the institutions are not working because the few upright among the sharks cannot survive nor control the sinking boat. Can we as a people envisage the way the Chinese are destroying our land and lives for gold with impunity? It is a shame and I sincerely believe that as a nation, we are seriously facing a crisis of identity and direction.

Ghana is a tough place to live when it comes to acquiring land especially in the cities and it takes real people a lot of sacrifices to survive. A subserviced residential plot in Accra is more expensive comparatively to a serviced one in the United State of America. This is not only outrageous but ridiculous especially when we know that Ghana is a developing economy; industrial plots in Tema cost over $500.000.00(five hundred thousand dollars) while residential plots cost over 20,000.00 (twenty thousand dollars). Meanwhile, the beneficiaries of these booties do not pay taxes to the state which explains our lack of development at our local no streets, lights, electricity and water. Everything is senseless while innocent people continue to lose their fortunes as they are swindled by fraudulent people who always hide behind the same law enforcement institutions which are supposed to protect us. That notwithstanding, as a people of conscience, we must be mindful of the fact that hope is a good thing, because we can waste time thinking about how to destroy this nation by allowing land guards, deceitful land owners and tricksters to function freely without any recourse to the laws of the land or attempt to evolve ideas to deal with the seemingly crunching problems. The rights of our citizens to a fair deal in all land related cases as well as the need of the state apparatus to ensure good governance are not competing interest but compelling elements to ensure fundamental fairness, peace and prosperity in our nation. God save mother Ghana from the wrath of dangerous and dishonest elements in our society.