President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has warned public institutions to desist from dealing in, granting or allocating public lands without express approval from him through the Lands and Natural Resources minister.
He emphasized, that per the dictates of the Constitution, all public lands were vested only in the President and managed by the Lands Commission, thus any situation that ran contrary to that legal provision would not be entertained.
"It is important to note that no public land is vested in any government institution, as same will be contrary to the dictates of the Constitution, he underscored when he inaugurated the 32-member National Lands Commission at the Jubilee House, Accra.
"Public lands allocated to government institutions, therefore, remain public lands, vested in the President and managed by the Commission... Indeed, the new Land Act prohibits the grant of any interest in public land, other than use rights, to any public institution.
"No public institution should thus deal in, grant or allocate any land, without the express approval of the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, acting on my instructions. The days when public lands are literally dissipated without regard for the public interest are over," he stated.
Chaired by Alex Quaynor, the Commission members include James Ebenezer Kobina Dadson, Secretary; Benito Owusu Bio, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources; Kwadwo Yeboah, Land use and Spatial Planning Authority; Henry Kwabena Kokofu, Environmental Protection Agency; Rev. Kwadwo Nkrumah, Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fishermen; Anthony Forson Jnr, Ghana Bar Association; Jonathan Allotey Abbosey, Ghana Institution of Surveyors; and Nana Osei Bonsu II, National House of Chiefs.
The others are Mrs Ama Kudom Agyeman, Bono East Region, Dr Proper Basommi Laari, North East Region; Alhaji Mohammed Abdul-Haq, Upper West Region; Yvonne Odoley Sowah, Greater Accra region; Kofi Dankwa Osei, Easter Region; Mama Dzodoasi I, Volta Region; Nana Obonbo Sewura Lupuwura, Oti Region; Kwame Kwasi Danso, Central Region; Dr Osaac Obirim Kofi Sagoe, Western Region; Samuel Kofi Abiaw, Western North Region; Nana Nsuase Poku Agyeman III, Ashanti Region; Nivilas Leni Anane-Agyei, Ahafo Region; Isaac Kwadwo Amankwa, Bono Region; Dubik Yakubu Mahama, Northern Region; Dr Alhaji Adam Sulemana, Achanso, Savannah Region; and Jonathan Anaboro Angme, Upper East Region.
The rest, who are all directors at the Lands Commission, are Benjamin Arthur, Jones Ofori-Boadu, Yaa Agyeman Boadi, Abdulai Abubakari, Michael Nti Appiah, Eunice Opoku, and Akua Afriyie Asubonteng.
Reiterating the importance of land to socio-economic development, President Akufo-Addo noted that all human activities revolved around land, and thus, access to land, was the most important factor in the development of every nation.
He told the members of the Commission that their duty to manage public lands was a very onerous one, and "as managers of these lands on behalf of the State, you must ensure judicious use of such lands for the good people of Ghana."
President Akufo-Addo was not happy that despite the various interventions by successive governments, most of the challenges in land administration in Ghana persisted, including the fraudulent sale of lands, poor record-keeping of the Commission, encroachment on public lands, and fraudulent registration of land.
He wondered why a parcel of land could be registered in the name of different people when the same Lands Commission was responsible for registration.
"Why should documents submitted to the Lands Commission, or files, mysteriously get missing when the Lands Commission ought to be the chief custodian of such important documents? Why should it take years to register just one plot of land?
"Our quest to transform our national economy, to bring about the much-needed development and prosperity, cannot be achieved without an effective land administration. We will lose all our investors, if they spend good money to acquire land as a major tool for production, only to realise that what they acquired is litigation that spans years and decades.
"We cannot continue with business as usual. We must pursue institutional reforms necessary to anchor efficient land administration. These must include reforms in personnel, processes and the working culture of the Commission," he told the Commission.
The President was pleased that the Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036), which was passed last year, had far-reaching provisions that if implemented, would help Ghana achieve an effective land administration regime.
He told the Commission that it was her duty to ensure that the general public understood the Land Act, and conformed to it.
Key among the provisions of the Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036) is the establishment of Customary Land Secretariats to see to the management of stool, skin, family and clan lands, restrictions on large scale disposal of family and clans lands without the concurrence of the Regional Lands Commission, the power of the Commission to survey and demarcate land, the provision for electronic conveyancing, the detailed provisions for the compulsory acquisition of land including the payment of compensation, the management and use of public lands, and the provisions for devesting of vested lands.
President Akufo-Addo urged the Commission to pursue aggressively the digitization of the records of the Lands Commission, as that would enable the country to build efficient land administration.
"Most of the reforms needed to build efficient land administration will be within our reach if we are able to move away from manual registration to digital registration... You must therefore work assiduously to ensure that this digitisation programme works.
"Our target is to ensure that title registration takes a maximum of one month, and I dare say, the Ghanaian people will assess the success of your tenure based on how far we achieve this objective," he stressed.
The President told the Commission that the entire nation was expectant that it would reform the Lands Commission to render efficient services to the public to accelerate national economic development, and find a lasting solution to land administration in the country.
"The good people of Ghana have great expectations of you, and you cannot disappoint. I am confident, that with the variety of expertise that makes up this Commission, and under the leadership of your experienced and disciplined Chairman, you will work to ensure that we build a land administration that we can all be proud of.
"The task ahead is daunting. But with focus, good policies, and determination, you can deliver on your mandate," he said.
Mr Alex Quaynor, Chairman of the Commission, thanked the President for their appointment and the confidence reposed in them.
He gave the assurance that the Commission would take the required steps to reform the operations of the Lands Commission to aid the speedy socio-economic development of Ghana.