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Govt advances processes for de-vesting public lands

A review committee on the return of vested lands has recommended that majority of the lands should be given back to the pre-acquisition owners.

The committee also identified some lands that had special state interests, and called for special dispensation from landowners in the management of such properties. The report of the committee, which was presented to the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, yesterday indicated that chiefs had agreed that the state would pay “a token” for the continuous use of those lands.

Additionally, the report asked for the setting up of a committee that is comprised of the Lands Commission, the landowners and land users to jointly manage a few of the lands whose nature of acquisition and use were quite complex.

Context
In accordance with Section 270 of Act 1036, the Lands Minister set up the De-vesting of Public Lands Committee in June 2021 to make recommendations for the de-vesting of vested lands.

Following the completion of that exercise, the minister inaugurated the De-vesting Lands Review Committee on February 23, 2022, to review the work by the Lands Commission’s committee.

The committee was chaired by the Member of Parliament for Asante Akyem North, Andy Appiah Kubi, with the Managing Partner of Law Plus (Attorneys-at-Law), Dennis Adjei Dwomoh; the Paramount Chief of Kumbungu Traditional Area in the Northern Region, Naa Alhaji Iddrisu Abu; a former Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission, Dr Wordsworth Odame Larbi, and the Technical Director of Lands at the Lands Ministry, Maxwell Adu-Nsafoa, as members.

Assurance
Following the recommendations of the review committee, Mr Jinapor gave a firm assurance that the government would fast-track the process of giving back vested lands to the pre-acquisition owners.

Mr Jinapor said the decision was in line with the provisions of Section 270 of the new Land Act 2020 (Act 1036), which required the government to take steps to de-vest vested lands.

He said the government was committed to dealing with the vexed issue of vested lands “once and for all” by finding a comprehensive and conclusive solution to the issue. He said it was in that regard that he set up the five-member committee to thoroughly review the report of the de-vesting committee for concrete action to be taken.

“I have been reliably informed that this committee has done a thorough job because the members have literally visited all the existing regions of the country, engaged various relevant stakeholders, before coming up with this comprehensive report,” he said.

The minister said he was confident that the report would guide the government in dealing with the issue of vested lands. “I will also have to take a look at it and make recommendations to the President, which will mean that in the not-too-distant future, the long-standing issue of vested lands will be dealt with once and for all,” he stressed.

Recommendations
In an interview with the Daily Graphic after presenting the report to the minister, Mr Kubi explained that in reviewing the work done by the de-vesting committee, the team he led had to go to various sites to engage pre-acquisition owners and speak to some of the chiefs whose lands had been vested in the state.

Touching further on the committee’s recommendations, he said it was heartwarming that some chiefs agreed to give special dispensation for the continuous usage of properties that were still being occupied by strategic state institutions.

“The chiefs were magnanimous in agreeing to an agreement on those properties that requires that the state will have to pay a token for the continuous use of those lands,” he said.

He explained that the committee’s recommendation that a few of the lands which had complex acquisition should remain vested was to ensure that the competing interests were catered for.

“That is why we recommend that they stay vested so that there is a committee appointed by the minister involving the Lands Commission, the landowners and land users, so that we can come together into a management committee to manage the interest in such lands,” he said.

Mr Kubi also said the committee found that there were a few of the lands that suffered multiple claims, for which reason there could not be a conclusive recommendation on them.

“We have asked the minister for leave to be able to go back into such situations and manage the multiple claims to be able to resolve the issue of who is the legitimate owner of that land and then come up with a recommendation thereon,” he said.

graphic

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