The three-day interaction on land reforms ended on a platform of mixed feelings; despair, hope, anxiety, doubts and perhaps, most importantly, a spice of optimism for the parliamentarians. But one for fact had emerged clearly, and that was the time had come for Ghana to place land and its prudent management at the very centre of its human, economic, cultural, and political planning at all levels of endeavour.
The reality was clarified by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Hon. Nii Osah Mills, in his opening remarks when he said Ghana, with an economy which relies primarily on agriculture, forestry and mining for about 70 per cent of its Growth Domestic Products (GDP), all of which are dependent on land, had no other choice but to ensure the sustainable management, utilization and protection of the country’s land resource.
The three-day event, organized by the National Project Co-ordinating Unit of the Second Ghana Land Administration Project (LAP-2) under the auspices of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, provided the platform for members of the parliamentary select committee on Land and Forestry to meet with the land sector agencies and, in particular, implementers of LAP-2, to share thoughts, deliberate on the status of the reforms and the challenges facing the land sector in the country.
From the Minister to the presentations from the various directors and heads of land sector agencies including the Lands Commission, Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands, Town and Country Planning Department and LAP-2, it was forcefully brought to the fore that the plethora of challenges facing the land sector in the country was daunting.
It revolves around weak policy and regulatory framework with about 166 fragmented and pieces of legislation (including subsidiary legislation), poor institutional capacity, indeterminate customary land boundaries and complex hierarchies of interest in land.
The consequences are lived with multiple sales of land, haphazard development, delays in registrations, high cost in land transactions, land racketeering and the menace of ‘Land Guardism’
The Minister of Land and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills and the Chief Director, Professor Bruce Banoeng-Yakubo, under whose eagle-eye watch the reforms of the sector are being rolled up, however, remain optimistic and hopeful that the situation will see some marked improvement in the not too distant future. The heads of the sector agencies including Dr. Wilfred Anim Odame of the Lands Commission; Mrs Christina Esi Bobobee, Stool Lands, and Mr Kofi Dankwa Osei of the Town and Country Planning Department equally share in the optimism of the ministry authorities that, there is hope at the end of the tunnel for efficient, transparent and decentralized land administration system, as espoused under the Second Land Administration Project.
The confidence of the ministry and its agencies stem from the laudable development objectives of the Second Ghana Land Administration Project which has less than 12 calendar months to wind up but with far reaching and advanced activities designed to bring about the desired transformation in the sector. These include passage of a new Lands Bill, the Land Use Bill; the development framework for Ghana, the introduction of the Ghana Enterprise Land Information System, the establishment of more Customary Land Secretariats for the communities, the establishment of a Geodetic Reference Network and the clearing of all backlog of land registration documents at the Land Commission, as well as the clearing of land cases in the courts and the automation of land documentation among others.
The project is the government’s responses to the 1999 Land policy which provided the broad framework under which the Land Administration Project was initiated in 2003, with the main objective of stimulating economic growth, improving rural and urban livelihood, providing social stability and reducing poverty by developing a land system that is fair, efficient, cost effective and predicted on a sound land market.
The current phase, LAP-2, was launched in August 2011 and is expected to end March 2016. The World Bank and the Department of Foreign Affair Trade and Development (DFAT-D) of Canada are providing funding for the project which is under the auspices of the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources.
Just as the approximately 30 parliamentarians were retiring with their apprehension and skepticism about the land sector, they received the breaking news from the Executive Director of the Lands Commission, Dr. Wilfred Anim Odame about the operationalization of the Client Service and Access Unit (CSAU), novelty one-stop shop where applicants for land registration and transactions will deposit their documents, pay the necessary statutory fees and will be given dates to collect their deeds or titles as the case may be.
The one-stop shop will remove the multiplicity of human interface and involvement, ensure timeliness and large extent, reduce traces of corruption along the chain of land documents processing. Pilots CSAU offices, according to Dr. Odame, are already in Bolgatanga, Koforidua, Sekondi and Accra and will commence operations by May this year. To this, parliamentarians said Amen, but with some level of hesitation and reserval but pledged their determination and commitment to the reforms in the sector, especially in the passage of the various bills when they get to the House.