‘Access to Information is Mandatory under Ghana’s New Land Act’ States Paga Customary Land Secretariat, Ghana

The Coordinator of the Paga Customary Land Secretariat in Ghana, Madam Belinda Dantera, has specified that the 2020 Land Act of Ghana makes it mandatory to give out information to the public on requested land transactions. She was unaware that access to information applied to land transactions until she attended NELGA’s sensitization workshop on the 2022 Land Act held on February 2nd, 2022. The NELGA workshop organized by Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology with funding from the German Development Cooperation through the Strengthening Advisory Capacities for Land Governance in Africa (SLGA) programme brought together traditional authorities, coordinators and representatives of selected Customary Land Secretariats on a sensitization workshop on Ghana’s New Land Act (Act 1036) of 2020.

At the workshop, Prof. John Bugri, NELGA’s Project Coordinator for anglophone West Africa, called for a land governance system whereby everybody in the land governance space operates in a transparent and accountable manner to the benefit of the people they serve. This was mainly in reference to Article 267 of the 1992 Constitution and in consideration of the new law, which adds a new criminal dynamic for defaulters to its provisions. Prof.  Bugri urged coordinators of Customary Land Secretariats to keep quarterly records of land transactions in their jurisdictions and make these records accessible to their subjects to ensure accountability and transparency in land governance.

Speaking at the workshop, Dr. Elias Kuusaana of Simon Diedong Dombo University of Business and Integrated Development Studies emphasized that the 1992 constitution prescribes the framework for compulsory acquisition in Ghana. Still, the National land policy of 1999 requires that compulsory land acquisition is conducted with utmost circumspection. Amidst the persisting challenges, the Land Act 2020 (Act 1036) has come to deal with mandatory acquisition and compensation problems.

The workshop created the much-needed awareness and education on the new land governance regime in the country and improved upon implementing the new land legislation. The participants were encouraged to step down the knowledge gained from the training to their colleagues. This will ensure improved land governance in the country that stands the chance of minimizing land disputes and litigations. Participants were drawn from the Northern, Northeast, Savannah, Upper East and Upper West Regions of Ghana.

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A major factor in achieving socio-economic development is a substantial land governance system that can deliver secured land rights to all segments of society. Unfortunately, having secured land rights is not the experience for many land rights holders in developing countries. In Ghana, many land rights holders and land users experience challenges accessing land. In cases where access is secured, protecting rights to the land remains a challenge. Ghana operates a dual land tenure system. There are the state system and the customary system. The state system administers about 20% of the total land in Ghana, while the customary system, managed by several traditional leaders, administers the remaining 80%. This land tenure arrangement is spelt out in different land legislation, indicating that land users in Ghana could acquire land from either the state or traditional leaders. While traditional leaders have their mandate in land administration defined both in law and custom, their role is limited to granting various rights and interests in the land they oversee. Traditional Leaders do not have the mandate to determine and approve land uses, nor do they manage the registration of rights and interest in land. Those functions are reserved for state agencies to perform. This means that one can negotiate and conclude an agreement for a parcel of land with a traditional leader. However, the state can only grant approval for the type of use and registration of the land. The interlinkages between the functions of the state and those of traditional leaders make it necessary to coordinate land administration services between the two systems. Such coordination would build a stronger land tenure system that delivers secured land rights. Unfortunately, there is limited coordination between the state and the customary land tenure system, resulting in many challenges and threats to land tenure security. The passing of the new Land Act, 2020, ACT 1036, is considered by many, as an opportunity to address the challenges in the land sector in Ghana. This is because the new legislation is believed to contain provisions that address many of the contemporary issues in the land sector and; attempt to establish the needed coordination between the state and the customary systems in promoting sound land governance practices. The passing of the new legislation is indeed a significant milestone in Ghana’s history of land governance. However, having good legislation alone is not enough.