A Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Sir Dennis Dominic Adjei, has said the new Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036), offers the country the best opportunity to deal with the myriad of challenges affecting land acquisition and administration.
The Act, he explained, had now made it possible for chiefs and land owners to be criminally liable for up to 10 years’ imprisonment for actions which negatively affected land acquisition such as indiscriminate deposition of land and multiple sale of land.
Also, Justice Adjei said the Act criminalised land guard practices, therefore, land guards and people who engaged their services could face up to 15 years’ imprisonment.
It also stipulates that public officers such as those at the Lands Commission who falsify documents or commit any fraudulent act in the registration of lands could face up to five years’ imprisonment.
Justice Sir Adjei said this when he delivered the 2021 inaugural lecture of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) in Accra last Thursday.
The lecture was on the topic: Changing trends in law, policy, governance and management under the Land Act 2020 (Act 1036).”
It was attended by the Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah, Justices of the Superior Courts, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa; lawyers and law students.
Others were the National Chairman of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Samuel Ofosu Ampofo; the Parish Priest of the Christ the King Catholic Church, Rev. Fr Andrew Campbell, and some opinion leaders.
Justice Adjei delved into the history of land laws, with emphasis on customary laws, the laws from the UK which were adopted during the colonial period, and the various statutes on land since independence until finally the enactment of Act 1036.
He said before the enactment of the new Act, there were 16 laws on land, but that Act 1036 had since repealed 13 of them and codified some.
“Act 1036 has made several changes in the existing law including some of the freehold interest, customary tenancies, protection of land and interest in land; accountability for fiduciaries and making them both criminally and civilly liable.
“It has also prohibited discriminatory practices under customary tenure, areas reserved for common use, the meaning and scope of a person who is not a citizen in relation to acquisition of land, and restrictions on property acquired by parties during marriage,” Justice Adjei added.
He further said the Act had placed more responsibilities on chiefs and heads of family who held land in trust for their stools or families.
For instance, Justice Adjei said the law made it obligatory for chiefs to manage lands under their trust in a fair and transparent manner, and also account for their stewardship
A Chief, Tendana, head of clan or family in charge of the management of stool, clan or family land who fails to be transparent, fair, open and impartial in matters affecting land under their management commits and shall be liable to a fine of not less than GH¢60,000 and not more than GH¢120, 000 or to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than 10 years,” he added.
Also, per the new law, chiefs must register their lands before selling them. Failure to do so will attract the same penalties as above.
“A strict compliance of Act 1036 prevents indiscriminate disposition of land. Per the Act, any disposition must be in accordance with the approved layout for the area to promote effective land management, policy and administration. Litigations arising from the multiplicity of land shall also be reduced,” Justice Adjei said
The Vice-President of GAAS, Prof. Kofi Opoku Nti, said the Act could only achieve its purpose of sanitising and streamlining land acquisition and administration if it was backed with rigorous enforcement.
“We must bring it to life and make it implementable. It is different saying what is in the law and for it to actually happen,” he added.