Ending land litigation: Surveyor advocates national land database

BY: Charles Benoni Okine
Mr Samuel Darko
Mr Samuel Darko

A seasoned surveyor, Mr Samuel Darko, has advocated the immediate development of a national land database in which all site plans of lands under litigation will be inputed.

The digital database, he intimated, should also contain all previous judgment plans to serve as a comprehensive reference centre for all site plans that went to court. 

The licensed surveyor and former Honorary Treasurer of the Ghana Institution of Surveyors, made the call in an interview with the Daily Graphic on how to avoid duplication of land cases with different judgments in court.

The call comes on the back of the charge the President has given the Lands Commission Board to introduce reforms to stop litigation over land and the use of public lands for private purposes.

Mr Darko said to help the process, surveyors could be attached to each court, and “their duty will be to ensure that all plans are checked before a fresh judgment is given”.

Himself a victim of the situation where one had a land title per a Supreme Court judgment but had a High Court authorising one’s certificate to be cancelled without one’s knowledge (ex-party), Mr Darko said there were some instances when judgements given by the Supreme Court on land cases had been given different rulings by lower courts, resulting in renewed litigation, sometimes life-threatening fights between two or more claimants to the same piece of land.

Power of Attorney

On the issue of the power of attorney for large tracts of land in Accra on behalf of families within the Greater Accra Region, he described the development as unfortunate, saying: “Even with valid judgments, another group will emerge with a lower court judgment, instead of a higher court judgment, to claim ownership.”

“You can have your litigation travel as far as the Supreme Court, and when you are handed a judgment that should end the matter, your opponent goes back to restart the whole process at a lower court, and end up with a judgment in his favour,” he said.

He alleged that there were other instances when the same case was taken to a different High Court, and because neither case was superior to the other, different judgments would be given, saying that was a recipe for disaster.

Mr Darko said in order to ensure that the other party did not have control, landowners were compelled to hire the services of land guards, and depending on the contacts either party had, it was able to commandeer the services of the police or even the military to protect the land, resulting in deadly clashes that resulted in loss of lives, many of which were not reported.

Appeal to Chief Justice

Subsequently, he appealed to the Chief Justice to cause an investigation into the matter to bring the practice to a halt and for the people to respect the authority of the higher courts.

“If people cannot have confidence in the judicial system, they will take the law into their own hands, and that is what we see playing out so dangerously, claiming innocent lives and discouraging investors,” he said.

Mr Darko further appealed to the Chief Justice to give a directive that would compel every land litigant to go to court with an authentic site plan signed and sealed by a certified surveyor, after which every judgment must be plotted into the database for easy reference by any court of the land.