Benedict Doh (seated 2nd from left), Head of Finance, Ghana Integrity Initiative, with Inusah Fuseini (seated right), a former Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, and other dignitaries and participants. Picture: ERNEST KODZI
Benedict Doh (seated 2nd from left), Head of Finance, Ghana Integrity Initiative, with Inusah Fuseini (seated right), a former Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, and other dignitaries and participants. Picture: ERNEST KODZI
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Stakeholders demand public scrutiny of state lands policy

Stakeholders in the land sector say the draft policy on allocation of state lands currently before the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources must be made public for scrutiny before its approval.

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They said that was needed to enhance transparency in the development of robust guidelines for the allocation and utilisation of public lands. At a national dialogue on allocation of public lands in Accra yesterday, the participants stressed that given that public lands were meant to serve public development needs, any framework that would guide their allocation must have inputs from the relevant stakeholders, including civil society organisations (CSOs), traditional rulers and vulnerable groups.

The stakeholders stressed that in the interest of inclusivity, accountability, transparency, fairness and equity, the policy — developed by the Lands Commission — must be opened for lapses to be addressed to ensure an efficient public land allocation regime.

The dialogue was organised by the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), and formed part of processes to develop a robust policy guideline for the allocation and utilisation of public lands in the country.

The session brought together both state and non-state institutions and stakeholders in the land sector, CSOs, traditional rulers and farmers.

Context

Ghana has a total land area of 238,593 kilometres square (km²). About 80 per cent of this is owned by private individuals, while the remaining 20 per cent is public land.  The 47,718km² public land consists of 18 per cent state land and two per cent vested land.

In the management of these public lands, pertinent issues such as conflicts, security, equity and encroachment often arise.

A lecturer in Real Estate Management and Finance at the University for Professional Studies, Accra, Dr Stanislaus Adiaba, stressed that accountability and transparency in the process of allocating public land was important, and must be in line with the national development agenda.

Dr Adiaba, who is the consultant for the development of guidelines for public land allocation, said in the interest of inclusivity and efficiency in allocating public lands, every process must be transparent and devoid of any secrecy.

"We need a broader dialogue on the draft guideline so that where there are gaps, it can be looked at comprehensively to incorporate other novel ideas. Knowledge does not reside in the minds of only technocrats. There are other people with varied knowledge in terms of being practical. If it comes from only the supplier or user perspective, the beneficiaries will punch loopholes," he said.

He added that an ideal guideline for public land allocation should be tied to the national development agenda, and flow with the directive principle of state policy. "It must be guided by the principles of efficiency, transparency, accountability and equity," he said.

In terms of efficiency and accessibility, he said, whatever portion of public land was available must be known by the public. He said the Lands Commission should, for instance, clearly advertise on its website that a specific quantity of public land was available so that interested Ghanaians could apply for relevant parcels.

Assurance

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, said the government was committed to ensuring a robust system for allocation of public lands. In a speech read on his behalf by the Technical Director of Lands at the Lands Ministry, Maxwell Adu-Nsafoa, the minister said it was in that regard that the Lands Commission had been directed to resolve all challenges associated with public lands.

He said a directive had also been issued that all applications for state land allocations should have clearance from the Lands Minister. Mr Jinapor added that as a measure to address the numerous encroachment cases on public lands, particularly those resulting from the state's failure to provide adequate protection, a public lands protection team comprising major stakeholders had been established to safeguard public and vested lands.

Collaboration 

The Head of Finance of GII, Benedict Doh, said a clear guideline for public land allocation would help to address issue of corruption and marginalisation of vulnerable groups. “The misallocation of public lands, often harming marginalised communities, has exacerbated social inequalities and eroded public trust in state institutions,” he said.

He emphasised that the GII was committed to facilitating a structured policy dialogue to address the challenges with allocation of public lands to foster inclusivity and collaboration among stakeholders.

He urged stakeholders to get involved in putting together a framework that would guarantee transparency and equity in the allocation of public lands. 

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