Increasingly, Ghana continues to battle with encroachment of state lands. This menace has been with us for so long and government appears to be doing very little not fight this. In some areas, government has become helpless since the scale of such encroachments is massive.
In fact, some encroached government lands that become so developed that government through its agencies have provided them amenities such as tarred roads, electricity and water. However, these encroachers do not have legitimate title nor proper documentation to their claimed ownership. The resultant effect is while government losses revenue which could have been generated from the alienation of such lands, government is also constrained in putting the lands to which they acquired them. Government is at the same time burdened with the responsibility of providing social amenities and protection for the inhabitants of encroached lands.
The question on the minds of many is, how did we get here?
As much as the answers to this May be varied depending on who you ask, I would like to highlight a few here.
First of all, State lands are those lands vested in the president of the Republic of Ghana for and on behalf of the citizens. They are usually acquired through compulsory acquisitions, gifts or direct purchase. These lands are by law managed by the Lands Commission, on behalf of the President. The Lands Commission is therefore the institution with the ultimate responsibility to protect and manage state lands for the citizens of the country. The Public and Vested Lands Management Division of the Commission is actually the division with this responsibility.
How then do we have people encroaching government lands? Well, some traditional authorities have argued that some of the lands acquired by government were not utilized for the intended purposes and since development has caught up with those areas, they can forcibly re-enter and alienate. Some have also attributed to non-payment of compensation by government after the acquisition, thus making them have a legitimate claim for the land.
As much as these reasons may appear a good bases for lands to be taken by traditional authorities, it does not ensure anybody the right to encroach until the appropriate procedures for the release of the lands have been followed. Commencement of the process of release does not also give right to anybody to encroach. State lands are always state lands until otherwise proven not to be by either a court or by the release of same by the state.
It is therefore important for prospective land buyers to desist from purchasing state lands from anybody either than the lands Commission, their assigns or Lessees.
The Lands Commission on the other-hand must take steps to protect government lands and prevent further encroachments.
For lands already encroached where the area has been developed with government services and amenities provided, I recommend that a comprehensive approach be instituted to regularize the title a of all those encroachers. It is obvious that government cannot pull down all structures of encroachers some of the extremely developed encroached lands.
We can therefore take in funds by coming up with a regularization program to rake in funds in the form of payment for the land and ground rents which could be used for development projects.
This would also help the country collect data for all its Lessees as well. The situation as it is like having funds locked up in perpetuity. Regularized titles will further contribute to the ability to turn properties into cash by way of sales and mortgaging.
It is further recommended for the Lands Commission to intensify their supervision of state lands and act immediately an encroachment is spotted rather than waiting for the encroachments to advance beyond control.
The public must also beware of purchasing state lands since you could lose your properties no matter it’s state if not acquired legitimately.
Land is a resource and therefore be treated with utmost care and attention. Let’s stop encroachment of state lands now!!!