Introduction of Land Policies in Ghana had had its root from the colonial era. During the colonial regime, a number of mechanisms were adopted to rule the local people of Gold Coast. One of such is the indirect rule system which was introduced by Lord Lugard in Northern Nigeria. The indirect rule system was adopted to manage all the affairs of the colonies except that of the land. Meaning management of land was not under the indirect rule system, rather, it was managed by the British Officials.
In the light of the above, legislation like the Crown Lands Bill of 1894 and the Lands Bill of 1897 were enacted by the colonial masters for effective management of land in the various colonies. These legal interventions made an attempt to render all vacant lands to the Crown as ‘Crown Lands’. The enactments sought to grant the Crown a full control over all virgin lands in Gold Coast though the people contested the provisions of the enactments on the grounds that, such vacant lands are part of the customary lands vested in the traditional chiefs and so, confiscation of the lands are of no legal effect. The colonial masters could not claim the land totally from the then Gold Coasters, rather they controlled the use of the land as well as supervision of land transactions (grant of concessions). The British then resorted to Compulsory acquisition with payment of full compensation as the means of land acquisition for the state.
Compulsory Acquisition is the power of a state over all properties within the state, specifically its power to appropriate private properties for the use of the general public. The objective has been in pursuit of the socio-economic development for the public good. The policy has been extensively used in the country since the period of colonization.
Land in Ghana is held among the customary sector (native people) and the state never had land. The state acquired land after legislation were enacted to empower it to compulsorily acquire lands from the stools and their subjects. Even though the state requires land for its socio-economic activities, the mechanism of eminent domain has limited the extent to which people enjoy their liberties.
The policy of compulsory acquisition of land by the government of Ghana has some legal backings from the 1992 constitution of Ghana. The Article 20(1) of the above constitutional provision states that “no property of many, no property of any description, or interest in or right over any property shall be compulsorily taken possession of or acquired by the State unless the taking of possession or acquisition is necessary in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town and country planning or the development or utilization of property in such a manner as to promote the public benefit”. This compulsory acquisition is made under a law which makes provision for the prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation.
Compulsory acquisition is intended to provide the needed land at the right location for infrastructural development but in the process of the acquisition, several individual and corporate properties are demolished to pave the way. Below are some of the limitations posed by eminent domain on the rights and liberties of people;
First is the encroachment of the property rights of the people. The 1992 Constitution guarantees the right for individual ownership of land (Article 18) but compulsory acquisition of land by the state infringes upon the such rights. This is indisputable, since it has the effect of extinguishing all the existing interests held with regards to the expropriated land.
It has also resulted in shortage of land for various land uses including agricultural, commercial land residential. There are so many tracts of land which had been acquired by the state compulsorily but have not been fully utilized. Greater portions of the lands at the GA traditional area (Ghana) had been acquired by the state thereby limiting the proportion of land available to the people.
Again, failure on the part of the government to pay fair and adequate compensations to the expropriated owners. According to Kassim Kasanga (2001), as of 2001, an outstanding compensation for those expropriated of their land was over 100 billion old Ghana cedis. In cases where the compensations were paid, the monies were wrongly paid to the traditional rulers instead of the people whose properties or land were acquired. The processes and the documents needed to be able to access the compensation due you are a hurdle on their own.
The National Land Policy which has given room for compulsory acquisition has caused limitations on the liberty of the people in terms of possession of land (property rights). More efforts are made being made to reduce poverty and enhance economic and social growth by improving on the land security system as well as the protection of the rights of the people.
Sylvester Bonyah, Ghana
He is a participant in the February edition of the YAFO Ambassador Course. This is 1st of the best three articles for week 3 assignment on identifying public policy that hinders economic freedom.