An expert in Land law, Kwame Gyan, has blamed the increasing cases of fraud in land acquisition on the practice where Ghanaians throw money at people selling land, the way they would pay for tomatoes in the market.
He says land purchasers should rather pay for land on installment basis and complete the purchase only upon receipt of title to the land.
The issue of land ownership has become a subject of discussion following a series of demolition exercises carried out by local councils in parts of the capital, which have rendered hundreds of residents homeless. Residents of Adjei Kojo near Tema in the Greater Accra region are at logger-heads with the Tema Development Corporation following the demolition of hundreds of houses there a couple of weeks ago.
A similar exercise is being planned in Adjin-Kotoku in the Ga West Municipality also in Accra, where hundreds of residentshave been asked to vacate their homes because their buildings have been earmarked for demolition to make way for the construction of an ultra modern market.
Some residents produced documents to support their claims that they owned the lands on which they put up their homes but many of the documents have proven to be of dubious validity because the people who sold the land to them did not have title to the land in the first place.
Speaking on the Super Morning Show on Joy FM, Wednesday, Mr. Gyan who is also a law lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana, advised that: “For land transactions, don’t pay outright… You pay for land as your documentation progresses in the system.
“…Ghanaians acquire lands as if they are buying tomatoes from Agbogbloshie [market]…they are taken to the bush, shown the land” and the prospective buyers pay the cash amount to the supposed owners in the bush.
“If there is trouble can you find the people in the bush?” he asked.
Land acquisition procedures
Mr. Gyan admonished persons interested in acquiring land to first to “determine the character of the land” and ensure that the site plan has the signature and stamp of regional surveyor of the region that authenticated the plan.
“The land could be stool land, family land, private individual land or state land,” he noted.
State land is categorised into “public land” and “vested land”. Public lands are lands that are compulsorily taken over by the state for public purpose whereas vested lands are those that the state takes control of, for political purposes or in cases where there are disputes over the lands.
He said determining the character of the land helps the purchaser to identity which state agency or stool or family to pay money to in respect of the land.
The purchaser, he said, must then take a site plan which “must be veirified by your own surveyor.”
“After that verification go to the Lands Commission and run an official search, it wil give you preliminary information about what transactions have been recorded at the Lands Commission affecting that area,” the senior partner at Kwame Gyan & Associates said, adding that the search will also determine the status of the land as well as the true owners.
Mr. Kwame Gyan said with the search results, the prospective purchaser can make part-payment and then take steps to register the land and obtain title.
“Title is complex to get because, title has state guarantee; the title is issued on the authority of the republic of Ghana…so before the state issues you with that guarantee they must do a thorough investigation”.
Land buyers must therefore have the patience and discipline to go through the process and they must seek professional help, he counseled.
The Regional Officer at the Lands Commission, Timothy Anyidoho said Ghanaians must avoid paying monies to officers at the Commission on the purpose of cutting corners to get their documents processed, as that can cost them later.
Admitting that some recalcitrant officers employ dubious means to demand money from people before getting their documents processed, Mr. Anyidoho said those who give out such monies do so at their own risk.
“Like all other institutions that provide a service or are regulators, we cannot say we are 100% right; there are issues where people fleece people…When you meet somebody who claims he is an officer of a commission and he is telling you to give him money without receipt, you are encouraging the person to take that money”.
“What are you paying for?”
Charlatans as Chiefs
Principal Elder of Osu Ashinte Dzaase in Accra, Nii Samoa Okropon who also contributed to the discussion in the studio, cautioned that prospective land purchasers must do thorough investigations about persons from whom they are buying land to establish whether the person has a registered interest in the land.
“It is not all people who are installed chiefs are chiefs; anybody at all can call himself a chief. A chief must be recognised by the Regional House of Chiefs, National House of Chies and should be gazetted,” Nii Okropon stressed.
“The major problem is respect to laid-down regulations, law and order…It seems Ghanaians do not respect monies in their hands because to part away with money you must be sure of what actually you [are] doing; hence the statement ‘Look before you leap’. Anything short of that you are throwing money to people who do not deserve it…people must give value to their money before they part away it”.
Protecting the citizenry
Vice President of IMANI-Ghana, Kofi Bentil blamed government for not doing enough to protect the citizens from exploitation by fraudsters.
According to Mr. Bentil, the government has the responsibility to make the system of land acquisition less cumbersome.
“Population is expanding, …whatever you do people would want to settle somewhere; it requires that the system addresses this kind of matter because if you don’t…you will get internal war and that is what we are getting with land guards,” Mr. Bentil noted.
State not to blame
Head of Policy Monitoring and Evaluation at the Presidency, Dr. Tony Aidoo blamed property owners for not seeking professional advice prior to acquiring the land.
“What we need to do for sanity to prevail is that every individual must realise that you need professional advice and guidance,” Dr. Aidoo stated.
“This is not a matter for the state, it is not the state that is actually controlling the transaction. The state regulates the field for the transaction to have meaning, but you [individuals] are vitiating the process of regulation by the state”.
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