Article of the Month -
Customary Lands Administration and Good Governance –
The State and the Traditional Rulers Interface
Chief Kumbun-Naa Yiri II, Ghana
This article in .pdf-format
This paper has been prepared for the 5th FIG Regional Conference – Promoting
Land Administration and Good Governance to be held in Accra, Ghana, March
The object of this paper is to discuss the changing interface between the
Traditional Rulers and Central Government, in pursuit of good governance in
customary land and other forms of administration of Ghana. In the face of
the usurpation of almost all the managerial, administrative and economic
controls of Customary Lands and other powers of Chiefs in Ghana.
In the paper I have relied on National House of Chiefs documents and
views accepted by the House including the report of the Stool / Skin Lands
Committee of which I am the current Chairman.
The Native states, comprising of centralised states (such as Dagbon and
Ashanti) and others, as well as ascephalous societies that make up Ghana
today were viable entities, in land and other forms of administration, which
the (White man) colonizers came to meet. By conquest (Ashanti), or through
pretended friendship treaties (Dagbon) they established control over these
state, from that time to the year of our independence, now popularly called
the “Colonial era”, colonial administration’s legal systems were imposed on
the people, overlaying the customary land tenure and administration systems,
resulting in a situation where local oral land tenure system have co-existed
with National Legislation based on the English Common Law System. These two
systems have governed the way transactions over land have been carried out.
Since independence the constitution of Ghana recognises this legal
pluralism within the Ghanaian legal system. Article 11 (e) of the 1992
Constitution provides that the “laws of Ghana, shall comprise the
constitution; statutes, orders, rules and regulations and the common law”.
The “common law” is defined by the constitution to include received English
law and the Customary law. This firmly establishes the plurality of the
Ghanaian legal system.
2. PARTNERS IN GOVERNNANCE
Article 270 (1) of the 1992 Constitution provides that the “institution
of chieftaincy, together with its traditional councils as established by
customary law and usage, is hereby guaranteed”. The nature, role and rules
governing chieftaincy are therefore determinable by reference to customary
law. Article 267 (1) also provides that “All stool lands in Ghana shall vest
in the appropriate stool on behalf of and in trust for the subjects of the
stool in accordance with customary law and usage”. Deficiency in the
knowledge of customary law, therefore will have serious implications for the
institution of chieftaincy as well as in the management of stool lands
(which constitute a very crucial resource in this country). Presently
customary law is mostly undocumented. It is not surprising therefore, to see
that there are some problems in customary land management in Ghana.
Customary lands, comprising of lands owned by stools, skins, clans and
families and Tendamba etc. constitute about 80% of all lands in Ghana. These
customary lands cover most of the rural lands and some of the urban lands.
Customary lands support the livelihoods of the majority of the population
and therefore the sustainable management of such lands is critical to the
socio-economic development of the country. So Traditional Rulers (Chiefs)
who are the occupants of stools and skins etc. who hold those lands in trust
for their subjects are important stakeholders in customary land
administration and can play a key role in complimenting Government’s efforts
in the Good Governance of the Country.
Ghana as a country is heavily dependent on primary land – based products
for its socio-economic growth. Cocoa, Timber, Gold, Diamonds and other
precious mineral etc. are leading in sector contributions to the country’s
gross domestic products. The implication of this is that, easy access to
land, security of land tenure and the wise use of the national land resource
will indicate the pace of our national socio-economic growth. For this and
other reasons neither the Government holding about 20% of the lands of Ghana
nor the Traditional Rulers (Chiefs) – holding about 80% acting alone can
address the numerous problems in the land sector. They are therefore
partners in good governance.
2.1 Contribution of Traditional Rulers to Good Governance: Current
Position of a Chief
In present day Ghana the position of the chief is complimentary to the
government. The chief is the single most visible governance institution in
Ghana today, there is a chief in every town and village. The central
Government is not so visible.
In many towns and villages, the chief is responsible for law and order.
He is also a doctor and a councillor. The first person to receive any report
of any breach of peace is the Chief. The Ghana Police Service is a very
small force and is not present in every town or village. Further the Chief
is the centre of social cohesion today and virtually every segment of
society revolves round the chief and the chief holds all parts of the
society together. In addition and even more important the chief is the
leader for development. Prominent chiefs such as Nana Okyenhene Amoatia
Ofori Panyin, Nana Otumfuo Osei Tutu II and Ya-Naa Yakubu II have
demonstrated on the National level the critical developmental role of the
chief in modern times, to varying degrees the rest of us other chiefs are
playing our roles. The chief is also a political mediator. He mediates
between different groups in conflict both within the state and society.
Finally, the chiefs have become a major source of advice for government
(Article 272 of 1992 Constitution) especially on traditional matters. The
importance of the chief in contemporary Ghana is a significant and
incontrovertible fact of our political life. In addition to all the above,
the Traditional Rulers own 80% of the lands of Ghana and of course the 20%
public by created law.
From time immemorial the institution of chieftaincy has long ensured fair
distribution of land and land resource among the people. The institution
encourages resource mobilization such as fund raising, levies and communal
labour. At the local level, the chief ensures that resources are both fairly
mobilised and distributed for development in both local and national
At political party level, even though the Ghanaian Constitution in
Article 276 (1) bars chiefs from participation in active party politics, all
politicians at time of elections try to outwit each to catch the eye of the
chief. The Palaces of Chiefs are also centres where government policies are
explained and advertised to the people in the rural areas.
By Article 272 (a) the institution of chieftaincy is responsible for
advising Government on any matter relating to or affecting chieftaincy. In
the opinion of the Traditional Rulers a matter affecting the administration
of customary land is a matter relating to or affecting the institution of
chieftaincy. Therefore Traditional Authorities have the constitutional
responsibility to advise Government on the types of laws that will ensure
good governance in the administration of customary lands of this country and
in other matters relating to the institution of chieftaincy.
3. CUSTOMARY LAND ADMINISTRATION AT THE TRADITIONAL LEVEL
Under customary law practices, the chief is the Father of his people and
custodian of customary practices.. Under the customary law, the chief is
also “in change” and responsible for the legal alienation of customary lands
under his jurisdiction in consultation with his elders.
The ownership or control of land under customary law starts at the
paramouncy holding the allodial Title, followed by Divisional and Sub-Chiefs
(appointed by the Paramount) who hold, “Customary Freehold” the indigenes
hold usufruct interest in the land. Thus the Hierarchy of Customary Land
- The Paramount Chief - Allodial Owner
- The Divisional Chief - Customary Freehold
- The Sub-Chief - Customary Freehold
- The Indigenes (subjects) - Usufruct Interest
In centralised states like Dagbon, in Northern Ghana and Ashanti in the
Southern Ghana and in some other Traditional Areas, the land cannot be sold
outright ie. be permanently alienated but can only be leased with approval
of the chief. The question of buying land outright was never an issue under
customary land administration. All citizens had access to land for whatever
purpose they desired to use it. No indigene was ever denied land in the
traditional state. The same exists up to today in the rural areas. Under
Traditional Rule all citizens of the state have access to land.
It is true that boundaries of lands, be they farm lands, residential
lands or lands under the supervision of chiefs were marked by natural
features or landmarks such as trees, rivers, anthills, hills or even mounts
constructed by two parties sharing the boundaries, together with oral
description were the hallmarks of boundary identification under customary
When land was used mostly for agricultural purposes little problems
existed between neighbours. But today, greed for land ownership expressed in
land speculation in the cities and urban areas have rendered natural
features, which are subject to disappearance and change, as boundary marks,
uncertain and insecure. This coupled with the need to hold documents that
show “ownership” of the land held and the nature of interest held in the
land are among the issues that have ushered in the multiple problems in land
tenure systems in this country particularly at the customary level.
Furthermore increase in population leading to the general rush of people to
the cities and towns from the rural areas as well as land degradation in the
savanna areas leading to a drift of farmers of the North to the fertile
areas of Southern Ghana have further compounded the land problems.
4. PROBLEMS BESETING CUSTOMARY LAND ADMINISTRATION
In view of the traditional ways of land allocation and land alienation in
the past, the modern day management of customary lands by Traditional
Authorities has been beset with some problems, including, as already stated,
indeterminate boundaries of customary lands, poor records or no record
keeping, which sometimes results in the allocation of the same parcel of
land to more than one person, registering at Deeds Registry and at Land
Title Registry of the same document by different people, agricultural
tenancies based on oral agreement, different tenurial arrangements at
different parts of the country, depending on the Traditional area,
chieftaincy / land disputes between two Traditional Overlords, claims and
counter claims over disputed land due to lack of proper maps and plans of
scientific accuracy and the disappearance of natural features marking the
boundaries leading to lack of security of tenure.
5. OBSERVATIONS AND CONCERNS OF TRADITIONAL RULERS ON GOVERNMENT
INTERVENTIONS IN STOOL LANDS ADMINISTRATION
In solving the problems enumerated and other problems of Customary Land
Administration, Government enacted stifling laws and regulations that have
been of great concern to Traditional Rulers.
In looking at these laws Traditional Authorities are concerned that
whatever the good intentions or utterances of the state with regards to none
direct intervention or interference in customary land administration and
management, practical actions of state functionaries are often to the
Historically, it has been observed that the immediate post – independence
era, when national governance came into the hands of fellow Ghanaians, was
characterised by a marked increase in the land capacity of the Central
Government. A rapid succession of statutes armed the Republic with far
reaching powers to expropriate land, to control land use and to administer a
considerable sector of landed property. With respect to stool lands, the
legislation conferring sweeping powers on the Republic revolved around four
themes: The conservation of natural resources, the control of land use,
enhanced powers of expropriation and the assumption of the managerial and
judiciary powers of stools in respect of unencumbered stool lands.
6. EXPROPRIATION AND APPROPRIATION OF STOOLS LANDS
“Although the formal trappings of ownership of stool lands were left in
the hands of stools, the management of the stool lands was expressly vested
in the Government. Management in this context consisted of an impressive
array of regulatory powers such as the power to approve dispositions of
stool lands for valuable consideration, the power to grant concessions
affecting stools, the power of the President to intervene in litigation
concerning stool lands, and the power of summary expropriation and
appropriation of use in the public interest (Administration of Land Act.
The 1992 Constitution, however, has ushered in a more liberal regime with
respect to stool lands. First, Article 267 (1) unequivocally affirms stool
ownership of stool lands as follows :
“All stool lands in Ghana shall be vested in the appropriate stool on
behalf of, and in trust for, the subjects of the stool in accordance with
customary law and usage”.
However, the Constitution does not vest the management of stool lands in
the Government or the Lands Commission or any other public office or body.
The managerial jurisdiction of the Lands Commission is limited to public
lands (Article 258 (1)). The Constitution establishes the Office of the
Administrator of Stool Lands, which is responsible for collecting all
revenues accruing from each stool and distributing them in accordance with a
formula explicitly stipulated by the Constitution (Article 267 (1)). But the
Administrator of Stool Lands does not have a general constitutional mandate
to manage stool lands.
Beyond the above powers of the Administrator of Stool Lands, the only
managerial power vested in an authority other than the appropriate stool is
the requirement of a planning certification from the appropriate Regional
Lands Commission as a prerequisite for the disposition or development of any
stool as stipulated in Article 267(3).
Happily, the summary powers of expropriation vested in the President in
1962 enactment are superseded by the emphatic guarantees against
expropriation or deprivation of property under Article 20 of the 1992
Constitution which stipulates that, “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 certain conditions are
satisfied”. Namely, the acquisition is in the public interest, the necessity
for such acquisition is clearly stated and that the acquisition is affected
by a law, which makes provision for the prompt payment of fair and adequate
compensation. This was not the case in Act 123. The President had power to
vest any stool land in himself if it appeared or seemed to the President to
be in the public interest to do so. Monies accruing from this vested stool
land was to be paid to an Account administered by Central Government called
“Stool Land Account”.
Even though the new constitutional provision promises a more liberal
regime for stool lands with the unequivocal vesting of stool lands in the
appropriate stools in trust for their subjects, the incidents of this
ownership have become nebulous by the persistence of old intrusive
legislation and administrative practices as well as by the enactment of new
legislation which appears to contravene the constitutional protections for
the stool land. The enactment of the Lands Commission Act pursuant to the
constitutional provisions on the Land Commission, the Administration of
Lands Act and many other laws regulating stool lands still remain in the
statute books. These laws are not only repugnant to the constitution but are
also inimical to sound economic management of stool lands.
7. ILLEGAL EXPROPRIATION OF STOOL LANDS TIMBER REVENUE
The hope that the 1992 Constitution has ushered in a more liberal regime
for stool lands has been dashed by recent enactment of statutes and
regulations governing the utilization and management of forest resources on
stool lands. Royalties from the utilization of timber formerly constituted
the bulk of stool land revenues. Recent legislation and regulations
affecting timber exploitation have expropriated the bulk of this revenues -
as much as 60% of these royalties- ostensibly as management fees charged by
the Forestry Commission. When this exorbitant charge is added to the
constitutionally sanctioned administrative fee of 10% payable to the
Administration of Stool Lands, and the mandatory 55% of the remaining
revenues allocated to District Assemblies, then it is no exaggeration to
assert that recent legislation and regulations constitute expropriation of
stool property without compensation, and a grave violation of the
District Assemblies have notoriously failed to expend their portion of
stool revenues on the development of traditional areas concerned.
It appears that the assumptions of National Land Policy framers are:
- Customary Landowners Stool / Skins etc. are incapable of administering
stool lands and stool revenues efficiently and in the interests of their
subjects. Chiefs and Traditional Authorities are not enlightened enough to
be entrusted with rational administration of their lands.
- The real solution for our land problems lies in entrusting land
administration, whether in respect of public lands or stool lands, to
government departments, or other public institutions such as the Lands
Commission or the Forestry Commission.
8. TRADITIONAL AUTHORITIES SHARE OF THE BLAME
In addressing the above issues, it has to be conceded that the
Administration of Stool Lands by the traditional authorities in the past has
been unblemished. There has been some incidence of breach of trust or inept
administration on the part of some traditional authorities in the past such
as encroachments, double sale of parcels of land, use of unapproved schemes
and use of land guards and misappropriation of stool revenue.
But it is naïve to proceed on that basis that the solution lies in the
administration of lands by state bureaucracies. The frustrations encountered
by domestic and foreign investors in processing land acquisitions at various
State Agencies will dispose of any lingering assumptions about the efficacy
of state management of lands.
9. STATE LAND MANAGEMENT
State administration of land has proved to be one of the most inefficient
and unproductive undertakings in the public sector. Nor can it be
confidently asserted that the management of forests by state officials has
enhanced our forestry resources. The degradation of forests and the
environment, the indiscriminate exploitation of timber without corresponding
re-forestation and the wanton destruction of agriculture crops by timber
operators have been the hallmark of state control over forest resources.
State agencies should not desist from depriving stools as landowners of
their legitimate revenues but should consult them for appropriate inputs in
the management of these natural resources.
What traditional authorities need from state agencies with respect to the
administration of stool lands generally is not depriving or stifling control
but sound technical advice and financial support in harassing the resources
for the benefit of the entire community.
They, the Traditional Authorities, being more representative at the grass
roots, of this country, do not need stifling laws and regulations that make
them and their subjects tenants on their own lands or at best gaping
spectators while stifling laws whittle away their lands and source of
income, birthrights, and authorities. The deprivation of stool resources
diminishes the capacity of chiefs to deliver the social and economic
services expected of them.
9.1 Nananom, The Traditional Rulers and LAP
In yet another attempt to address land problems, the National Land Policy
was inaugurated. Ghana’s Land Administration Project (LAP) is said to be the
Government of Ghana’s programme to implement the National Land Policy of
1999. It is a departure from past practice in the sense that LAP was
designed to apply participatory processes in policy development and
legislative reform. Since about 80% of the lands of Ghana is under customary
tenure and in view of the centrality of (Nananom) Traditional Authorities in
land administration and management the programme has identified (Nananom)
Chiefs as indispensable stakeholders with whom sustained engagement is
imperative, if the reform effort is to yield the desired results. This
without doubt is very welcome to the National House of Chiefs (NHC), the
Traditional Rulers of this country. For that and other reasons the document
entitled Legislative and Judicial Review Draft Final Report was
presented to the NHC for their comments and suggestions. It was on the score
of this and to contribute to the Good Governance of Ghana that the National
House of Chiefs (NHC) undertook through its stool /skin lands committee to
go through the Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines commissioned draft
report “Ghana Land Administration Project, Legislative and Judicial Review –
Draft Final Report”.
Comments on the draft final report which was submitted to Nananom /
Traditional Rulers of this country at the National House of Chiefs have
since been submitted to the Ministry for inclusion in the Final Report.
The purpose now for touching on it is to indicate of the many ways
Traditional Rulers of Ghana have been contributing to good governance in the
area of land administration and other areas of governance.
10. METHODOLOGY ADOPTED BY THE STOOL / SKIN LANDS COMMITTEE IN THE STUDY
OF THE DOCUMENT
In discussing the Report of the consultants it was first agreed that
where no comment was made by Nananom, the Traditional Rulers, concerning any
statement or recommendations in the Draft Final Report, it indicated that we
had no objection to that statement or recommendation, same was therefore
recommended to the House for approval. Proceeding from this point of view,
we observed that the Final Draft Report consisted of four parts as follows:
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY, CURRENT POLICY OBJECTIVES, LEGISLATIVE AND JUDICIAL
COMPONENT OF LAP-1, THIS WAS ATTACHED TO THE REPORT AS APPENDIX A, DRAFT,
MEMORANDUM FOR ENACTMENT OF HARMONIZED LAND ADMINISTRATION CODE.
Components Of The Memorandum For Enactment Of
Harmonised Land Administration Code
PART ONE OF THE CODE-LAND TENURE consisted of Legislative Provisions
- Security of Tenure
- Ownership rights including the substantive laws governing land
holdings in different categories and
- Provision dealing with the recording and registration of deeds titles
and interests in land.
PART TWO OF THE CODE-LAND MANAGEMENT also consisted of Legislative
provisions which deals with:
- Compulsory acquisition of land
- Institutional arrangements for land administration
- Management of public lands
PART THREE OF THE CODE-LAND USE PLANNING consisted of Legislative
provision regulating lands use planning :
- Provisions on formulation of planning schemes and layouts
- The granting of planning permissions, development permits and
- Provisions regulating the physical development and use of land
The above provided the basis for looking at both the Final Draft Report
and the Attached Memorandum.
The Stool / Skin Lands Committee after critically discussing the
Executive Summary made the following comments and recommendations.
- That consideration needed to be given the different land tenure
systems in Ghana when the code is enacted.
- That special Land courts and Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR)
method with the full participation of chiefs should be instituted to deal
with land matters. This could improve the resolution of land disputes.
- That any attempt to criminalize any kind of sale of land will lead to
more delays in the resolution of land disputes and will put hardship on
- That land disputes coming from traditional areas must first be heard
at the Customary Lands Secretariat before any attempt is made to take it
- That the Courts / ADR must demand the evidence to that effect before
any further dealings with the case is attempted.
11. LAND ADMINISTRATION PROJECT
The Committee endorsed the long-term programme objective with the
12. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY USED IN COLLECTING DATA
The Committee observed that the method used in collecting the data for
the code (interview method) was not representative enough, as views
collected from only four Regions out of the ten Regions in Ghana, could not
be taken as the views of representative land stakeholders in Ghana, because
the Ghanaian society is not a homogenous one.
The establishment of customary land secretariat was welcome. It was
therefore suggested that the Customary Lands Secretariat being piloted by
GTZ should be extended to cover more areas. The meeting recommended that the
country be grouped into linguistics zones for the purpose of the exercise.
The meeting further proposed that the areas for the pilot scheme, based
on the linguistic zones that would be created, should be selected in
consultation with the Regional House of Chiefs.
12.1 Financing Customary Lands Secretariat
On the Customary Lands Secretariats the Committee agreed that
consideration should be given to the percentage of stool land revenue that
would be paid to the Customary Land Secretariats so as to make them
financially viable and self-financing. Revenue accruing to the Customary
Lands Secretariats should be high enough to make them self-financing. It is
therefore suggested that the formula for sharing stool lands revenue as
stated in the Constitution needs to be amended. It is proposed that the ten
percent share of the stool land revenue currently paid to the Office of the
Administrator of Stool Lands be given to the Customary Lands Secretariats to
enable them to manage their organisation efficiently when the code is
enacted and come into force. The committee suggested that the “sales” of
lands in any part of the country should be open and transparent and the
prices should be comparable anywhere in the country.
The Committee observed that the fifty-five percent share of stool land
revenue currently paid to the District Assemblies has not been used for the
development projects it was intended for. If it were so, the pressure on
Nananom to provide infrastructure and other amenities would have been
reduced. The Committee therefore called for a Legislative Instrument to be
passed to regulate the use of the fifty-five percent stool lands revenue
paid to the District Assemblies.
The Committee accepted the proposal that the hierarchy of customary land
holdings, and capacity to dispose of land, would lead to formal recognition
of rights of all categories of land holders and facilitation of recording of
these rights in an enhance decentralised Land Administration System.
The Committee agreed that leases of land with dates of commencement and
expiration should be registered. However, the Traditional Authorities would
be confronted with problems, if an attempt was made to register the
traditional lease system. The committee therefore advises against the
registration of traditional leases. It was also agreed that lands acquired
by father could be transferred to the son without the son re-acquiring it.
The Committee observed that no one method of customary land administration
could apply in all the Traditional Areas in Ghana, because of the
peculiarities in the land tenure systems that exist in some areas. It is
therefore suggested that in preparing the code, there should be an omnibus
clause to take care of these peculiarities.
13. SECURITY OF TENURE AND PROTECTION OF LANDS RIGHTS
13.1 Identification and Statutory Recognition of all Traditional and
Customary Sources of Land Tenure and Rights
In the former Native States “(Ashanti and Dagbon)” it is noted that
Adikrofo and Divisional Chiefs hold “Customary Freehold”, while the
indigenes hold usufruct. The Paramount Chief holds the Allodial Right of the
land. Thus three categories of customary land holding in Ghana are
identified as follows:
- Usufruct – held by indigenes
- Customary Freehold – held by Adikrofo and Abremponfo (Sub-Chiefs and
- Allodial Rights – Held by Paramount Chiefs
The Paramount Chief (the allodial owner of the land) holds the land in
trust for the ancestors, the present generation and the generations yet
The Committee proposed that where “Customary Freehold” appears in the
memorandum, it should be substituted with usufruct. The Committee therefore
rejected the proposal that customary freehold be registered but accepted the
registration of usufruct. What would go into the Code should be consistent
with the various norms practices and customs as they apply in the various
traditional areas in Ghana.
In Ghana, there are many linguistic zones with different tenurial
systems. So the entire range of varied interest that exists in the country
under the various customary land tenure systems should be identified and
their scope, nature and incidents determined and procedures developed for
their documentation. So that what would go into the code would be consistent
with various norms, practices and custom as they apply in the various
traditional areas of Ghana.
The committee rejected the assertion by the consultants that women in
Ghana do not hold right to land and therefore called for that statement to
be struck out from the documents. The committee contended that there was no
differential treatment between men and women in the acquisition of land in
any traditional area in Ghana. The committee suggested that in view of the
many connotations associated with the land laws in Ghana and the subsequent
confusion arising out of their interpretations, the word “interest” be used
instead of “ownership” in the code.
14. DEMARCATION AND SURVEYING OF CUSTOMARY HELD LAND
The Committee in discussing security of tenure under the above heading
held that since natural features that can disappear leading to indeterminate
boundaries usually mark customary land boundaries, it is necessary to survey
and demarcate all allodial land boundaries. The cost of such survey will be
beyond the means of Traditional Authorities to pay. It is therefore
recommended that the cost of demarcation and survey of all allodial lands
boundaries, and payments of compensation, in respect of properties to be
affected during the surveying and demarcation exercise be borne by the state
for the following reasons:
- All mineral rights in the lands are vested in the state
- The Government is yet to pay the accumulated compensation of
compulsory acquired lands, since the colonial days, to the landowners.
- The Government is obliged to develop every part of Ghana and the
surveying and demarcation of allodial boundaries forms part and parcel of
the country’s development.
- The Government is responsible for the surveying and demarcation of
District and Regional boundaries and therefore has to do same to allodial
- The surveying and demarcation of allodial land boundaries should be
part of the surveying and mapping exercise undertaken by the state.
- The portion of the stool lands revenue paid to the Stools is not
enough to enable the stools meet the cost of the surveying and demarcation
of allodial lands which include activities like pillaring, payment of
valuation compensation and preparation of cadastral maps etc.
15. REGULATION OF LAND AND PROPERTY TRANSACTIONS
Recording and registration of interests and transactions in land will
require sustained and heavy financial involvement. So it is recommended that
the Government and donor agencies should support the land title registration
process so as to make the land title registration viable and self-financing.
The registration should be such that where no land title registration is
declared, deeds registration should operate. The two types should run until
all areas of Ghana are declared Land Title Registration areas.
16. LAND ADMINISTRATION AGENCIES
It was the conviction of the Committee that the coming into operation of
LAP was an opportunity to correct the inefficiency associated with the
existing Land Administration Agencies. The conviction of the Committee was
based on the new administrative proposal that there would be one agency to
be headed by a Director – General, with all the existing land agencies
working under him / her (perhaps under one roof). The new structure would
curtail the time clients spent to have their documents registered as well as
reduce the expenditure involved.
The double / multiple registration of lands also arose where applicants
for the same land registered it, one at the deed registry and the other at
the title registry. In other cases there were two deeds on the same land.
The issue of double registration also arose from faulty site plans.
17. AERIAL SURVEY
It was proposed that the Government should embark on a comprehensive
aerial survey and mapping to cover the entire country. Without proper survey
and base maps covering the whole country the title registration exercise
would be a mirage. Availability of accurate maps and plans would facilitate
planning and make the work of the LAPU attainable.
18. CONVEYANCING DECREE
The Committee welcomed the proposal that the amendment of the Land
Registry Act should contain provisions for adjudication and settlement of
title, and added that the amendment should insist on the production of site
plans approved or certified by the Director of Surveys or his authorised
agents in order to ensure their reliability and to relate its usefulness to
the Survey Act, 1962.
19. DETERMINATION AND REGISTRATION OF ALLODIAL TITLES AND ALIENATION
The Committee also endorsed the proposal that alienations of land made by
Chiefs or heads of family be generally deemed to be invalid unless they were
made with the consent of his elders or principal members, and proposed that
the principal members / elders should be at least two and they needed not to
be registered as proposed by the Consultant.
20. ADMINISTRATION OF LANDS
20.1 Vesting of Customary Lands
- That Section 7 of Act 123 which vested Stool Lands in the President
did not conform to Article 267(1) of the 1992 Constitution and therefore
recommended that the section be repealed.
- That resources management in the country be decentralised
- That there should be a law that would make it difficult for the state
to vest lands and other resources in the President. It is further
recommended that there should be restrictive clauses in any law that would
vest lands in the President, as it applied to the compulsory acquisition
law. The compulsory acquisition law requires the Government to pay
compensation to the landowners before any land compulsory acquired is
- That there should be collaboration between Nananom and the various
Government Land Sector Agencies. Every action of the Government, through
its Agencies, in respect of land in any Traditional Area should be taken
with the consent and approval of the Paramount Chief of the area, and this
should be stated clearly in any contract agreement to be signed.
- Nananom called for transparency in the operations of the land sector
21. STATE LANDS ADMINISTRATION
The Consultants comments were endorsed as well as their recommendations
together with these decisions.
- Nananom recommended the establishment of the permanent Site Advisory
Boards for the District and Municipal Assemblies.
- That Nananom as owners of the lands need to have representations on
the permanent Site Advisory Boards.
- The meeting detested the compulsory acquisition of lands by the
government for the following reasons :
- That the Government sometimes acquires land unnecessarily without
consulting the landowners
- That the Government sometimes acquires lands in excess of what it
- That lands acquired for public interest and for public purpose are
- That there are varied interpretations of the law on the reversion of
unused compulsorily acquired lands to their original owners. There is
need for explicit interpretation on this law to avoid misunderstanding
between Landowners and Government.
- It was suggested that there should be restriction on how the
Government could acquire land compulsorily. Among the suggestions made
- The necessity for the Government to pay fair and adequate
compensation to the landowners.
- No entry onto the land until compensation has been paid.
- Adequate notice must be given to the landowners of the government
intention to acquire the land, by direct contact.
The Committee suggested that as an alternative to compensation payment
for pieces of land acquired for investment, the land should be used as the
equity share of the landowners in the investment.
22. LIMITING THE ROLE OF THE STATE TO REGULATION - TERMINATION OF THE
ROLE OF THE OFFICE OF THE ADMINISTRATOR OF STOOL LANDS
The committee accepted the recommendation that the aim of the direct role
of the State in the management of Stool Land Revenue could be better
achieved if the state limits its role to regulation of the functions of
customary landowners rather than direct involvement in the management of the
The committee however, rejected the second part of the recommendation
which proposed that stools should be considered as bodies corporate and
subject to the general taxation laws of the country and made to pay tax on
the incomes and revenues from stool lands. It was the contention of the
committee that no tax was paid on the incomes and revenues from stool land
when the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands was doing the collection
and therefore saw no justification for the payment of tax on the incomes and
revenue from the stool lands now that the Customary Lands Secretariats would
do the collection. The Committee asked for the second part of the
recommendation to be struck out.
23. CUSTOMARY LANDS SECRETARIAT AND THE REQUIREMENTS OF CONCURRENCE AND
APPROVAL FROM LANDS COMMISSION
The Committee accepted the proposal that continued requirements for Lands
Commission concurrence is incompatible with the radical strengthening of
Customary Lands Secretariats favoured by the LAP, and Traditional
Authorities. The Committee therefore recommended that the requirement of
certification of stool land grants as required under Article 267(2) of the
Constitution and the requirement of consent and concurrence for stool land
grants should first of all not be applicable to dispositions made by the
land owning authority to indigenous person.
24. LAND USE PLANNING – PROBLEMS AND CONSTRAINTS
The Committee observed that when the Lands Sectors Agencies are merged
they would be better placed to deal with some of the problems identified by
the consultants. The suggestion by the officials of the Town and Country
Planning Department that Landowners should engage the services of private
profession planners to prepare the planning schemes (layout) indicated the
seriousness of the problems. There is shortage of staff at the Town and
Country Planning Department and the Head cannot engage new manpower unless
approval has been given, and this was subject to the budget estimates
approved for the Department. The Committee also attributed the shortage of
professional planners partly to the stringent entry requirement into the
The Committee therefore agreed with the Consultant that the Customary
Land Secretariats when fully established and financially viable should
engage the services of private planners (consultants) to plan the layouts
for the approval of the District Assemblies. In the view of the Committee
this had been the existing practice and it should be encouraged. The
engagement of private professionals should therefore, be part of the output
of the recommendations to be made under this topic.
The Committee agreed with the consultant when he said “currently the
development on the state and vested lands appear to proceed in accordance
with planning schemes. The reason is that the Lands Committee uses statutory
approved scheme for allocating developing plots to developers. In customary
and private land areas, many developments occur in areas where the schemes
are pending before planning committee as a result of the conflicts between
landowners and planning authorities layouts”.
25. OVERVIEW OF LEGISLATIVE REGIME ON LAND PLANNING
The Committee pointed out that the legal framework – Town and Country
Planning Ordinance (Cap 84) – required landowners to comply with the
physical planning of their areas, though landowners are not represented on
the planning committee appointed to approve plans. Under the Ordinance the
Minister responsible for Lands would make a declaration that a particular
area is a statutory planning area. A planning committee is appointed for the
area on which Traditional Authorities have no representation. The Committee
therefore recommended that Landowners be fully represented on the planning
The Committee observed that, in advanced countries, planning precedes
development whereas the opposite is in Ghana. Nananom attributed this state
of affairs to the inadequate staff, lack of materials and equipment and
suggested that Government takes steps to solve these problems so that
developers would plan before developing their lands. The meeting reiterated
its suggestion that the engagement of the private sector to support the Town
and Country Planning Department to prepare plans and layouts would help in
no small measure in the solution of some of the problems identified.
The Committee also suggested that in order to utilize the staff that
would have to be laid off with the merging of the Land Sector Agencies, such
staff should be distributed to the Customary Land Secretariats and the new
agencies encouraged to use the private consultants.
The Committee agreed with a recommendation by the Consultants that in
planning Government land into plots, the State should bear the cost while
the Stool bears the cost of planning Stool Lands into plots. In the case of
Stool Land, any assistance offered by the District Assemblies would be
welcomed. The Committee suggested that the Stools should depend on the
District Planning Authorities to identify qualified planners for them, and
to verify and certify the work of the planners as well.
26. DISTRICT PLANNING AUTHORITIES
The Committee observed that the District Assemblies have not got the
manpower to prepare planning schemes, and inspect buildings being
constructed. The preparation of planning schemes and inspection of buildings
are the duties of the Town and Country Planning Department, under the Local
Government Act, Act 462. The result of this handicap is the haphazard manner
of buildings being constructed, because there is delay in the supervision by
the District Assembly. The Committee called for the strengthening of the
building inspection directorate of the District Assemblies.
The Committee accepted the proposal that the one-stop-shop concept should
develop strong interface with the District Assemblies and Town and Country
Planning Department and the levels of co-operation should be worked out
through the committee system.
The Committee pointed out that at the core of the work of the Town and
Country Planning Department is the availability of maps, because mapping is
the basis of planning. Mapping forms the base of all achievable activities
under planning. The efficiency of the new system will depend on correct and
up-to-date maps. The mapping of this country should therefore be put on the
highest priority in the LAP.
27. OTHER POLICY RECOMMENDATION – NATIONAL LAND POLICY
The Committee also accepted the following recommendations made by the
- That the Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines in conjunction with
other relevant MDAs shall develop and implement a comprehensive District,
Regional and National Land Use Plan and Atlas which zones sections of the
country into broad land uses according to criteria agreed among various
public and private land stakeholders.
- That the Survey Department should be adequately supported to prepare
maps to cover local and regionals land uses.
- That it must be ensured that all lands for settlement, industrial and
commercial development are planned and serviced where applicable, before
disposal of any kind. The Committee made a suggestion that the cost of the
service to be provided should be included in the price of the plot / land
to be borne by the developer.
- That the new law must establish simplified models and processes of
land use planning and development controls with clear definitions of roles
and responsibilities at the district, region and national levels in
partnership with and participation of the customary landholders.
- That the new law must establish simplified and operational procedures
of inter-linkage tenure clarification, land registration and land use
management at the local level.
- That the new law must clarify complementary roles of Land Sector
Agencies, District Assemblies, Customary Authorities and the Private
Sector in land use planning and management.
In the past, the State chose to usher in a number of stifling laws and
regulations to direct the management of customary lands and to vest such
management in the President or State institutions. This situation let to
serious concerns and reservations being expressed by (Nananom) Traditional
Rulers since independence. These concerns included among others the
- The failure in the past, of Government of Ghana to consult with
Traditional Rulers and to seriously consider the views of Traditional
Rulers in formulating policies in the lands and natural resource sector.
- State control over the powers of landowners to make grants
- State control over the collection and disbursement of revenue from
- The arbitrary imposition of an administrative formula for sharing
revenue from forest resources especially timber from off-reserve areas.
- The lack of transparency in many of the procedures of public land
- The arrogance and insensitivity of some public land sector agency
officials regarding their relationship with Traditional Rulers.
Happily the current Government has realised that the problems of Land
Tenure, Land Management and Land Use Planning particularly in respect of
customary lands cannot be solved by either the Government acting alone using
draconian control or the Customary Authorities acting alone using customary
authority only. The true path to the solution lies through consultations,
collaboration and a genuine partnership in a fully participatory interface.
This is what will achieve the goal of Good Governance in Customary Lands
Administration in particular and Land Administration in Ghana in general,
hence the introduction of the Land Administration Project. The Traditional
Authorities welcome this change of approach by Government as a ray of hope
for genuine partnership in Good Governance. That reciprocates the ever
readiness of Traditional Authorities to support Government to use land for
development to eliminate poverty and sickness from the society. This new
approach is a healthy State-Traditional Rulers interface in Customary Lands
- CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA 1992.
- DRAFT COMMENT OF THE STOOL / SKIN LANDS COMMITTEE of the National
House of Chiefs on the Draft Final Report of the Ghana Land Administration
Project on Legislative and Judicial Review AND The Memorandum for the
Enactment of a Harmonised Land Administration Code.
- Managing Traditional Conflict – by Kwesi Jonah
- Strengthening the Constitutional Role of the Houses of Chiefs in the
Republic of Ghana – A document by the National House of Chiefs – 2001
- Codification of Customary Laws and Lines of succession for Good
Governance – Naa Prof. John S. Nabila – Wulugu Naba.
- Kumbungu (Dagbon) Customary Rules.
Kumbun-Naa Yiri II
Naa Alhaji Iddirisu Abu, Bsc., PGDIP, FGhIS, PPGhIS
Paramount Chief of Kumbungu Traditional Area
Member of the National House of Chiefs and Chairman of the Stoll/Skin Lands
Committee of the National House of Chiefs