Disclose Returned Lands – OccupyGhana

A pressure group, OccupyGhana, has asked the Right to Information (RTI) Commission to direct the Lands Commission to furnish it with details of all public lands returned to their owners by the government.

In a petition addressed to the Executive Secretary of the RTI Commission, the group said the Lands Commission had resorted to a “conceivable trick” to frustrate access to the documents.

The petitioners are also demanding the Lands Commission to provide their group with a list of all public lands government’s ownership or control has been relinquished and the names of the persons the lands were released to.

OccupyGhana wants the information to contain sizes and locations (suburbs, towns/cities, and regions) of all such lands, as well as the conditions (free, sale, lease or licence) the lands were released.

According to the petition, the Lands Commission should also disclose the amount of rent paid or payable, and any other amounts paid to or received by the government, if any, for the release of a land.

It said it had learned the Lands Commission returned some public lands to the original owners in compliance with Article 20(5) and (6) of the Constitution.

It argued that the action contravenes the Supreme Court’s ruling that those provisions did not apply to lands acquired before the constitution came into force.

“Checks with both the Lands [and Forestry] Ministry and Lands Commission have confirmed that contrary to Article 258(2), there is no government policy that authorises these alleged returns of lands to purported original owners,” the petition indicated.

OccupyGhana said it had between June 2 and September 15, 2022, engaged with the Lands Commission for the needed information regarding the issue, but the commission had not been forthcoming.

It also wants the Attorney General to proffer some advice on its request in line with the provisions on the Data Protection Act and the Right to Information Act.

“At this stage, we are concerned that unless and until compelled by the Right to Information Commission to do so, the Lands Commission will keep coming up with one unsustainable excuse after another,” it noted.

By Ernest Kofi Adu