Govt in huge debt over land compensations

The government is owing billions of cedis in compensation to individuals whose parcels of land have been compulsorily acquired for various projects across the country.

The parcels of land were acquired by various state institutions including metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies, under successive governments over several years.

The Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission, Alhaji Sulemman Mahama, who revealed this but fell short of stating the exact amount or total acreage, said debt was rising and required government’s attention.

He told the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, when he visited the commission in Accra  on Wednesday, that  the commission had on a number of occasions been dragged to court over the compensations while  pressure  continue to mount on the commission.

Accompanied by his deputies and other leading staff of the ministry, the Minister was at the commission to be introduced to the staff as well as afford him an opportunity to interact with them following his assumption of office.

The government is permitted by Article 20 of the 1992 constitution to, through legal means, compulsorily acquire land owned by individuals for infrastructural projects and in turn pay prompt, fair and adequate compensation payments to owners.

Shedding more light on the debt, Alhaji Mahama, told journalists that conflicting claims by land owners was one of the factors that had made it difficult for the compensations to be paid.

He explained that the law on the compensation payment, as interpreted by the court, required that the compensation should be calculated based on current value of the land.

This, he said meant that the longer it took to ascertain the claims by the land owners, the higher the value of the land soared.  However, he said in cases where the claims had been ascertained the compensation had been paid.

On the turnaround time for land titling which was currently hovering around seven to nine months, Alhaji Mahama said it was expected to reduce as World Bank had boosted Ghana Enterprise Land Information System project with Gh¢35million.

He said the project which was being ran in 10 districts  in the Greater Accra Region, would be expanded to  other parts of the country  while paper work on the offices for Cape Coast and Ho would soon be completed.

Reacting to issue of debts, the Minister told journalists that the government would find a way of settling all such debts, if, indeed, they were found to be genuine.

Addressing a staff durbar, where the staff lamented about poor remunerations and conditions of service, Mr. Asomah-Cheremeh assured them that all their concerns would be addressed in due course.

He charged them to work diligently to deliver on their mandate adding that he would build on the foundation started by his predecessor  and expect them to support him to enable him succeed.

BY JONATHAN DONKOR

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