By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
The call by the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) for the involvement of lawyers in all landed-property transactions, in order to weed out fraudulent deals which, in some cases, have led to explosive incidents of fatality is laudable; but only to some extent which I intend to further explain shortly (See “Ghana Bar Association Pushes for Land Reforms” MyJoyOnline.com / Ghanaweb.com 3/29/15). The first problem with this sort of reform is that it is both cosmetic and unnecessarily bucreaucratic and may well further complicate the level of corruption in the sale and transfer of landed property; for the involvement of more lawyers also means more middlemen and women.
What is more, merely involving lawyers in such transactions would not meliorate the high spate of fraud, as a remarkable number of these lawyers are themselves shysters who may very well further complicate an already convoluted system of land acquisition and ownership. Now, I don’t know the situation or process of land acquisition in southern Africa as alluded to by Mr. Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, and so I cannot authoritatively remark on the same. What I can, however, say with certainty is that the colonial history of southern Africa is radically different from that of the rest of the African continent and may thus have to be carefully studied and critically examined before politicians like Mr. Mensah-Bonsu, the Parliamentary Minority Leader, resort to any policy measures that may not redound to the long-term benefit of Ghanaian citizens.
We also need to quickly point out that reforming land acquisition and entitlement laws, while it ought to be made business-friendly, ought not to be effected with the interests of foreign entrepreneurs or investors at the fore-front of such agenda. Investors, generally, and foreign investors, especially, are not in the business of philanthropy; it is a cutthroat business of profit maximization. For that matter, before any statutory laws are enacted making lawyers corporate monopolists, which is what it may eventually turn out to be, a vetting process must be established to ensure that only lawyers with proven expertise in landed-property acquisition and / or transfer are allowed to enter this very critical aspect of our national life.
Already, our National Assembly is chock-full of certified legal practitioners, but these lawyers, sorry to say, have yet to demonstrate any remarkable commitment of the sort required of progressive and reputable statesmen and women. They, nearly all of them, seem to have as their topmost priority the need to voraciously amass humongous amounts of wealth at the expense of the people, at the fastest pace possible. And so clearly, what needs to be done is for the government, in collaboration with the Chieftaincy and Culture Ministry, as well as the various Houses of Chiefs, to launch a comprehensive national education program on the issue of legitimate land acquisition and ownership and the implication of the latter process for our national development efforts.
Don’t get me wrong: I am all for the legitimate expansion of job opportunities for well-trained and qualified lawyers. But in the end, the net beneficiaries of such program or agenda ought to be ordinary Ghanaian citizens, and not unscrupulous legal practitioners and their “Shark-Tank” associates. Then also, laws must be put in place regulating legal fees for lawyers who opt to represent both landed-property proprietors and prospective renters and buyers. In the meantime, I am far more interested in the development of the sort of infrastructural facilities conducive to entrepreneurship than merely reforming our laws to make the legal practice more profitable in the country. And when I talk about “infrastructural facilities,” I am, of course, alluding to the prompt and permanent ending of the hostile regime of “Dumsor,” or erratic energy supply, a more reliable road-, rail- and air-transport system, and an efficient and safe water-transport system as well.
That radical reforms are long overdue in the area of land tenure cannot be gainsaid. But such reforms may not amount to much that is quality-of-life enhancing, unless equally radical reforms are effected in the way that nation-building and development are done in Ghana.
Source: By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
E-mail: [email protected]