“If the Land Rights Bill before you members of the 53rd National Legislature is passed, local inhabitants will now get the legal authority to own land in the country,” President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has told lawmakers.
Delivering her Annual Message last Monday, the President reminded the lawmakers that her government had done its part by drafting the new Land Policy Act and it was left with them to do their part by enacting it into law.
The Land Rights Bill, President Sirleaf noted, represents what she considered as a “landmark piece of legislation. It establishes the legal basis for recognition of customary land rights.”
If the bill is passed, it would be the first time in the nation’s history for rural communities to have their land rights legally recognized, she announced.
She went on to say that the legal instrument will empower the local communities to have their land identified, delineated, mapped, deeded, recorded, properly managed and governed.
“Implementation and enforcement will be helped by the Criminal Conveyance of Land bill, which curtails fraudulent land sales and enhances access to land tenure security,” the President promised – if her bill is endorsed by the lawmakers.
The criminal conveyance bill that is also before the National Legislature for passage will help to deal with suspected criminals who are involved in multiple sales of land in the country.
These instruments, she noted, are critical to social, political and economic development, “and are consistent with our development programs.”
The proposed Land Rights Act seeks, among other things, to define and delineate the different categories of land ownership and rights recognized in Liberia and to prescribe the means by which each of the categories of land may be acquired, used, transferred and managed.
The Act also seeks to ensure that communities, families, individuals and legal entities enjoy secure land rights free of fear of extortion, except in accordance with due process of law; and to guarantee equal access and protection and further confirm that land ownership is permitted for all Liberians regardless of their custom, ethnicity, language, gender or otherwise.
Categories of lands as described in the proposed act include all lands in Liberia, whether presently or hereafter owned privately, publicly or collectively and its scope also covers all persons that own or seek to own rights or interest in land, including individuals, communities and agencies.
It further covers the original acquisition of title and subsequent transfer of any interests of rights in land.