President Sirleaf Issues Executive Order No. 53, Declaring Moratorium on Public Land Sales

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has issued Executive Order No. 53; ordering a moratorium on public land sales and all transactions including the issuance of Tribal Certificates and Town Lot Certificates with immediate effect.

Executive Order No. 53, signed by President Sirleaf on Friday, December 20, further directs that the moratorium applies to individuals, government functionaries, local officials, traditional authorities, communities, groups, business and associations involved in public land transactions.

The moratorium also applies to all activities involved in the issuance of Tribal Certificates by traditional or other government authorities or the issuance of Town Lot Certificates by municipal authorities.

The Executive Order warns that all Tribal Certificates or Town Lot Certificates issued by any local authority during the period of the moratorium shall be considered illegal and void.

In the meantime, President Sirleaf has constituted a nine-member Screening Committee to vet all Public Land Deeds in the country and work in accordance with the Interim Guidelines and Procedures for the Sale of Public Land (2011) as recommended by the Land Commission.

Members of the Committee include: the Chairperson of the Land Commission, as Chair; the Ministers of Justice, Internal Affairs, Public Works, Agriculture, and Lands, Mines & Energy. Others are the Chairman of the National Investment Commission, the Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority, and the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Current issues surrounding the sale of public land continue to pose serious challenges to ensuring equal access, security of tenure and the rule of law with regards public land transactions.

Because the continuation of public land sales under the current procedures, as outlined in the Public Land Law of 1973, will exacerbate problems of unequal access, insecurity of tenure and the rule of law in public land transactions, the Executive Order states that it is imperative that a moratorium is placed on the sale of public land to allow for new law, regulations and procedures to be formulated; also recognizing that during the formulation of the new land laws, regulations and procedures, some public land transactions must be undertaken to secure land for public use and development initiatives which will require thorough vetting procedures.

In another news, the Chairman of the Land Commission, Dr. Cecil Brandy has been outlining major accomplishments of the Land Commission during the year 2013.  He said during the course of 2013, the Commission undertook a number of major activities as articulated in its five-year Liberia Land Reform Program, and in fulfillment of its mandate.  These activities included the formulation of a draft Act for the establishment of a new Land Agency. The draft Act has been forwarded to the President for review and appropriate action.  Speaking in an UNMIL Radio Coffee Break Program Tuesday, Dr. Brandy said a Land Rights Policy was developed and endorsed by the Government and people of Liberia through country-wide rigorous consultations and validation processes.  He made mention that a draft New Land Rights Law is completed and public consultations on the draft law will commence shortly.

Additionally, the Land Commission in partnership with UN-HABITAT completed a four-month urban land inventory pilot project in Gbarnga, Bong County and two additional pilots are to be implemented in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County and Ganta, Nimba County, respectively.   

Chairman Brandy said a Criminal Conveyance of Land Bill was submitted to the National Legislature and the Bill has been passed by the House of Senate awaiting passage by the House of Representatives.  He noted that the passage of this Bill will enhance access to land and improve tenure security. 

In line with Government’s decentralization agenda, the Land Commission has established five Land Coordination Centers (LCCs) which are staffed, equipped and fully operational in five (5) counties: Lofa, Margibi, Bong, Nimba and Maryland, Dr. Brandy said. The Commission has launched Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) pilots for dealing with land disputes in all LCC counties and trained land disputes resolution practitioners selected from within their various communities.

The Commission anticipates completing policies, on Land Administration, Land Use and Management as well as Land Dispute Resolution, followed by the drafting of new Land Laws based on the Policies, Chairman Brandy concluded.

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