Senators Brace for Heated Land Rights Act Debate

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There are growing indications that the four year-old Land Rights Act (2014) will finally be passed by the senate, and sooner than expected, a source in the Senate Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Environment and Natural Resources has told the Daily Observer.

According to the new senate arrangement, debates on some of the very crucial and delayed bills will now be held exclusively on Thursdays, while Tuesdays will be reserved for other legislation and confirmation hearings.

The Land Rights Act (2014) was submitted to members of the legislature by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, which marked a very major step in resolving the country’s land conflicts; delineates the different categories of land ownership and rights by discussing the bundles of rights associated with each land category.

The proposed Act itself recognizes Government Land, Public Land, Customary Land and Private Land.

Under the Private Land category, the ownership of private land shall become extinct by abandonment and the land to government if the owner fails to pay all taxes on the land for a continuous period of 10 years or the land has not been occupied, developed or used by the owner for a period of 10 years.

The same private land category provides that land may be acquired by many means, including adverse possession, when the occupant remains in possession without objection for a continuous period of 15 years. (In current statute it is 20 years).

The proposed Act states that a private landowner may lose his title on account of loss of his Liberian citizenship; in that case, the government will take ownership of the land when there are no surviving heirs or spouses. In this case, he shall be entitled to a just compensation from the government or lease of the land from the government.

Under the Customary Land, a community’s ownership of land includes the ownership and rights to use an alienate, by any means, all non-mineral resources on the land such as forests. However, mineral resources are excluded.

The proposed Act also stipulates that under the Customary Land, all concessions, contracts, permits and licenses issued on such land prior to the effective date shall remain enforceable in keeping with their existing terms and conditions.

“For concessions and other contracts and licenses issued after the effective date, including mineral concessions, each community hosting said concession, in addition to other benefits, will receive a minimum of five percent free-carried undiluted interest at all times, of the rights in the concession, license, permit or other encumbrance,” the proposed Act noted.

Through an Act of the Legislature, according to the proposed Act, the government shall establish a small and efficient semi-autonomous agency, to be named and styled Customary Land Support Office, to assist traditional communities in the development of their Customary Lands.

Following the passage of the Bill by the House of Representatives, the Bill was sent to the senate for concurrence. The Senate plenary sent same to the joint Committees on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment then chaired by now Senate Protempore Albert T. Chie, and Judiciary, Claims, Human Rights and Petitions committee, chaired by Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney Sherman.

The Joint Committee in its final report to plenary in August 2017, told senators that it had consulted experienced international experts in land matters during public hearings and in committee room, and that major interactions were held with citizens through civil society groups, Female Lawyers, Liberian Bar Association, Council of Elders of Grand Gedeh County, experts, the general public, and community leaders.

On the question of why the senators, including some members of the joint committee, did not vote for immediate passage of the Bill, Senator Chie said the main intent of that sitting was to have an open debate, “and everyone participated and concerns and amendments suggested will now be included in the committee’s final report, which we are confident will be passed by this 53rd Legislature; we are not doing this to help any individual or institution to leave a good legacy as perceived by some people.”

The new chair on Lands and Mines Lofa County Senator George Tamba Tengbeh was not available for comment when contacted yesterday; but other members of that committee are optimistic of a marathon Thursday’s debate to be followed by passage of the Bill.

5 COMMENTS

  1. So if I understand, in summary if this bill is passed, any person of Liberian descent who acquires a second nationality or say multiple nationalities may lose “his/her title on account of loss of his/her Liberian citizenship. The use of “may” here is quite confusing could be interpreted as the loss of a land title might not necessarily apply.

    However, I have a few questions law makers may want to consider before making a decision:

    1) Will the current law allow Liberians allowed(a certain category of Liberians are allowed by law to have dual or multiple nationalities subject to some conditions ) to have dual or multiple nationalities like for example, individuals of Liberian descent born in countries applying the “jus soli” principle onto parents having Liberian nationality? Liberian nationality law allows such individuals to hold onto their Liberian nationality til they are 18 and if my memory serves me right up to 23 years of age (in the latter case – subject to swearing an oath before a consul or authorized immigration officer). In summary ,could a Liberian child who is 18

    2) What about Liberian attaining automatic nationality by marriage. For example, a Liberian lady married to an Iranian man becomes automatically becomes Iranian by nationality (without application ). And one key question here to examine is (off the record): Will such individual be allowed to own land even though they are dual nationals ?

    3) Will this bill affect individuals with honarary nationality ? Eventhough this is not common ,some countries bestow honorary nationality on foreign citizens as they deem worthy of distinction. Let’s assume a Liberian government official or philantropist due to distinction or examplary effort has been awarded an honorary citizenship by a foreign country, will this law affect his/her nationality and subsequently his/her land ownership? Will this law permit such dual national to own land?

    (OFF TOPIC)
    There are a lot of loopholes in the Liberian nationality act that should be adressed. For example, Liberia is a State party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967
    Protocol,International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination(1965) as well as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979). Liberia is directly in contravention of the above mentioned conventions to which it is a party. (Makes me to wonder if those representing Liberia at these conventions just went there to drink coffee and sign papers). Let’s dive a little bit into shallow waters and consider two scenarios, let’s imagine a scenario where a stateless non negro refugee granted asylum in Liberia and establishes him/herself in Liberia AND desires to apply for Liberian citizenship. Will the individual’s application be rejected( Answer is yes by current law). This violates the intent and spirit of international conventions to which Liberia is a party (my opinion). I personally believe barring people of non negro descent from acquiring Liberian citizenship is counter intuitive as it places non negro person of non negro descent in

    2) Can a person from the Southern Pacific (say Solomon Island, Papua New Guinea ) be defined to be of negro descent ?? Will he/she be allowed to gain Liberian nationality?

    It is disturbing to even draft such a suggestion(bill) that might eventually deprive a person of his/her property simply due to acquisition of a foreign citizenship.If Liberia wants to move forward and boast the econony, law makers (not all law makers are in favor of such) should start to think about the country instead of protecting their own selfish interests.

    How on earth would anyone of Liberian descent (not a Liberian citizen ) return to make any investments if the individual fears that the property might get siezed and turn over to the government ( corrupt government officials ) ? Can’t Liberia copy from it’s neighbors ( Ghana, Ivory Coast,etc) ?

    BACK ON TOPIC ..

    The government DOES NOT hesitate to give concessions to multinational companies. These companies literally own their concession areas, yet some of these ill intent law makers have the guts to make laws to bar persons of Liberian descent who out of necessity and to facilitate and sustain the livelihood of family members, had to make the tough decision of acquiring a second nationility but yet contribute significantly to the Liberian economy. Let Liberians open their eyes and see , it serves Liberian to allow persons of Liberian descent to own property. Should Liberians start returning to “close by” instead where they could own land ?

    I am at work and will stop thus far….. Forgive my typos , I was wrote in a hurry!

  2. SORRY I DID NOT CONCLUDE POINT ONE:
    1) Will the current law allow Liberians allowed(a certain category of Liberians are allowed by law to have dual or multiple nationalities subject to some conditions ) to have dual or multiple nationalities like for example, individuals of Liberian descent born in countries applying the “jus soli” principle onto parents having Liberian nationality? Liberian nationality law allows such individuals to hold onto their Liberian nationality til they are 18 and if my memory serves me right up to 23 years of age (in the latter case – subject to swearing an oath before a consul or authorized immigration officer). In summary ,could a Liberian child who is between 18 and above forfeit their right to land based of the acquisition of a foreign nationality?

  3. INCOMPLETE PARAGRAPH FROM THE OFF TOPIC SECTION!!!
    There are a lot of loopholes in the Liberian nationality act that should be adressed. For example, Liberia is a State party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967
    Protocol,International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination(1965) as well as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979). Liberia is directly in contravention of the above mentioned conventions to which it is a party. (Makes me to wonder if those representing Liberia at these conventions just went there to drink coffee and sign papers). Let’s dive a little bit into shallow waters and consider two scenarios, let’s imagine a scenario where a stateless non negro refugee granted asylum in Liberia and establishes him/herself in Liberia AND desires to apply for Liberian citizenship. Will the individual’s application be rejected( Answer is yes by current law). This violates the intent and spirit of international conventions to which Liberia is a party (my opinion). I personally believe barring people of non negro descent from acquiring Liberian citizenship is counter intuitive as it places non negro person of non negro descent in a difficult situation causing them to habour a sense of insecurity. The latter will prefer to repatriate his/her wealth acquired to a country where they might feel secure! (Just one disadvantage this law causes). The current law does not affect these individuals either. There has been generations of non negro descent in Liberia who even enjoy better condition than native Liberians. Legalize it !

  4. our land there god will help us keep it.because our people work hard to keep it and they die and some are still alive and so my job is to let you know we are here we are looking for answer to the questions. so there is all way a problem with the land and the problems cause by money the people die so maybe i should be the president and all the land problems will be solve

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