THE LAND COMMISSION: Reflecting on the past and moving towards the Liberia Land Authority

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    Land is unarguably an important national economic asset for every country and the world over. Land serves as the custodian of all wealth and host all of human’s transactions. Proper and effective management of land always result into unlimited remuneration for any nation.
    In Liberia, the land sector has not been firmly defined in terms of policies and laws for its use, management and administration. The public land law, which is even more ambiguous, was last enacted since 1973. This law did not state clearly how the land will be governed and even silenced on its use, management and administration. Besides, it has outlived its usefulness and cannot adequately be effective in the reform process of this new dispensation.
    Moreover, the Liberian acrimonious experience exacerbated the already complicated situation posed in the land sector and caused even internal sectorial land dispute across the country. Claims and counter claims, duplication of mother deeds, criminal conveyance of land, double sale of a parcel of land, encroachment on wetlands, water ways and beachfronts, are among serious problems that engulfed the land sector, which if not handled judicially, have the propensity to destroy the gains made and revert the country to its hostile past.
    Against this back drop, the Government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf through an Act of the Legislature, established the Land commission in 2009, with a mandate to propose, advocate and coordinate reforms of land policy, laws and programs in Liberia.
    Since its inception, the Land Commission has meticulously crafted appropriate policies and laws in a bid to champion the needed reforms in the crumbling Liberia land sector. These instruments include, the Interim Guidelines and Procedures for the Sale of Public Land, the Land Rights Policy, the Act Against Criminal Conveyance of Land, the draft Land Rights Act, which is before the National Legislature, and the draft Liberia Land Authority Act, among others.
    Other policies being formulated and nearing completion include, the Land Administration Policy, and the Land Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy. The Commission is gathering evidence that will inform the formulation of an Urban Land Use Management Policy.
    However, while the Commission is making frantic efforts to accomplish these and many of its deliverables, there are challenges, which need to be addressed in order to enhance the smooth transition of the Land Commission to the institutional arrangement of the proposed new land agency, tentatively named, the Liberia Land Authority, prior to the expiration of the Commission’s extended tenure on January 9, 2016.
    Nevertheless, the Chairman of the Land Commission, Dr. Cecil T. O. Brandy, has described the Liberia Land Authority Bill as the most critical issue that needs to be treated with urgency since the Legislature will be going for recess any moment from now and resume their Legislative functions on the second working Monday of January, 2016.
    The Liberia Land Authority Bill seeks to establish an autonomous body of Government, with primary responsibility for land governance, including land administration and management. It will be operationally independent and generally free in pursuit of its mandate.
    According to Dr. Brandy, the Land Commission will be exceedingly glad to see this Liberia Land Authority Bill pass along with the Land Rights Act. The draft Land Rights Act is a fundamental legal instrument that will classify land into four categories and define the rights associated with each category.
    The Act, now before the legislature for enactment, provides the legal basis for the enforcement of the Land Rights Policy of 2013, which created the four tenure rights categories of Private Land, Government Land, Public Land, and Customary Land.
    This Act also confirms, declares and ensures equal access and equal protection with respect to land ownership, use and management, including ensuring that Customary Land is given protection equal to Private Land and that land ownership is permitted for all Liberians regardless of their identity, whether based on custom, ethnicity, tribe, language, gender or otherwise.
    The Land Administration policy is another crucial policy document, which presents a framework for land administration in Liberia. It focuses on the main features of good land administration and those pertaining to the identification, ownership, use, and valuation of land, including information on all lands, as well as the identification of land and the determination of rights to the land, recording of those rights, valuation of land and the management of government and public land, coordination of land use planning, the establishment of the institutional framework at central and local government levels to carry out this mandate, and the broader issues of governance, policy development, and legislative and regulatory reform necessary to attain government’s objectives.
    If the two bills are passed into law, there will be hope that works previously under taken by the Land Commission will be yielding fruits for the reform needed in the land sector in Liberia.

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