16 November 2012

Liberia: 95 Percent Land Cases Before Supreme Court

About 95% of cases that appear before the Supreme Court involve land disputes, the Chairman of the Land Commission of Liberia,Dr. Othello Cecil Brandy, yesterday while insisting that the lack of attention to the problem was a recipe for chaos.

Speaking at a regular weekly MICAT briefing, he said the Supreme Court sent the Land Commission a list of cases adding, "95% of cases of the Supreme Court are land cases."

"If land dispute is not handled properly, it could take the country back to crisis. Land dispute threatens peace," the land commission chair warned.

Even though he did not say the period of time the cases cover, Mr.Brandy attributed the problem of land dispute to the lack of land policy and the lack of equal land rights in the country.

"We are very concerned. We take this as a very serious matter" Mr. Brandy told newsmen.

But Mr. Brandy also warned that proper governance is needed to ensure that resources provided by concession companies intended for community are not misappropriated or there could be adverse consequences.

In Plebe Maryland County, he lamented that there is a lack of land for people to plant their crops adding that this has brought disenchantment amongst the people.

He disclosed that the Land Commission has participated in the investigation into several high profile land disputes including the University of Liberia and residents of the community around the site of the newly constructed Fendell campus.

He named the burning down of 16.5 acres of cassava research plots at the Central Agriculture Research Institute, in Suakoko, Bong County by local residents in the town as one of the cases his commission participated in.

The Commission, Mr. Brandy said participated in resolving land disputes in Lofa and Nimba Counties where residents took swords against one another.

President Sirleaf imposed a moratorium on the sale of public land and deferred the signing of public land sale deeds pending their thorough vetting. The president also forwarded all such deeds awaiting her signature to the Land Commission to be vetted.

To this, Mr. Brandy said the Land Commission has begun the vetting exercise and has developed interim regulations for reforming the process of acquiring public land deeds. This will eventually lead to reform of the 1973 Public Land Sales law.

He said several deeds have been vetted, including 11 deeds which have been forwarded to President Sirleaf for signature. Mr. Brandy added that a formal ceremony marking the first signing of Public Land Deeds by President Sirleaf was signed on August 5th 2010.

"So far, more than 50 public land sales deeds have been signed by the president following the rigorous vetting process. As a result of lessons learnt from the vetting exercise, a revised set of interim procedures for affecting the sale of public land has been developed," he said.

He also warned people to be mindful of purchasing land around the Roberts International Airport Highway because of many land dispute in the area. "BE warned," he said about the RIA highway.

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