Many of the current issues arising out of the sale of public land continue to serve as serious challenges in ensuring equal access, security of tenure and the rule of law regarding transactions. It was in view of the foregoing that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently constituted a nine-member Screening Committee charged with the responsibility of vetting all Public Land Deeds in the country, as well as work in accordance with the Interim Guidelines and Procedures for the Sale of Public Land (2011) as recommended by the Land Commission.
The President named Chairperson of the Land Commission, as Chair, the Ministers of Justice, Internal Affairs, Public Works, Agriculture, and Lands, Mines and Energy; the Chairman of the National Investment Commission, Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority and Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency as members of the committee.
The constitution of the committee by President Sirleaf was in furtherance of Executive Order No. 53 she recently signed and issued in Monrovia, placing a moratorium on public land sales and all transactions, including the issuance of Tribal Certificates and Town Lot Certificates with immediate effect. The moratorium also applies to individuals, government functionaries, local officials, traditional authorities, communities, groups, business and associations involved in public land transactions.
Inclusive in the moratorium are 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, with the warning 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.
The persistent violent conflicts in recent times, characterizing transactions in land sale in Monrovia and other parts of the country may have pushed President Sirleaf to issuing this latest Executive Order- something we believe is necessary and commendable on the part of the Liberian Chief Executive. Because these violent land conflicts continue to result to severe injuries, deaths and destruction of property. It must not just be the issuance of mere order, but its execution to the latter. This is where the nine-man screening committee appointed by President is now challenged in the interest of peace and sanity.
The committee must also be challenged to create the necessary awareness/sensitization among the population so that such screening exercise will involve all Liberians in the realization of the President’s dream to minimize or stop conflicts arising out of transactions in land sales across the country. This would also require the cooperation, at all levels, of us all. Thus, the President’s action is well-meaning; and must be commended.