The Right to Information Commission (RTIC) has fined the Lands Commission GH¢100,000 for failure to provide information on “returned’ State lands requested by OccupyGhana, a pressure group.
In a ruling dated March 2, 2023, the RTIC ordered the commission to release the information within 14 days.
In addition, any 14 days default in adhering to the ruling will attract a default penalty of 10 per cent over the “administrative fine”.
The RTIC gave the ruling after OccupyGhana dragged the Lands Commission to it over the latter’s failure to release the said information to the pressure group since June, last year.
The RTIC, therefore, ordered the Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission to release information on a list of all public lands over which government’s ownership or control had been relinquished, and the names of persons to whom those lands had been released, the respective sizes and locations such as suburbs, towns or cities and regions of all such lands.
The commission was also to provide the conditions of release, whether free, sale, lease or licensed, and wether the land was leased.
It was also asked to provide the amount of rent paid or payable, and any other amounts paid or received by the government, if any, for each such transaction.
In a statement issued by OccupyGhana last Wednesday, it said since news emerged about attempts to “return” Achimota Forest lands to alleged “original owners”, OccupyGhana had expressed its strong rejection of such a move and questioned the legality and constitutionality of such a decision.
For this reason, OccupyGhana had since June 2, last year, demanded from the Lands Commission, information on all lands alleged to have been returned.
The commission on September 2, 2022, claimed that it was waiting for the Attorney-General’s advice on whether the consent of the persons to whom the State lands had allegedly been transferred was required to provide the information.
The RTIC, meanwhile, said that being a public-interest pressure group, OccupyGhana had the mandate and interest to ensure that property belonging to the State was well preserved for the benefit of the country and that management of such State property was done in an accountable manner.
According to the ruling, “no person’s consent should be required for such information to be released to well-meaning citizens.
“And indeed, no such consent should be required as a condition precedent for exacting accountability from the government or a public institution like the Lands Commission in its management of State resources or assets,” it said.
The RTIC further said that the posture by the Lands Commission in refusing to provide information worked against the right of access to information enshrined under Article 21(1)(f) of the 1992 Constitution and affirmed by Act 989 and same ought to be deprecated in the strongest terms.
In a statement issued last Thursday, OccupyGhana was happy that the RTIC had condemned the commission’s evasive and delay tactics and said: “We promise both the Lands Commission and the government that they have not fully and finally heard from us yet”.