The Importance of the Land Rights Bill to Liberia’s Land Reform Part II (Land Ownership)
The Land Rights Bill is a proposed law currently before the Legislature for review. The Bill seeks to establish authentic procedures and well organized processes for land acquisition, use, management and administration in Liberia.
Purpose of the draft Land Rights Bill
The Land Rights Bill highlights several key issues relevant to the holistic reformation of Liberia’s land sector. One of such is Land Ownership.
As highlighted in the Land Rights Bill of 2014, its purpose is to define and delineate the different categories of land ownership and rights recognized in Liberia.
The proposed law prescribes the means by which each of the categories of land can be acquired, used, transferred and otherwise managed.
It ensures that all communities, families, individuals and legal entities enjoy secure land rights free of fear that their land will be taken from them, except in accordance with due process of law.
The Land Rights Bill intends to confirm, declare and ensure 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.
It calls for permitting land ownership for all Liberians regardless of their identity, whether based on custom, ethnicity, tribe, language, and gender or otherwise.
Scope of the Land Rights Bill
The Land Rights Bill applies to and covers all lands in Liberia, whether presently or hereafter owned privately, publicly or collectively.
It provides that all persons who own or seek to own rights or interest to land in Liberia, including individuals, communities and legal entities as well as government and its agencies follow the established procedures and processes for said ownership.
The draft law allows original acquisition or title and subsequent transfer of any interests or rights in land in Liberia.
Ownership and other Rights in Land
The Land Rights Bill indicates that land ownership shall consist of a bundle of rights which include the right to possess, the right to use, the right to exclude and the right to transfer by sale, devise, gift or otherwise.
Under this nature, the Land Rights Bill points to the absence of the right to transfer singly or jointly by sale, devise, gift or otherwise including a restriction on the exercise of any of the rights such as the right to possess, the right to use, the right to exclude and the right to transfer by sale, devise, gift or otherwise does not defeat or negate a person’s ownership of land in Liberia.
The Land Rights Bill further pointed out that ownership of land in Liberia does not extend to Mineral Resources on the land and beneath it.
It provides that land ownership may be held singly or jointly by individuals, or collectively by a community as a communal property or the Government as public assets.
According to the Land Rights Bill, a person not having title to land may still have and enjoy the right to possess and or use the land pursuant to an agreement of lease, an easement, or a license; noting that the government may also grant a concession on or over Government Land or Public Land.
The Categories of Land Ownership in Liberia
The Land Rights Bill sets four distinct categories of classification for land ownership in Liberia which include Public Land Ownership, Government Land Ownership, Customary Land Ownership and Private Land Ownership.
According to the Bill, Public Land is a land acquire by the government through purchase, escheat, confiscation, gift or otherwise, which is not presently used by government for its facilities and operations and is also neither Private Land nor Customary Land.
The Land Rights Bill describes Government Land as a land owned by government and used for its buildings, projects, or activities of the government, including but not limited to land on which are located: the offices of ministries, agencies, and parastatal bodies; military bases; roads; public schools and universities; public hospitals and clinics; public libraries and public museums; public utilities; and airports.
For Customary Land, the Bill indicates that it is a portion of land owned by a community and use or managed in accordance with customary practices and norms, and include, but not limited to wetlands, communal forestlands, and fallow lands.
On the issue of Private Land, the proposed law mandates that Private Land is a land which is owned or otherwise held by private persons under the provisions of The Land Rights Bill and other applicable laws in Liberia.
Owing to the importance of the land Rights Bill, which provides comprehensive measures to curtailing land conflicts and promotes the inclusive acquisition, use, management and administration of Land in Liberia, there is a need for the Bill to be passed in a timely manner with the aim to encourage peaceful coexistence and suitable environment for business in Liberia.