The codification of the Ghanaian customary laws regarding chieftaincy, family and land ownership will help minimise the numerous protracted and costly chieftaincy and land disputes in the country.
The Omanhene of the Kokofu Traditional Area in the Ashanti Region, Barima Offe Akwasi Okogyeasuo II, who made the observation, said even though customary law was an important source of law in Ghana, the rules and practices of some communities were not always clear.
He said the uncertainty in the customary law had contributed greatly to chieftaincy and land disputes in the country.
According to him, the nation stood to benefit if those customary laws were codified and documented to serve as reference to resolve chieftaincy and land disputes that had choked the courts.
Barima Okogyeasuo, who is also a Joint Steering Committee member of the Ascertainment of Customary Law Project (ACLP), made the remarks at the opening of a two-day workshop to validate the findings of data collected from two pilot areas in the Brong Ahafo Region.
The pilot areas are Duayaw Nkwanta and Nkoranza traditional areas.
The project, an initiative of the National House of Chiefs, in collaboration with the Law Reform Commission with the support of the German Development Co-operation (GTZ), is to ascertain and codify the customary law rules and practices on land and family in Ghana .
It constituted the first initiative to be taken towards fulfilling the important constitutional mandate given to the National House of Chiefs in Article 272 (b) of the 1992 Constitution.
The article mandates the National House of Chiefs to undertake the progressive study, interpretation and codification of customary law with a view to evolving, in appropriate cases, a unified system of rules of customary law and compiling the customary laws and lines of succession applicable to each stool or skin.
Barima Okogyeasuo said the gaps in the knowledge of customary law also accounted for the high incidence of chieftaincy disputes, and that the state of affairs reinforced the need for the ascertainment and codification of customary laws which were easily ascertainable and accessible to help resolve such disputes.
Giving a background of the project, the Kokofumanhene said it began in December 2006 and among the objectives were: to pilot the ascertainment, validation and codification of customary law on land and family with variations, ascertain customary law on land and family validate and codify the ascertained customary law on land and harmonise codified customary law on land and family.
Barima Okogyeasuo said the project was in three phases; the pilot phase, collection of variation of customary laws phase and final validation, codification and harmonisation phase.
He said the project was currently in the pilot phase in which 20 traditional areas; two from each of the 10 regions of the country, had been selected for collection of data.
The Kokofumanhene mentioned the traditional areas as Offinso and Tepa in Ashanti’ Duayaw Nkwanta and Nkoranza in Brong Ahafo; Eguafo and Assin Attandanso in Central; Akuapem and Yilo Krobo in Eastern, Kpone and Osudoku in Greater Accra, Gonja and Mamprusi in Northern, Bolga and Paga in Upper East; Kaleo and Nandom in Upper West; Asogli and Kete Krachi in Volta and Lower Axim and Sefwi Chiraano in the Western Region.
The Executive Secretary of ACLP, Mrs Sheila Minkah-Premo, who presented the Land Law findings of the two traditional areas for Brong Ahafo, said the validation workshop was to fine tune the information or data collected during the research before the final report.
The National Research Co-ordinator of ACLP, Mr Thomas Tagoe, said focused group discussions and group interviews were used for the collection of the data.
The participants at the workshop who were mainly members of the Brong Ahafo Regional House of Chiefs raised objection on the boundary demarcation mentioned in the report of the findings and also the term stool lands and vested lands.
According to them, vested lands did not belong to the government but to nananom, and that it was the administrative functions that had been transferred to the state which were to be administered for and on behalf of the stool.
They also said the customary laws on land in the region did not discriminate against women owning and having access to land as captured in the findings and called for an amendment of that portion.
The President of the Brong Ahafo Regional House of Chiefs and Omanhene of Kukuom Traditional Area, Osahene Kwaku Aterkyi, in his welcoming address, expressed the hope that the project would be extended to many other traditional areas to ensure its sustenance in the country.