I have for sometime now dealt extensively concerning matters of chieftaincy in this country which is so dear to my heart as a public interest advocate. We cannot pretend to over-look the rate at which traditional authorities have been abusing their powers and denying their subjects what is due them in the area of accountable stewardship.
Chieftaincy is an institution created by an Act of parliament[see Chieftaincy Act,2008(Act 759)].It is therefore dangerous to continue to live with past indoctrination that, by virtue of unwritten customary laws and conventions, a chief must and should always be served and when he is deviating from the norm,because he has the full support of the gods,he can't be criticized.This presumptive mentality ought to be nipped in the bud for courageous people to hold their chiefs to strict accountability in exercise of their constitutional rights as responsible citizens of the Republic of Ghana.
We live in a world where, the elderly thinks,he is infallible and can't be whipped in line when he departs from the norm. It is a trite knowledge that,if we were all infallible,there wouldn't have been the need in setting up the judiciary as enshrined in the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana(Article 125). respectively. Any institution created by an Act of parliament is a PUBLIC institution and the very first day our chiefs allowed their existence to originate from an Act of parliament,that was exactly the day,our chiefs became public officers and must be treated as such from henceforth.
It is also an undisputable fact that,when Act of parliament creates an institution,officers within that institution by definition,are PUBLIC OFFICERS and for that matter,whoever works through the" chieftaincy as an institution created by an Act of parliament automatically becomes a public officer. Our chiefs must be aware that,they derive their powers from the Act of parliament that created their institution that is why they are under the ministry of chieftaincy.
They do not derive their powers from any unwritten customary law though,customary law is recognised as existing law in our 1992 constitution in article 11(1)(d). Clause three of same provision defines customary law"as the rules of law, which by custom are applicable to particular communities in Ghana. Customary law is classified as existing law within the definition rooted in clause 4 of the same provision and it is defined as " the written and unwritten laws of Ghana as they existed immediately before the coming into force of this Constitution. In this case,our customary law falls within the"unwritten category".
What defeats the customary law is the fact that,it is unwritten and if our chiefs were going to derive their powers from same, "parliament would have long ago created a customary Act for them".
I will at this juncture entreat our chiefs to pay serious attention to article 267 and 257 of the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana for the purpose of education.
If our chiefs had paid attention to Article 267(1) of the 1992 constition of the Republic of Ghana,they would have known that,they are only care-takers of every single land connected to a stool and not as in rightful owners subject to unlawfu seizure from occupants.For the purpose of clarity and education,let me quote in extenso the explicit provision of clause 1 of article 267.
It reads" (1) All stool lands in Ghana shall vest in the appropriate stool on behalf of, and in trust for the subjects of the stool in accordance with customary law and usage. By this definition, a chief cannot be an over of a land connected to a stool. It is wrong for a chief to lease a land connected to the stool and pocket the proceeds contrary to Section 1 of the office of the Administrator of stool lands Act,1994(Act 481) as well as clause 2(1)(a)(b) of the constitution of Ghana.
The above provision makes it clear that, There shall be established the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands which shall be responsible for -
(a) the establishment of a stool land account for each stool into which shall be paid all rents, dues, royalties, revenues or other payments whether in the nature of income or capital from the stool lands;
(b) the collection of all such rents, dues, royalties, revenues or other payments whether in the nature of income or capital, and to account for them to the beneficiaries specified in clause (6) of this article; and
(c) the disbursement of such revenues.
The subject matter is in respect of land which we all know is an immovable property and cannot be sold outrightly but rather on leasehold .Internation Accounting standard 17 has a broad definition of Lease and gives them a definite meaning and groups them into two,they are (a) Finance lease and (b) operating lease. Finance lease is therefore defined by IAS 17 as" a lease that transfers substantially all the risks and reward of ownership(lessee)
Since land is an immovable property and per our land tenure system in Ghana,a land cannot be sold but can only be on leasehold between two individuals namely the lessor and the lessee I shall for the purpose of clarity use lease in my argument.
An asset on leasehold brings an income to the lessor that is why the lessor by proper accounting standard in his financial statement is supposed to do the following per the standard,
(I)Lessors should recognise assets held under a finance lease, presented as a receivable at an amount equal to the net investment in the lease. (II) The recognition of finance income should be based on a pattern reflecting a constant periodic rate of return on the lessor’s net investment in the finance lease.
The broad issue in this case has always been whether or not the stool lands our chiefs give out as lease actually comes with an economic inflow within the concept Of the International Accounting standard 18 which defines REVENUE?. It is also a common knowledge that,the money they get from "those they lease the lands to" ought to be treated as revenue to the stool which should have gone straight to the stool lands account and not in their pockets.
Most of our chiefs have been in the business of keeping monies in their pockets which are supposed to go to the stool lands account as REVENUE. A time would come that,all these monies shall be accounted for the purpose of probity and accountability. The Right to Information Act will soon be implemented for citizens to hold their chiefs to strict accountability. They should have that in mind and prepare very well for that.
Public interest Advocate
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