Monrovia - Land conflict stems from the foundation of Liberia between the settlers and the indigenous, but today the foremost problem is the double sale of land.
This looming challenge prompted the enactment of the criminal conveyance law, which prohibits the double sale of land.
Despite the enactment of this law, many land buyers continue to be dubbed by land dealers.
Jonathan Freeman bought one acre of Land in Duazon, Margibi County – along the Robertfield highway – in 2012. As he planned to construct his home, another buyer, who claimed to be the real owner of the property, confronted him.
“I bought this land since 2012, immediately after I bought the land, things when bad on me, I lost my job and could not start my project,” Freeman said.
Freeman did everything legally to retain the land but he became confused that his grantor sold the same property to another person. He then filed legal actions against those claiming ownership to his property.
He is still frustrated as the case remains on the docket of the Magisterial Court in Unification City, Margibi County.
In Johnsonsville, Montserrado County, frequent cases of land dispute are threatheing the peace of the community.
There have violent clashes amongst residents which led to the death of a young man in Febrauary 2017.
Alpha Momoh, community chairman in the area, said the double sale of land has been a serious source of conflict in the community.
“The huge number of land cases from his area, especially those lingering at the magistrial and circuit courts, remain a future threat to the community if nothing is done to arrest the situation,” Momoh said.
Momoh continued: “People sold land within this area (community) that do not belong to them, many of whom have been identified as caretakers. I believe there will be serious land conflicts, some of which continue to arise.”
Atty. Bob Laywhee, a lawyer who deals with land conflict, said buyers are mostly the victim of the double sale of land.
“It caused them frustration, emotional stress and pecuniary losses,” Atty. Laywhee said.
Atty. Laywhee said the criminal conveyance law takes into consideration the role of the surveyor, land dealers and buyers.
“If the surveyor knows the person selling the land is not the rightful owner, he should not form part of such dealing,” Atty. Laywhee said. “The surveyor should know the grantor and investigate.”
Atty. Laywhee urged land buyer to do due diligence by investigating the actual owner of the property before puchasing said land.
“Somebody told you (buyer) that they are selling a land and you see foundation on the land and don’t investigate you are part of the problem,” Laywhee said.
Atty. Laywhylee said assigning more than one judge at Circuit courts in order to fastrack land dispute cases at the court would help ease the problem.
“We need to prosecute at all levels. Some victims end up leaving the land because of the cost associated with land cases, including hiring a lawyer, and transportation going to court sometimes on a regular basis,” Atty. Laywhylee said.
A civil society group, Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), in a recent report said that conflicts related to land are common in Liberia.
“There are boundary disputes between clans and chiefdoms, disputes over ownership of parcels of land, and conflicts arising from communities’ resistance to land grabs by investors among others,” CENTAL said.
The NGO said land corruption research findings have shown that Liberia has made progress in addressing land-related challenges.
“The findings revealed that studies have been conducted, policies adopted, executive orders issued, laws enacted, and institutions created to improve and strengthen the sector,” it said.
The report added: “The report noted that although policymaking and research have been infused by the recognized importance of land to Liberians in the urban and rural areas, or communities and individuals alike, minimal emphasis has been placed on the extent to which corruption undermines the viability of the land sector.”
CENTAL said, corruption in the land sector is widely accepted as consequential but there is no extensive study that examines its impact on land access and ownership, tenure security, citizen participation in decision-making, advocacy, and dispute resolution among others.