The Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources in charge of Lands and Forestry, Hon. Benito Owusu Bio has inaugurated the Western North Regional office of the Administrator of Stool Lands (OASL).
In a short ceremony held at the Okogyeabour Palace in Sefwi Wiawso, the Chairman for the occasion, who is also the Paramount Chief for the Sefwi Wiawso Traditional Council, Katakyie Kwasi Bumagama II, in his short acceptance speech expressed his joy and gratitude to the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the Ministry for such honour given him with the inauguration of another office in his region.
Mr. Percy Ayamgah, who delivered the welcome address on behalf of the Western North Regional Minister, Hon. Richard Ebbah Obbeng extended the Minister’s heartfelt felicitation to the people, especially the Chiefs and the Hon. Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resource, Hon Benito Owusu Bio and his entourage from Accra.
He said, “We are confident of realizing the task to enhance Stool Land revenue mobilization and disbursement to facilitate sustainable development and efficient management of Stool Land funds for the benefit of the present and future generation in our region,”
Also, he called on the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands to continue to coordinate with the relevant stakeholders and consult with the stool and traditional authorities on matters relating to the administration and development of stool lands.
Furthermore, he pledged his support to ensure the effective operation of the office to live up to their establishment and expectation.
In her short address, the Administrator of Stool Lands, Surveyor Mrs. Maame Ama Edumadze- Acquah said upon the expansion of the region from ten to sixteen, her office decided to also expand their areas of operations to create more offices in line with the expansion drive.
“Last year, we were able to inaugurate our Ahafo Regional Office and today, by the grace of God, we are here to inaugurate our Western North Regional Office”.
Again, she added that the Western North Regional office becomes the 9th Regional Office out of the sixteen regional offices scheduled to be commissioned in the coming months aimed to bring their services to the doorstep of the citizenry.
Additionally, she said they believe in no uncertain terms that the creation of the Western North Regional Office with district offices in Sefwi Wiawso Municipal, Bibiani Anhwiaso Bekwei Municipal, Aowin Municipal, Juaboso, Bia West and Suaman will help deepen their operation in the region.
Madam Maame Ama Edumadze – Acquah disclosed that OASL is currently in collaboration with GIZ in digitalizing its operations throughout the country which entails spatial identification of property owners/lessees to facilitate the payment of ground rent.
“This is aimed at addressing the fundamental challenges in revenue mobilization to help achieve the Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda”.
Furthermore, she stated that the passage of Legislative Instrument (L.I 2377) for the office of the Administrator of Stool Lands Act 1994, Act 481, has also empowered the office to monitor and ensure the judicious use of stool lands revenue by the various district Assemblies to bring about development.
Also, she seized the opportunity to call for closer collaboration from all stakeholders, especially the Traditional authorities, for the preparation of a policy framework for the rational and productive development and management of stool lands at all levels as enriched in Article 267(7) and (8) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.
To the general public, “we call for the timely provision of information on land transactions to update our records for ground rent mobilization purposes. To the various Assemblies, we want to ask for the provision of office space, relevant planning schemes, public education and judicious utilization of stool revenue,”
Additionally, she called on sister agencies to help the fight against illegal logging and illegal mining (galamsey) to be aggressively sustained, especially in the Western North Region to ensure that the benefit from these exhaustible natural resources will accrue to all but not a few and Nananom, she asked them to continue to supply the office with all the allocation notes including site plans issued to allottees at their various localities for data recording and ground rent purposes.
She urged all to put shoulders to the wheel and make the Western North Region a formidable force to reckon with when it comes to stool lands administration in the country. “Together we will build a great country not just for ourselves but also for future generations,” she concluded.
The Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Hon. Benito Owusu Bio, in his inaugural address, appealed to all gathered to work together with Government and the Ministry to bring down the threat of galamsey which he noted is currently affecting revenue mobilization on land throughout the country.
He said the OASL has done well since its inception in optimising the mobilisation of customary land revenue to alleviate poverty in stool land-owning communities, ensuring accountability and good governance in stool land revenue collection, usage and disbursement and providing an adequate and capable workforce to support the Office’s operations. He believes that the current digitalisation of the operations of the OASL will help the OASL to do even more in this regard. According to the minister, recent global developments have made it even more important for the government to look domestically to mobilize all available funds to realize the Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda.
He said for over 25 years, the OASL has been reliable in this regard, and this is evident in how the revenue raised over the years has been used by Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies in development projects such as the construction of schools, CHPS compounds, markets, and community centres, among other things.
Hon. Benito Owusu Bio added that Traditional authorities have also been observed using their share of stool land revenue for community development, such as the construction of libraries and setting up scholarship schemes for their subjects. All of this is possible because of your hard work as an agency, for which I applaud you.
Again, he hopes that the current digitalization of operations of OASL will help the office to do more about its mandate and pledged the Ministry’s commitment to supporting the OASL in addressing its challenges and improving its operations.
“Some OASL offices are facing some challenges, including the widespread conversion of stool lands to family land and the improper conversion of farmlands into galamsey sites, making it difficult to assess and realise stool land revenues,”
“As this is a new office, I expect you to work diligently to ensure that these issues are addressed as soon as possible. To accomplish this, it is critical to leverage available technologies to improve operational efficiency while maintaining maximum transparency and accountability to the Stools and Government,”
In response, the Chairman for the event, the Paramount Chief for Sefwi Wiawso Traditional Area, Katakyie Kwasi Bumagama II, appealed to the Government and the Ministry to restore the Authority they used to have as Traditional leaders to watch over the forest and other natural resources adding that, without such authority, they are rendered handicapped and cannot act and bring to order persons engaged in illegalities.
“You have made us handicapped to the issues of Land and other resources. Please, let the President know that he should give us back our powers to be the Overlords that we used to be and these issues will die off,” He added that he will not allow any mining activities within his catchment area.
He also requests that the stool revenue given to Traditional Authorities must not be audited by the Ghana Audit Service since such monies are meant for clothes and other related issues pertaining to the palace.
Also, he mentions that there are no physical pieces of evidence of developmental projects out of the 55% of monies given to the District Assemblies.
Inauguration of the office
The Deputy Minister together with his entourage and some Chiefs, moved to the Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) officially to inaugurate the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands (OASL).
The Minister urged the staff of the office to work tirelessly to ensure that maximum revenue is collected for the benefit of the stool and the people of the Western North Region.
He urged them to leverage technologies to improve operational efficiency and maintain maximum transparency and accountability to the stool and government to help mitigate some of the challenges the office is facing.
Project Site Visitation
Hon. Benito Owusu Bio and his team visited some project sites which include Mpoman road, which has been stabilised and scheduled to be tarred. At Bosomoiso, he also inspected 1 Unit KG School block.
The Deputy Minister said that his mission for this inspection was to ensure that the revenue collected had been put to good use.
In attendance at the inauguration were the Deputy Minister, Hon. Benito Owusu Bio, Katakyie Kwasi Bumagama II, the Administrator for OASL Mrs. Maame Ama Edumadze- Acquah, Omanhene of Sefwi Bekwai Traditional Area, Oyeadieyie Kwadwo Armah Basape III, Nana Abena Aniwaa II, Queen mother of Sefwi Wiawso, Staff of OASL from Accra, and Heads of Department from RCC.
Reported by ROBERT ATTOH (PRO, WNRCC, SEFWI WIAWSO)