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Moratorium of public land sales extended

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has extended the moratorium on the sales and transaction on all public  lands including the issuance of Tribal Certificates and Town Lot Certificates issued by Executive Order No. 53 on December 20, 2013.

The moratorium which has been extended by a new Executive Order No. 67 is effective for a period of one year.

An Executive Mansion release says because continuation of public land sales under the current procedures, as outlined in the Public Land Laws of 1973, will exacerbate problems of unequal access, insecurity of tenure and the rule of law in public land transaction, it is imperative that a moratorium be placed on the sale of public land to allow for new land laws, regulations and procedures to be formulated.

The moratorium applies to all individuals, government functionaries, local officials, traditional authorities’ communities, groups, businesses and associations involved in public land transactions.

The Executive Order No. 67, signed by President Sirleaf on January 9, 2015, further states that this moratorium also applies to all activities involving the issuance of Tribal Certificates by traditional or other governmental authorities or the issuance of Town Lot Certificates by municipal authorities; that relevant government ministries and agencies shall be responsible to closely monitor the situation to ensure compliance; and that all Tribal Certificates or Town Lot Certificates issued by any local authority during the period of this moratorium shall be considered illegal and void.

The Liberian leader said recognizing that during the formulation of the new land laws, regulations and procedures, some public land transaction must be undertaken to secure land for public use and development initiatives which will require thorough vetting procedures, a nine-member screening committee has been constituted to vet all Public Land Deeds in the country and work in accordance with the Interim Guides and Procedures for the sale of Public Land (2011) as recommended for the Land Commission.

Members of the committee are: Chairperson of the Land Commission (chair); Ministers of Justice, Internal Affairs, Public Works, Agriculture, and the Lands, Mines and Energy.

Others are the Chairman of the National Investment Commission, Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority and the Executive Director of the Environment Protection Agency.

Executive Order No. 67 further specified that current issues surrounding the sale of public land poses serious challenges to ensuring equal access, security of tenure and the rule of law with regards to public land transaction.

The Liberian leader recognized that issues involving public land are complex, current procedures contribute to many of the problems and abuses associated with public land sales, there is a need to address and investigate these procedures, recognizing that there are technical social issues involved in identifying available public land, including the issuance of Tribal Certificates or Town Lot Certificates.

She indicated that as the Land Commission is undertaking comprehensive reforms of the land sector and has completed a National Land Rights Policy which redefines Public Land and requires the formulation of new laws, regulations and procedures to guide transaction involving public land, the continuing  issuance of Tribal Certificates and Town Lot Certificates for effecting public land sale, if left unchecked will significantly hamper implementation of the National Land Rights Policy, specifically diminishing the benefits of customary land rights.

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