More Lands Needed For Port Expansion In West Africa

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By Gifty Arthur

Ports authorities, have made a strong case for governments to support them in acquiring more lands to expand their frontiers and other activities.

According to members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and their counterparts from central Africa, less attention has over the years, been paid to issues concerning land, while human activities and encroachers, dangerously compete with authorities for space.

Acting Director-General of Ghana Ports and Habours Authority (GPHA) Michael Luguje, who outlined outcome of the Ports Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) 39th meeting in Accra said, this has led to the ports not being able to expand as they would have wished.

Making a case for the ports, he said, land has over the years become a very scarce asset which needs the intervention of political authority to make their acquisition possible.

For this, he said, the Association has recommended to governments, prioritize their work by playing critical roles by joining forces with port authorities to acquire lands for their work.

He said, governments need political will to support ports, to acquire these spaces as it economic impacts will always outweigh it disadvantage to the people to be affected.

He said aside lands being very expensive, ejecting people from their original residence, to pave way for the state interest, is also another difficult task, regardless of the compensation, Mr.  Luguje noted that politicians are usually not willing to sacrifice their electoral fortunes for but  said it benefits, always override these aforementioned challenges, and so must spear government on to see reason with them.

“Governments should support ports authorities in land acquisition because today, all ports are caved-in by cities. If you want to reclaim land, it costs money, if you want to resettle populations, that are a political decision, to move people from their original abode.

No matter how much compensation you are going to give, it could be to the disadvantage of a sitting government. But, if you at the same wave length with the government, you will understand the need to support port authorities; the economic reasons that you will need such land for”.

Each member sate was urged to review it land management and land policy and bi-laws, to ensure that authorities have the necessary legislation, that permit them to permanently own it lands and protects it from encroachers and also use them for the “right purposes”.

In countries where lands are available for port activities, Mr. Luguje said members have agreed that prices are affordable so that, business who want them for their activities are able to secure them for that purpose.

He said, although land these days is expensive, it will be in the interest of these ports, not to discourage “port users from acquiring them for the purposes of growing cargo”.

The acting Director General explained that, in leasing lands, port authorities need to target activities that will attract cargo traffic in and around of our ports”.

The Association also agreed that, no private citizen, has no right to own a jetty and so, each nation has been tasked to ensure, members state institutes or reviews laws that bar anyone from owning one without government’s permission.

He said, in cases where these laws are going to take time to be enacted, affected country must get the sector minister to get the government to issue an executive order.

“The general understanding is that, all coastal lands are properties of the state, because the land-see interface, is considered, a border and there is no border that is in the hands of any private person.

Borders are supposed to be controlled by the state and therefore, anybody who wants to locate any port or jetty within the coast has to do so with the permission of government.

Therefore, if our port laws do not reflect this, we should as a matter of urgency, amend those laws accordingly.

To have these laws amended quickly to protect port lands, Mr Luguje said “We also noticed that because the process of amending laws take time, there is a shorter interim arrangement, where you go with the support of your ministry, and the presidency issues an executive order, to declare order that any port that is built whether it is owned by private initiative or public initiative, is owned by the state and it has to be subjected to the port authority’s laws.

That is important to be able to safeguard what is going on. The use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) to save time and space was also discussed.

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