The Ascertainment and Codification of Customary Law Project (ACLP), which started in 2007 by the National House of Chiefs (NHC) in collaboration with the Law Reform Commission (LRC) to undertake research to ascertain the customary law on land and family in various traditional areas in Ghana and to codify, has organised a regional validation workshop in the Northern Region.
The two-day workshop, held in Tamale, was intended to validate responses gathered in two traditional areas namely Gonja and Mamprugu Traditional Areas where field research has been conducted from 2009. This follows validation workshops organised separately in the two Traditional Areas. The regional validation workshop is part of series of workshops being conducted in all ten regions of Ghana.
Within the period indicated above, a team of researchers conducted interviews with Paramount Chiefs, Divisional Chiefs, Female Traditional Leaders, Indigenes and Settler Farmers as well as Persons with Disability, Land-related Institutional Heads and other informants.
According to the Executive Secretary of the project, Mrs. Sheila Minkah-Premo, the ACLP is a Joint Research Project established by the NHC and LRC with support from the German Development Cooperation (GTZ). She explained that, the purpose of the ACLP is the ascertainment and codification of the customary law rules and practices on land and family in Ghana.
“A Joint Steering Committee (JSC), with membership from the two collaborating institutions, was established to commence the project implementation since year 2006,” she said, adding that the JSC was represented by Professor Kofi Quarshiga, Dean of Law Faculty, University of Ghana, Dr. Henry S. Daannaa, Director of Research, Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture, both of the JSC members.
Mrs. Menkah-Premo said it is obvious that even though customary law is an important source of law in Ghana, what constitutes customary law in a particular community is not always clear. The impact of this uncertainty she noted, is most prominent and evident in two areas of law which affect the most significant facets of national life in Ghana: family law and land law.
She was optimistic that the final output of the project will make land and family law certain and this will assist in the settlement of disputes and bring more transparency in land and family transactions which will aid development. It will also deepen the decentralisation process, she observed.
Land transactions in Ghana are beset with conflicts between the customary practices, rules and norms on one hand, and the formal and statutory law on the other. Customary lands, which include lands owned by stools, skins, clans, families, tendamba and among others, form a significant percentage of all lands in Ghana. This state of affairs reinforces the need for the ascertainment and codification of customary law rules applicable to particular communities in Ghana.
The project represents the very first initiative taken towards the fulfillment of the constitutional mandate given to the NHC to undertake the progressive study, interpretation and codification of customary law with a view to evolving, in appropriate cases, a unified system of rules of customary law in Article 272 (b) of the 1992 Constitution and sections 49-56 of the Chieftaincy Act, 2008 (Act 759). The Law Reform, which is a key partner in the project, also has statutory mandate to promote law reform in Ghana and review all the laws, both statutory and otherwise, with a view to facilitate its systematic development and reform, she added.
National Research Coordinator of the ACLP project, Thomas Tagoe, explained that the project is being undertaken in three phases with phase one having two traditional areas being selected based on merit from each of the ten administrative regions of Ghana. During this phase, literature review will be undertaken on customary land and family law and a methodology developed for the collection of data, he said.
According to him, in the second phase, additional variations of customary laws from about 30 traditional areas in the ten regions will be collected on land and family law.
Mr. Tagoe stated that within the third and final stage of the project, it is expected that consultations will be held with traditional leaders from other traditional areas, which were not involved in the process of data collection, to give them opportunity to review the findings of the ascertained customary law and eventually the declaration of rules of customary law and harmonisation of uniform rules.
Currently, Offinso and Tepa in the Ashanti, Duayaw Nkwanta and Nkoranza in Brong-Ahafo, Eguafo and Assin Attandanso in Central, Akuapem and Yilo Krobo in Eastern, Kpone and Osudoku in Greater Accra, Gonja and Mamprusi in Northern, Bolga and Paga in Upper East, Kaleo and Nandom in Upper West, Asogli and Kete Krachi in Volta and Lower Axim and Sefwi Chirano in the Western Regions are places where research on the ACLP has been conducted for ascertainment and codification.