By Patrick Jaramogi
The High Court has ordered Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) to pay National Forest Authority (NFA) $104,808 (about sh262m) in un-cleared license fees since 1950s.
NFA sued UBC for continuously occupying two of its plots of land in Kigulya Central Reserve in Masindi and Ibamba Hills in Hoima where the corporation erected masts without paying.
The civil suit followed failed negotiations between the two parties in 2004 to clear the outstanding arrears.
Delivering the judgment at the Commercial Division of the High Court in Kampala last week, Justice Ralph Ocan said the suit arose after UBC failed to pay the forest authority fees for utilisation of its land.
“The suit is not really about recovery of land. It is, therefore, not subject to the law of limitation,” Ocan ruled.
Justice Ocan rejected UBCs defense that the Act establishing UBC allows it to install relevant broadcasting and trans-mitting stations in any place in Uganda for purposes of its broadcasting functions.
He said under section 27 of the Act, all assets and liabilities of Radio Uganda and Uganda Television were to be vested in UBC.
“The vesting order came into effect on November, 16, 2006. The sites under dispute (Kigulya and Ibamba) were among the properties of UBC,” ruled Ocan.
He noted that the two government parastatals were given powers to raise their own resources and manage themselves in sound business principles.
Ocan added that the new legal regime is intended for the two former government departments to enhance resources available beyond the traditional parliamentary appropriations.
“Both UBC and NFA are not only expected to “pay their way’, but to contribute to the national coffers through generation of non-taxable revenue in terms of fees and charges. I would not be surprised if UBC itself levied fees and charges on other public bodies seeking to access its services,” said Ocan.
“Taking the above circumstance into account, I rule that effective this date of judgment; UBC shall pay NFA the ap-propriate rental fees in respect of the masts at Kigulya and Ibamba central forest reserves,” Ocan said.
“The parties will bear their own costs,” he added.
NFA legal manager Ruth Kisaakye said the forest authority was given clear mandate to charge fees for its services and products in forest reserves.
“NFA has been given mechanisms to raise resources, including fees payable by communication bodies seeking to host masts in central forest reserves and in recognition of these new legal regimes. The Uganda Telecom (Utl) for example has honoured its obligations and pays all annual fees levied by NFA in respect of utl masts erected in central forest reserves,” Kisaakye noted.
Court orders UBC to pay sh262m