By Umaru Kashaka
KAMPALA - Lands minister, Daudi Migereko, was involved in a heated exchange with legislators investigating allegations of eviction of Ssembabule district residents from a contested piece of land on Thursday.
Migereko had appeared before the committee on physical infrastructure together with the commissioner of land registration, Sarah Basangwa, to provide certain documents, including a detailed report in respect of leasehold of Plot 5 Mawogola Block 11.
This follows last year’s petition by over 2,500 residents in Ntuusi Sub-county in Ssembabule against a move by the director of Abeki Farm Enterprises Ltd, Karen Kayonga, to evict them from the 4.5 square miles land.
The petitioners through the Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo also alleged that there had been violent arrests and destruction of their property without compensation.
The committee visited the disputed land and met the alleged affected residents of Kabeho, Kinoni, Boma A and Boma B villages last October.
During the visit, Kayonga presented to them a document, which indicated that in 2007, the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) advertised the land for sale and she bought it. However, the occupants continue to argue that she has no proof of lawful ownership of the land.
The MPs Waira Majegere (Bunya County), Robert Migadde (Buvuma Islands), Patrick Amuriat (Kumi), Gilbert Olanya (Kilak), and Serere County MP Stephen Ochola wondered why Migereko as an MP who sits in the House would ‘supervise' over the violations of the directives of parliament.
Parliament had written to UIA to halt any proceedings on the disputed land till investigations into the matter are resolved.
However, the MPs were taken aback at the revelations by Ssekikubo that UIA had disregarded the House orders and allowed Kayonga to carry out activities on the land including building a dam.
“This is contempt of parliament. How could you, for instance, allow the transfer of land ownership when you knew the caveat was in place?
“Let’s be sincere to one another. If you decide to intentionally hide and deny certain information, then this is the most dangerous way to destroy this country,” Olanya told Migereko with a straight face.
Lands minister Daudi Migereko is also the MP for Butembe County. PHOTO/Ronnie Kijjambu
Majegere stressed: “No one wants to pin you [Migereko]. To say that you find this very interesting because I have also worked in works, is outside the point. We just want your guidance. If the chief government valuer recommended sh450m for the land, is it prudent to sell it at sh400m as was the case?”
The minister, who is also Butembe County MP, before deflecting all the questions to Basanga saying they were of technical tenure, requested the committee to “cut him some slack” as a minister.
“Wait a minute. How would you have expected me to communicate to those concerned when you never copied me the UIA letter, when I never received the letter? If I get a petition, it’s my responsibility to study it and communicate to the officers in charge to work on. I didn’t receive the petition. You will also become one (minister),” Migereko strongly argued.
He added: “You summoned me here and I’m here to arm you with all documents. We are not trying to hide any information from you. Call UIA here so that they explain why they ignored the government valuer’s advise. If removing the caveat the law was not followed, then there is a problem.”
The caveat lodged by Sam Tumwine, John Tibesigwa, Merabu Kimikufu, Jovanis Kekitenderezo, Alex Bangirana and Charles Kagundu of Victoria Advocates and Legal Consultants claiming interest as bonafide occupants registered under instrument MSKOOOOO172 of May last year.
Basangwa told the committee chaired by the Kiboga West MP Samuel Ssemugaba that a transfer was entertained from UIA to Abeki farm enterprises in existence of a caveat. “Although in the face of it this seems irregular, in the circumstances it is not because the interest claimed is that of a lawful occupant," she said.
She explained that under the law (the Land Act) such a lawful occupant is a tenant by occupancy and enjoys security of occupancy on the land and that interest is guaranteed by law as far as occupancy of the land is concerned.
“Secondly, under the Land Act as amended, section 35 (8), a change of ownership is permissible and the new owner does not affect the existing lawful interests of a tenant by occupancy or bonafide occupant.
"On the contrary, a tenant by occupancy cannot assign or part with his occupancy without the consent of the landlord,” she explained.
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Minister, MPs clash over Ssembabule land petition