Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Betty Amongi. Photo/File
The Government has explained why it is going to amend the Constitution to acquire land forcibly.
Addressing a press conference in Kampala on Saturday morning, lands minister, Betty Amongi, said government had experienced some obstacles in the law in respect of acquiring land occasioned by mainly speculators.
“Speculators obtain prior information on the defined project corridors, purchase land from the locals and process titles, and subsequently demand excessive compensation value from government,” Amongi said.
She said government had also experienced scenarios where speculators illegally process and obtain illegal titles over legitimate customary owners and want to force government to pay them as title holders and pay legitimate owners as occupants.
“In all these scenarios, they demand excessive value, reject compensation awards offered by the Chief Government Valuer (CGV) even when the value arrived at is based on the prevailing market value obtaining,” the minister stressed.
Journalists heard that government supports that the principles contained under Article 26 of the Constitution, should be maintained.
“These are; prior payment of land before possession; fair, adequate and prompt compensation,” she said.
She said government, however, would like to address the scenarios sited above or any other situation where someone rejects award and work is forced to stall by involving amending Article 26 in which they propose to insert Clause 3 and 4 under it.
“Clause 3 says where the parties are unable to agree on the fair and adequate compensation payable under Clause (2) (b) (I), the Government shall deposit in court or with any other competent authority the value of the property as evaluated by the Chief Government Valuer and the Government shall take possession of the property pending determination by the court or other competent authority of the disputed amount of the compensation,” Amongi said.
In explaining Clause 4, she said: “Notwithstanding clause (2) (b) (I), Government shall take possession of the property where the Government has deposited the evaluated compensation amount referred to in clause (3), but the owner of the property shall have a right to claim the disputed compensation amount that may be determined by the court or other competent authority.”
NRM MPs adopt proposal
Amongi, who said the above proposal was adopted on Friday by the National Resistance Movement (NRM) parliamentary caucus that met in State House Entebbe with President Yoweri Museveni, assured Ugandans that under the current law, the CGV follows a well laid down procedures of negotiating with the landowners before determining the value of a property.
“This process involves district land board determining compensation rates for crops and other surface value, negotiating with the land owners and offering compensation awards obtaining in that locality,” she explained.
The minister argued that scenarios had emerged where the speculator rejects the scientifically determined value and rejects government offer even when majority of the community and district officials have consented on the same parameters.
“Under the current law, even if one objects to the CGV, then that portion of the land cannot be possessed by government. This has led to many projects slowing down or stopping altogether,” she said.
Sh96b lost annually
She said Government spends about $27m (about sh96.8b) annually paying for the interest rates on unspent borrowed loans for government infrastructures and that donors had lost interest in funding projects as government is seen has having inadequate capacity to absorb funds for delivering vital public good.
“Litigations have risen out of failure by government to meet its obligations under contracts,” she added.
Amongi said this proposal presents a win-win formula because government does not offend the principles of fair, adequate, prompt and prior compensation.
“But also the land owner who rejects a value does not hold the country and public who are to use the infrastructure hostage. In fact, countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia, compensation is either done when work is ongoing or people are not compensated at all but are relocated. With this position, Uganda still remains among the best practicing countries,” the minister contended.