Government has tabled before Parliament a bill seeking amendments to Article 26 to allow for compulsory acquisition of land for development.
Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana tabled the Constitution Amendment Bill 2017 before the House today July 13, with the purpose to resolve the current problem of delayed implementation of government infrastructure and investment projects due to disputes arising out of the compulsory land acquisition process.
Rukutana said the bill seeks to enable government or a local government to deposit with court compensation awarded by the government for any property declared for compulsory acquisition.
He further said the amendments, if passed by Parliament, will empower government to take possession of the declared property upon depositing the compensation awarded for the property with court, pending determination by the court of the disputed compensation awarded to the property owner.
The AG said would empower the property owner or person having an interest in or right owner over the property to access the deposited compensation awarded at any time during the dispute resolution process.
However, after tabling the bill, MPs demanded to know the contents of the bill, with suspicion that government could have sneaked in an amendment to Article 102 (b) which provides for a 75-year age limit for the Presidency.
Further, Shadow Attorney General, Wilfred Niwagaba wondered why government had defied a directive by Parliament, calling on government to present an omnibus bill on all constitutional amendments which were not included when constitutional amendments were made in 2015.
“Is it procedurally right for the Attorney General to defy the directive of the Speaker and orders of this House to come up with a bill that is intended to amend the Constitution in piecemeal and in particular to steal our land? Niwagaba questioned.
Some legislators including Gilbert Olanya, Johnson Muyanja Ssenyonga and Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda warned that this could be an attempt by government to grab Ugandans’ land.
Olanya vowed to fight the bill, which received negative reception when it was tabled for first reading.
Thomas Tayebwa however said the bill gives land owners a safety net in instances where they lose in court but funds are available as compensation for their land.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga referred the bill to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee for further scrutiny.