By Elizabeth Kabibi
In a bid to foster faster Land Acquisition for Public Infrastructure, government has introduced a proposal to amend Article 26 of the 1995 Constitution on Land Acquisition.
Currently, the Land Acquisition Act 1965, (Cap 226) and the 1995 Constitution Article 26 have provisions that facilitate the government to compulsorily acquire private rights in land for a public purpose, even without the willing consent of its owner or occupant.
While addressing the press at the Uganda Media Centre today, Cabinet Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Hon. Betty Amongi who was in company of the Uganda Land Commission Chairman Hon. Baguma Isooke said that compulsory acquisition for land is critical for development.
“Compulsory Acquisition of land is a critical development tool for governments and should not be delayed. When you reject, government cannot do anything with your land which hence delays developmental projects” said Hon. Amongi. Hon. Isooke further called upon journalists to educate the masses about the importance of compulsory land acquisition for development projects.
“As journalists, you are the mouthpiece of the nation; we therefore call upon you to teach the public about the notion and law of the power of government to acquire land for public. Compulsory land acquisition is not only in Uganda but worldwide and should not be delayed,” said Isooke.
The proposal to have the bill amended followed a petition in a case of: Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) vs. Irumba Asumani &Peter Magelah, Supreme Court Constitutional Appeal No.2 of the 2014.
The background of the case arose when the government of Uganda commissioned a project to upgrade the Hoima-Kaiso-Tonya road, leading to Uganda’s oil fields in the Albertine Graben. Acting under the Land Acquisition Act, the government compulsorily acquired the project land and UNRA took possession under section 7 of the Land Acquisition Act before payment of compensation to the owners. This was because a few land owners had rejected the compensation value and yet the rest had been paid and work was on-going.
The few land owners, through an NGO challenged the constitutionality of the Land Acquisition Act that permitted the Government to compulsorily acquire land before payment of compensation since Article 26 (2) of the constitution provides that no person can be compulsorily deprived of property without prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation prior to the taking of possession or acquisition of the property.
It is therefore on this back ground that the current amendment is not about compulsory acquisition of land but about how to resolve dispute arising out of an award by the assessor (Chief Government Valuer) of the value for compensation.
The amendment is proposed to insert immediately after clause (2) the following:
“(3) Where the owner of property or any person having interest in or right over property objects to the compensation awarded under the law made under clause
(2) (b),the Government or Local Government shall deposit with Court for the property owner or the person or any person having an interest in or right over the property, the compensation awarded for the property, the Government or Local Government shall take possession of the property pending determination by the Court of any dispute relating to compensation.
(4) The owner of property or person having any interest in or right over the property shall have the right to access the compensation deposited with the court referred to in clause (3), at any time during the determination of the dispute.
(5) Parliament shall, prescribe the time within which any dispute referred to in clause (3) shall be determined.”
It is further targeting Land Acquisition for public purpose clearly defined under Article 26 (2) (a) of the 1995 Constitution which is Land for: Public use, Public safety, Public order, Public health, Public morality and in the interest of defense.