By witnessradio.org Team
Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) is in possession of an illegal land title for more than 867 hectares of land reserved for the development of Karamoja Industrial Park, according to the Commission of Inquiry into land matters.
The commission declared the land title illegal following investigations into its procurement processes by the Uganda Investment Authority – UIA while buying the land in 2011. The Commission says Uganda Investment Authority illegally dispossessed more than 2,000 people of their customary land when it acquired the land from improper owners.
The land measuring 186.68 hectares had been fraudulently converted from customary tenure to freehold before being sold to Uganda Investment Authority in 2011. It was acquired from one Peter Amodoi Ayubu, a former employee with the Ministry of Lands, at a tune of 624 million Shillings, down from an initial 2.5 billion Shillings asking price.
Amodoi said that he had acquired the land a year before at 45 million Shillings from a group of elders in the area. The Commission has since established that the elders were relatives and wives of Amodoi.
Justice Catherine Bamugemerire, the chairperson of the commission says Amodoi colluded with a group of elders in Loputiput village in Nadunget Sub-county, Moroto district to sell land belonging to the 2,000 affected residents of Kautakou village, Napak district.
The residents petitioned the Commission to investigate the transaction during a recent tour of the region. They told the Commission that they are living with a lot of threats to their land after being assaulted and evicted from their land on orders of the authority.
But Lawrence Byansi, the Acting Director-General of Uganda Investment Authority says the land was acquired after Amodoi presented freehold title of the land on recommendations of the then LCV chairperson of Moroto district Ken Peter Locap, Chief Administrative Officer Godfrey Stephen Ouma as well as the Moroto District Land Surveyor.
Byansi acknowledged that the authority committed commissions in the transaction and asked for negotiations with the affected residents. He said when residents complained to UIA, Amodoi was notified to resolve the impasse and indemnify the Authority, something he has failed to do.
According to Byansi, their initial understanding of the land dispute was that there were politicians and Non-Government Organizations opposed to government development project frustrating the park. He was appearing before the commission to defend the transaction following complaints from the affected residents.
Justice Bamugemerire said Uganda Investment Authority failed to undertake due diligence before acquiring the land and ended up causing heavy financial loss to the government.
The Commission recommended that reform is needed in how the Uganda Investment Authority undertakes due diligence in land acquisition. It says a unit should be set up at the authority for this purpose in order to also prevent conflict of interests.
Napak Industrial Park is one of the nine industrial parks being developed by the government across the country. The others are in Namanve, Mbale, Mbarara, Kasese, Luzira, Bweyogerere, Jinja and Soroti with others proposed in Gulu and Arua.