Elisha Z. Bwanika
High Court in Kampala has made a land mark ruling, ordering the Commission of Inquiry into land matters off cases that have been ruled on, or are before any court.
High Court judge Andrew Bashaija also called ‘irrational and illegal’ any decisions made by the Commission, led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, in respect to land matters that are subject to court judgement.
The ruling was a result of an application filed by Dan Walugembe, a land dealer.
Walugembe, also a local pastor, was challenging a decision by Justice Bamugemereire’s Commission, which in an August 2, 2018, letter to the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) directed that he is not paid compensation for his land but rather landlords in question.
According to court documents, Justice Bashaija also quashed an order by the land commission ordering ULC to pay landlords instead of American Procurement Company Inc. (AMPROC) which had bought interests from the landlords and from Walugembe.
“An order of certiorari doth issue quashing the recommendation/order/decision of the Commission of inquiry in a letter dated 02/08/2018 to the Chairman ULC from the said Commission of Inquiry in respect of land in issue be paid to the landlords contrary to the judgement of the High Court of Uganda which ordered that compensation for the above described land be paid to American Procurement Company Inc.,” the judgement reads in part.
Earlier this year, businessman Robert Mwesigwa was summoned by Bamugemereire, as chairman of AMPROC, to explain how he came to be a beneficiary of the Land Fund.
In his presentation, Dr Mwesigwa told the Commission that in December 2016, he was approached by fellow businessman Walugembe who sought to borrow money from him.
The two parties agreed and signed a Deed of Assignment which guaranteed that Dr Mwesigwa would receive payment from ULC- money which the government owed Walugembe for land ULC had bought from the pastor.
Mwesigwa went ahead to explain that he had done due diligence with ULC, the Ministry of Finance and Walugembe’s bank, who all acknowledged that government owed the said money to Walugembe. In fact, the Finance ministry went ahead to pay Dr Mwesigwa up to about 80 percent of his money.
Walugembe had in March 2018 been questioned over his involvement in what the Bamugemereire called ‘questionable land transactions’.
This after, Elizabeth Musoke ran to the land inquiry commission, claiming that Walugembe had sold her family land measuring approximately 507 acres to the ULC without consent.
According to evidence before the commission, Walugembe had purportedly duped the ULC to pay him Shs2.5b over land which he had no claim.
Then, Walugembe maintained his innocence, saying he had rightfully bought the land from the Musoke family and therefore was selling what was rightfully his.
Walugembe received payment from the ULC in respect of land comprised in Kyaggwe Block 358 Plot 2, Buyaga Block 161 Plot 4, Buyaga Block 305 Plot 2, Bugangaizi Block 136 Plot 1 and Buyaga Block 318 Plot 2.
The said application was filed against the landlords who also sought the same compensation. However, court ruled that the compensation be paid to Walugembe through his lawyers M/s Bashasha & Co. Advocates.
The Commission then ordered ULC to compensate landlords in for their land, contrary to an earlier High Court order which required government to pay Mr Walugembe.
In his ruling, Justice Bashiaja quashed the land inquiry directive.
“An order of prohibition doth issue prohibiting the ministry of finance officials, the ULC and any other government department or official from implementing the recommendation, decision or order of the commission of inquiry contained in a letter dated August 2, 2018 to the Chairman ULC from the said commission of inquiry directing that compensation be paid to the landlords,” the judge ordered.
The land inquiry made the directive stopping ULC from further paying AMPROC among other claimants who had bought interests from the landlords following complaints that the land fund payments were marred with irregularities.
But Justice Bashaija, in quashing the land inquiry directive prohibited finance ministry officials, ULC officials and any other government department from implementing the recommendation.
“A permanent injunction doth issue restraining any government department or official or any commission of inquiry from interfering with compensation as directed by court relating to land in issue or any other plot of land which is subject of court judgment or order,” the court ruled.
The judge also quashed a decision by the Inspector General of Government to investigate compensation by ULC in issue for being illegal as well as compensation for land having been ordered by court closed the matter as “res judicata” (a matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court and therefore may not be pursued further by the same parties).
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