A report by the Land Registry paints a picture of despair and anguish at the ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, brought by State Minister (MSL) Idah Nantaba’s actions. The report warns that if the minister is not restrained, her actions may bring financial loss to government.
The report is dated March 14, 2014, and addressed to Henry Kajura, the first deputy prime minister and minister for Public Service. The authors, who include Sarah Kulata Basangwa, the commissioner for land registration and a sworn opponent of Nantaba, say Minister Nantaba’s actions are based on personal bias and illiterate interpretation of the law and land registration procedures.
The officials also accuse Nantaba of witch-hunting ministry employees who do not agree with her decisions, which are in most cases not based on the law.
“It should be noted and emphasised that when a technical opinion is not in tandem with the MSL directive, she labels that officer a fraudster. Unfortunately, most, if not all, [of] her directives are based on wrong premises, misinterpretations and understanding of the law, procedures, practices and techniques of land registration. If implemented, the directives of the minister of Lands would plug the government into many legal cases and major financial losses,” the report reads.
It says the minister has continued to issue directives, redistributing land to complainants who flock to her office to report foul play by unscrupulous ‘wealthy’ people who want to grab their land. Her actions, the report says, have often led to destruction of property such as houses, farms, and machinery in Kayunga, Tororo and Iganga.
Kulata cites a dispute over a piece of land in Busiro Block 374, Plots 2 and 3 at Nakigalala, which was awarded to the Uganda National Roads Authority for construction of a road. Nantaba accuses Kulata of fraudulently transferring this piece of land from mailo to freehold and that her actions caused intolerable suffering to the people.
But in a July 2013 letter, Kulata said the title in the names of Muwanga Omuweesi had been cancelled in 1925 and the land transferred to the then Governor of Uganda John Jackson for 6,027 rupees. The land now belongs to Madhvani. Another case involves Plot 17, Bazaar street in Tororo, where Nantaba directed that a title be issued to a one Wasige. Kulata says the directive did not come with proper legal documents and when she availed a title in the names of another person, Nantaba called her corrupt.
Kulata, in the report, also cites tampering with documents by Nantaba’s committee on illegal land evictions to suit their agenda. This is cited in a case where Nantaba ordered the cancellation of a land title in the names of Karangwa, a farmer in Bugerere, Kayunga.
“The minister directed me to cancel a title and issue one to her complainant. I aised the minister that the office of titles is not a controlling authority to grant out a lease, which is a technical fact which she does not appreciate,” Kulata says in the report.
Some of the minister’s directives, the report says, concern matters that are either before courts of law or have already been adjudicated on by court or government agencies. For example, Nantaba ordered the cancellation of 450 titles in Busiro Block 474 and reverted the land to its 1920 owner. The report states that legal issues were communicated to her but she did not understand.
“A close look at the cases listed by the MSL, it is apparent that the minister is aiding fraudsters or people with false, stale or outright illegal claims to dispossess rightful owners of land. As the sector minister, by now the MSL should be familiar with the land registration process. Her input should be to guide on policy matters to minimise problems and not point fingers at the staff,” says the report.
Several meeting were called to discuss and resolve these issues, the report says. In one such meeting held on October 8, 2013, and attended by Ministers Daudi Migereko, Sam Engola, Nantaba as well as the permanent secretary, David Gabindadde-Musoke, Migereko asked that all cases involving land disputes be investigated before action was taken.
He said the issues were of a legal and technical nature and that they needed to be handled according to the laid-down procedures, the report says. It is at this point, the report says, that Minister Nantaba stormed out of the meeting in protest and accused Migereko of protecting fraudsters who defied her directives.
Nantaba also wrote to IGG Irene Mulyagonja asking that Commissioner of Land Registration Kulata, together with 14 other registrars, be suspended or interdicted, to allow for investigations into corruption, fraud and mismanagement of the registry. But the IGG said on February 25 that Ms Kulata was acting in her capacity as the commissioner and investigations could not be carried out because her matters had been adjudicated on by court. She urged Nantaba to file a suit if she had any complaint with Kulata or institute a commission of inquiry.
According to the report, the officials asked the permanent secretary to organise a 10-day retreat where Nantaba and her officers would be educated on the process of land registration, roles and responsibilities of each department. This could, maybe, allow them to stay out of land matters that did not concern them.
Source : The Observer