Friday April 13 2012

Legal adviser tells government to give oil region residents land titles


The Solicitor General (SG) has cautioned the lands ministry against blocking issuance of land titles in the oil-rich the Albertine region.

The SG said owning land is a right enshrined in the Constitution. “Occupiers of land in Buliisa and the Albertine graben are entitled to own land in the region as per Article 237(1) of the Constitution,” the SG wrote to the lands ministry’s permanent secretary on January 24.

The government’s legal adviser indicated that as stated in the Article 23(2), Article 244(1) and Section 2(1) of the Petroleum Act, it is only when petroleum is discovered on this land that government subject to Article 26 on compensation, can acquire the land.

“In light of the above, the Ministry of Lands should issue occupiers of the land where it is clear that petroleum has not been discovered on advice of the Ministry of Energy,” Mr B. J. Abang wrote for the Solicitor General in a letter, a coy of which this newspaper has seen.

Independent land boards
There has been confusion among the leaders at various levels of local governments in the Albertine region after government last year issued a moratorium on issuing fresh land titles in Bunyoro sub-region. The government at the time premised its reason on land wrangles.

The government’s position was emphasised in January by the State minister for Urban Development, Ms Justine Kasule, who said the directive was approved by the ministry late last year.

But the SG said the district land board is independent and is mandated under Article 241(1) to facilitate the registration and transfer of interests in land.

“Basing on the advice stated above, the occupiers of land in the Albertine graben and Buliisa should be issued with titles. The law provides a process that government can use to acquire land if petroleum is discovered,” the Solicitor General said.

But while opening induction training for land boards in Bunyoro in March, Lands minister Daudi Migereko cautioned land boards in the sub-region against flouting the presidential directive, which halted issuance of new land titles in the oil exploration areas.