Court has ordered Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) to pay rent for using two portions of land in a forest reserve for broadcast masts.
The two land portions belonging to National Forest Authority (NFA) are located in Kiguya and Ibamba Hills Central Forest Reserves in Hoima and Masindi districts respectively have been subject to a protracted legal battle between the two government institutions since 2004.
Through their lawyers, NFA sued UBC seeking for payment of arrears of license fees for the two sites worth $104,808 (about Shs263 million) clear of taxes arising out of failure to pay NFA rent fees.
High Court Judge Ralph Ochan ruled: “…Effective the date of this judgement, UBC shall pay the NFA appropriate rental fees in respect of the masts at Kigulya and Ibamba Central Forest Reserves. I rule that it would not be in public interest to levy fees in arrears.”
Justice Ochan explained that failure by UBC appears to have been occasioned by an overly narrow view of the law as it existed prior to the liberalisation and deregulation of state-owned enterprises.
Ms Ruth Kisakye, the NFA legal officer, said in an interview that the case resulted in failure of protracted negotiations between the two parties despite the law which mandates NFA to charge fees for use of central forest reserves.
“NFA is a distinct legal authority from UBC and has all the mandate and authority to charge UBC for any activities. UBC is not protected by any law and is not exempted from from paying licence fees in forest reserves to which it has illegally constructed its masts,” said Ms Kisakye.