Govt puts up 3,000 titles for scrutiny in fraud fight

A lady checks out the features on her land title. Studying the features on a land title before engaging in a land transaction is one of the things a buyer can do to avoid being duped. PHOTOs/Ismail kezaala

What you need to know:

  • Part of the submissions required for consideration of new titles is attached statutory declaration signed by a commissioner of oath stating the fact and circumstances of the loss or damage of the original title.

The Ministry of Lands has published details of thousands of land titles, whose owners are seeking replacements, to enable the public scrutinise the requests in a bid to minimise rising forgery, fraud and corruption in the sector.

Details of the 3,067 titles for blocks and plots around the country have been published on the ministry’s social media handles, detailing owners and land sizes.

The requests for special titles, which occurs when the original document is lost, misplaced or damaged, date as far back as October, last year.

“The very purpose of sharing this information is to prevent fraud so that in case there are any concerns or attempted falsifications in the due process, they can be identified and early and titles processing cancelled,” the ministry noted.

There have been many cases of fraud in the land division where fraudsters apply to the Lands ministry for special titles claiming to have lost or misplaced copies of the original, enabling them to formalise ownership where genuine owners are different.

Ms Christine Bako Abia, the former Arua District Woman Member of Parliament, who is currently embroiled in a fight with an encroacher for her titled land in Kungu, Kira Municipality, Wakiso District, last night said land theft in the country is powered by a cartel of lawyers and “hooligans” protected by some state actors including security operatives.

“This syndicate of land grabbers need to be busted. They have come to build on my land without ownership proof. They dump gravel to reclaim wetlands. They follow no approval procedures and intimidated civil servants keep off. So, the impunity continues because the grabbers are protected at invaded sites by armed men,” she said by telephone, adding, “Who run these rackets, where do they get money from them? It appears construction has become an industry for cleaning dirty money”.

While calling on the Inspectorate of Government to fast-track the planned life-style audit, Ms Abia said similar investigations should uncover owners of the properties where she believes corruption proceeds are buried.

In the case of her land in Kungu, the former legislator said unknown people exploited her absence to start building and, following formal inquiries, she discovered that the structure are being built without approved development plans and physical planners and city authorities are either powerless to stop the constructions, indifferent or complicit.

She said some encroachers erect a structure with speed so that when the rightful owner shows up, courts are likely to propose a negotiation considering the value of the development.

“They have a lot of money, they are arrogant and speak a certain language. It is sad,” Ms Abia noted.

Sections of the population yesterday welcomed the government decision to widely publicise the application for new land titles in an effort to fight fraud and forgery in the sector.

Among the applicants for special titles are Federation of Uganda Football Association (Fufa) and Amuria District Local Government. Fufa wants a special land title for land Volume 525 Folio 13, Kyaggwe Njeru Kyabajja Road, Plot No. 1-17 in Mukono District.

Under the law regulating land registration, a person who loses a title, or whose title is damaged, is required to apply to the registrar of titles, with evidence, for issuance of a special title that cancels the original.

Part of the submissions required for consideration of new titles is attached statutory declaration signed by a commissioner of oath stating the fact and circumstances of the loss or damage of the original title.

An applicant also has to attach copies of their passport photographs and when evaluated to be genuine, the Land Registry department after a week issues to the applicant a letter that is to be published in the media to notify the public about the reported lost or damaged title.

A senior land official, who asked not to be named because they were not authorised to speak to media on the matter, told this newspaper the elaborate process, whereas not fool-proof, is intended to give third parties opportunity to scrutinise such applications before applicants are given special certificate titles.

“To all Ugandan land owners in the diaspora, credit institutions and general public. The following have reported their titles stolen, misplaced or lost and have requested special titles to be issued to replace the ones lost,” Lands Ministry noted in its announcement.

Mr Denis Obbo, the spokesman, was unavailable to expound state of fraud and forgery in the sector which necessitated the ministry’s mass outreach to the public regarding applicants for special certificate titles on 3,000-plus pieces of land.

A source knowledgeable about land matters said once application of a special title is advertised in the media, the applicant files the record with the Land registry within a month upon which, if satisfied, the registrar of titles authorises processing of a special certificate title and cancellation of the original.

This additional process takes roughly 10 days after an applicant files evidence of fulfilling all requirements including payment of requisite tax and other levies.