Authorities in Masaka City are pushing for a comprehensive land audit as one of the measures to address surging land cases in the area.
Statistics show that on average, 30 land cases are recorded at the Office of the City Resident Commissioner daily.
Many of the cases are in Nyendo, Kimaanya, Kabonera, Ssaza, Mukungwe areas and the city centre.
“I have been here for less than a month, but the land cases I receive are overwhelming. I invite the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development to consider an independent land audit in Masaka City to avert situations that may comprise security,” Mr Steven Asiimwe, the Resident City Commissioner, said on Monday.
He said investigations show that some public properties in the city were sold to private developers without following the formal procedures.
Ms Florence Namayanja, the city mayor, said she had also discovered many irregularities in land acquisition, and many city assets were sold through dubious land deals.
“The irregularities we want to investigate include irregular leases, leasing land in wetlands, leisure parks and greenbelts. Some people have since used such pieces of land as collateral and banks have given them loans,” she said.
Ms Namayanja said she had already informed the Lands minister, Ms Judith Nabakooba, to take action.
The leader’s plea comes months after a private developer claimed part of Nabajjuzi swamp, while another is threatening to clear Kumbu Forest Reserve
The forest is a catchment area for Nabajjuzzi swamp, the main source of piped water for the city.
Mr Swaibu Makumbi alias Sula Mbaya, a social critic in the city, said the audit should be done as quickly as possible so that people who illegally sold public assets are arrested and prosecuted.
Mr Denis Bugaya, the Buganda Land Board legal and information officer, said they don’t have any problem with the audit if it only focuses on land owned by the city.
“We own a huge chunk of land in Masaka City, but there are no wrangles on our land, city authorities can audit their land but they should not tamper with land owned by other institutions such as Buganda and the Church because they can ably audit theirs,” he said.
Masaka inherited many properties from the colonial government, but unscrupulous politicians and bureaucrats have been parceling them out to private developers. Some of the properties sold off include the Mayor’s Gardens, Children’s Park, Town Clerk’s residence, Old Kumbu Estate, public cemetery and several forest reserves.
In June 2015, the High Court in Masaka issued an injunction suspending the district land board from conducting any transactions on land and properties owned or managed by the municipal council. This followed an application filed by some council authorities challenging what they termed as continued irregular sale and allocation of the public land in the area.
Like in other newly elevated cities, all tangible and intangible assets of districts, former municipal councils, division councils, annexed town councils, and sub-counties falling within the territorial boundaries of the city are supposed to be property of the city, according to a government circular issued last year. These include vacant land, markets, administrative buildings, stadia, bus parks, recreation centres, community halls, forest reserves, and landing sites. The new cities also took over all liabilities incurred by the district, municipal, and division councils.