Ignorance is no defence in court

A bundle of money. Government has warned the public against borrowing money from unlicensed microfinance firms to avoid making losses. PHOTO/FILE.

What you need to know:

The issue: Unlicensed money lenders

Our view: This story also reminds us that Ugandans need to understand the various laws that are enshrined in the Constitution

A woman, Ms Shilla Ninsiima, decided to lend a man, Mr Kagumaho Kakuyo, Shs10 million. The agreement signed stated that he should pay the money back with 20 percent interest (a total of Shs12 million). Kakuyo failed to pay the amount within the stipulated time.

By December 2017, the outstanding amount had increased to Shs42million. Kakuyo was able to pay Shs24 million but after that things went downhill. In 2018, Kakuyo was dragged to jail and, he says, forcibly made to sign an agreement to pay Shs78 million. In the end, his saving grace came from court where he filed a suit and the judge Esta Nambayo ruled in his favour stating that Ninsiima should not have charged him any interest in the first place because she is not a licensed money lender and cannot do so, under the Microfinance Institutions and Money Lenders Act 2016. Kakuyo, therefore, does not owe Ninsiima interest of any amount, on the Shs10 million he borrowed six years ago. This story was published by this newspaper yesterday.

There are many things that Ugandans can learn from this story. Many people are wary of seeking justice in the courts because they feel they do not work in their favour, or fairly. Others celebrate this because they feel they can get away with murder. As the saying goes, however, at some point, every dog will have its day. The case of Kakuyo vs Ninsiima shows us this.

While it is only fair for a person to demand what is owed to them, especially if it was a signed agreement with clear deliverables, it is unfair for someone to demand more than what is owed and go further to make the person’s life miserable in order to obtain it. It is also a tricky affair because some day, the wheels of justice will actually turn and hit back at the offender.

This story also reminds us that Ugandans need to understand the various laws that are enshrined in the Constitution. Many of these laws have been updated over the last 15 years and as they say, “Ignorance is no defence in court”. Ninsiima should have known how the law, under which the trade she professes in, works, whether she was abiding by the rules and what would happen if she isn’t and is caught.

Many people go ahead to do things, demand things, without finding out if they have the right to do them, or what the consequences will be if they do them. When the law catches up with them, they cry foul.

Hopefully this story will make people, especially unlicensed money lenders, go about their business the right way.

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