WAKISO- The Ministry of Lands zonal office in Wakiso District has been accused of usurping powers of the district land office, a situation that has fuelled land ownership disputes .
Wakiso District chairman, Mr Matia Lwanga Bwanika told the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters on Friday that the zonal office, without a legal framework operationalising it, has taken over district responsibilities.
He said the process of land registration and management in Wakiso District starts and ends at the ministry contrary to the land laws.
Mr Bwanika told the commission that the police force is at the forefront of conniving with real estate developers and high profile people to grab land and other gazzetted areas in the district.
“Wetlands are encroached on and large parcels of land have been grabbed in our presence due to minimum national collaboration between agencies. Since the district police was abolished, it became more complicated in terms of enforcement which has given room to land grabbers to conspire with the police and other security agencies at national level who have left people in dilemma,” Mr Bwanika said.
According to Mr Bwanika, all land disputes in Wakiso District escalated when the ministry zonal office was set up at the district headquarters.
“Local governments are taken local even in mind and our decisions are suppressed by national agencies who support perpetrators of illegal activities,” Mr Bwanika said citing the fight over Lutembe Wetland in which businessman Sudhir Rupareria was accused of degrading a wetland.
Mr Bwanika said he was shocked when police opened charges of criminal trespass against him the moment he tried to protest the Lutembe Wetland takeover by Mr Rupareria.
He said: “Property agents are deeply embedded in the system where they can take the whole village with support from high profile government officers.”
Earlier, the commission headed by Court of Appeal Judge Catherine Bamugereire quizzed Wakiso Town Council officials over forceful acquisition of land from a 57-year -ld woman without compensation.
The Commission quizzed the Wakiso Town Clerk, Mr Moses Cox Sempebwa and Town Mayor Fredson Kasiwukira Mukalazi over the destruction of property worth millions of shillings belonging to Ms Harriet Nazziwa, a resident of Central Ward in the town council.
Evidence before the commission shows that Wakiso Town Council and Ms Nazziwa have been embroiled in the land dispute for more than 17 years.
Ms Nazziwa also accused the Town Council officials of threatening her, blocking her developments and taking over out her land without her consent.
Ms Nazziwa’s submission prompted the commission to unanimously order Mr Sempebwa and Mr Mukalazi to write a commitment to halt all their activities on Ms Nazziwa’s land and to expeditiously process her compensation for the losses incurred over the years.
Ms Nazziwa’s case is one of more than 500 land complaints registered with the commission in the last one week.
The complaints include extortion, delayed land transactions, forgery and land title overlaps, bribery, non-availability of land officials at the district; missing land documents, land grabbing, evictions and issuing of land titles in gazzetted areas like forests, wetlands and the lake.
The seven member commission is investigating processes and procedures in land acquisition, land administration, and management in the country.
Justice Bamugemeriere said that hearing of such cases is part of their investigation and they will listen to all the complaints and verify information and make recommendation to government to take action against the culprits.