Luweero — The controversy surrounding ownership of 120 acres of land at Kagoye Village in Luweero District has taken a new twist with a private investment company demanding Shs2.3b as compensation from the district.
The directors of Goodman International claim the company has failed to take possession of the land following resistance from tenants since 2011.
They also claim residents unlawfully destroyed fencing materials, including boundary poles worth Shs300m and demand special damages of Shs33.7m and other costs, bringing the total to Shs2.3b.
More than 300 people are currently occupying the disputed piece of land which was initially public land.
On Tuesday March 19, the High Court Judge at the Land Division, Mr Godfrey Kaweesi tasted the wrath of the sitting tenants, who temporally blocked his motorcade after a visit to Kagoye Village, mistaking him for agents of Goodman International whom they accuse of threatening them with eviction from their ancestral land.
The farmers, under the Bulemezi Rice and Wheat Growers Association, had converged at Kagoye Village on land located on Block 650 Plot 2 and Block 652, Plot 267, where Justice Kaweesi had visited the site together with Goodman International representatives and Luweero District represented by Mr Sowali Katamba, the district lawyer.
Goodman International, represented by Tumwesigye Baingana and Co. Advocates, sued Luweero District Land Board and the Attorney General, claiming their land lease offer failed to materialise, leading to loss of business despite the fact that the company dutifully paid the Shs9m as premium and Shs450,000 as ground rate 10 years ago.
Court documents show that the company is owned by Mr Osama Elkhider Gubara and Mr Khidir.
The sitting tenants have since 2011 been protesting the lease offer to Goodman International and at one time sought the intervention of the Ministry of Lands, accusing Luweero District Land Board of controversially leasing their land on October 5, 2011, and a land title "hurriedly" processed in the names of Goodman International without giving chance to 300 families currently occupying the land.
In March 2013, the then State Minister for Lands, Ms Aidah Nantaba, convened a stakeholders meeting attended by representatives of Goodman International, the famers, Luweero District Land Board officials and the Police Land Protection Unit where the minister ordered a recall and cancellation of the land lease offer to the investment company, which she claimed did not go through the right process yet the land in question had sitting tenants.
Court documents indicate that Mr Hood Luyima, the then district natural resources officer, on October 5, 2011, signed the land lease offer to Goodman International on behalf of Luweero District Local Government after the representatives of Goodman International paid Shs9.45m.
While Goodman International accuse Ms Nantaba and then Works minister Abraham Byandala of frustrating their effort to take possession of the land by inciting the farmers, they want Luweero District to compensate them because they have since lost interest in the land, which they failed to take possession in 2011.
Mr Hassan Ssegawa Kambuga, the chairperson of Bulemezi Rice and Wheat Growers Association, on Wednesday said the farmers were simply expressing their discontent with the representatives of Goodman International.
Mr Sowali Katamba, a lawyer representing Luweero District, said the district is aware of the case.
Since 1964, the disputed land had been leased to Bulemeezi Rice and Wheat Growers Association before the proposal to lease it to Goodman International came up. Members of the association claim all attempts to renew their lease were rebuffed.