Committee to probe allocation of forest reserve land to Gulu University
The Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah has directed the Parliamentary Committee on Education to investigate the circumstances under which Gulu University has not been offered part of a forest reserve for expansion. Oulanyah referred the matter to the committee following a motion by Bardege-Layibi Division MP, Hon. Martin Ojara Mapenduzi which sought to have government degazette part of the Central Forest Reserve.
However, the Minister of Water and Environment wants the land reserved to protect the environment.
“I refer this matter to the Committee of Education with a timeline of three weeks for them to establish the facts in contestation; whether than land in question has buildings on it and whether the land for compensation is there and then we shall proceed from there,” he said.
Oulanyah noted that the motion stated that Gulu University requested for 70 acres of the 243 acre reserve which would leave 173 acres which can be utilised for re-afforestation.
“Gulu University is seeking to authenticate its ownership of the building in part of this land, so there is no rush. The Ministry has 173 acres where they can plant trees, that is if the land is there and unused,” the Speaker said.
Mapenduzisaid that the biggest challenge faced by Gulu University is lack of land on which to expand.
“In fulfillment of the requirements for degazetting central forest reserves under the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act Gulu University entered into a memorandum of understanding with NFA to degazette 70 out of 243 acres of Gulu Central Forest Reserve. In return, Gulu University would provide alternative land on which a new forest reserve would be established,” the MP said.
He asked the Minister of Water and Environment to urgently fulfill the President’s directive to de-gazette 70 acres of Gulu Central Forest Reserve and avail the land to Gulu University for expansion.
“The university has already built infrastructure. It is only fair if they get the agreement for the land where their property is,” Mapenduzi added.
State Minister for Environment, Hon. Beatrice Anywar, however, opposed the motion saying that the land in question had a forest cover which the University encroached.
“We are not blocking Gulu University but we are following the law and looking at the facts. The National Forest and Tree Planting Act 2003 provides for the conservation of forest reserves for the protection of Uganda and Ugandans. Unfortunately, this was not followed and this piece of land was encroached on,” she said.
Anywar added that the procedure to degazette the land was halted because the University was offering alternative land outside Gulu district.
“We realised that the alternative land that the University was giving was smaller than they had claimed and located in another district. Its lease had also expired,” she said.
The Minister advised that the expansion of the University should be in terms of constituency colleges, so as to conserve green areas and curb pollution in the city.
Hon. Emmanuel Ongiertho (FDC, Jonam County), said that there had been several discussions with Gulu University on the way forward as regards the land impasse.
“Apart from the government funding them, since it is a science based university, there are other organizations that want to fund the university but do not have where to start from since the university does not own land around the campus,” he said.
The Leader of the Opposition, Hon Mathias Mpuuga called out the Minister for debating on matters pertaining to a government university without finding any consensus with the institution.
“The Ministry has let the government down. The motion is calling for House support yet the minister is rejecting the idea. I believe the Education Committee would solve this since the university has already put up buildings funded by government,” the LoP said.