Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Constitutional petition demanding for a 20 percent mid-term access to benefits by contributors to the National Social Security Fund has been adjourned to February 25 2021 for conferencing.
The petition which was filed by Morisson Rwakakamba the former Presidential Assistant on Research and Information and his Civil Society Organization Agency for Transformation against NSSF and government has been adjourned by the Constitutional Court Registrar Mary Babirye.
This was after all the parties met before the Registrar and informed her that they received a notice requiring them to come to court but it didn’t specify why they were called adding that they needed guidance from her.
Rwakakamba was represented by a team of three lawyers led by Senior Counsel John Mary Mugisha and Government was represented by Principal State Attorney Wanyama Kodoli. On the other hand, lawyers Michael Mafabi and Ferdinand Musimenta represented the NSSF.
However, the Registrar informed them that she wanted the parties to put in their written conferencing notes such that they can return to court next time to agree on the issues for determination before a panel of five Constitutional Court Justices that will hear the petition gets constituted.
Accordingly, the Registrar has directed the Petitioner to file his notes within fourteen days and the Attorney General together with NSSF to file theirs by December 9 2020 and return to court on February 25 2021. According to the Registrar, the four-month long adjournment was due to the fact that the court diary is busy on the rest of the days before the scheduled one.
In May 2020, the petitioner Rwakakamba sued the Attorney General and the NSSF in the Constitutional Court. He sought to have orders that compel NSSF to pay 20 percent out of each of its contributing member’s accumulated savings in order to mitigate the negative effects of Covid-19 pandemic.
Rwakakamba argued that many families and lives have been impacted negatively by the national lock-down that stopped mobility and earnings whereas the food relief distribution that was given was done unevenly and selectively to the vulnerable poor while excluding contributing members to NSSF.
To this effect, Rwakakamba challenged the articles under the NSSF Act which state that a member of the fund shall be entitled to his money at the age of 55, when you get mental disability, emigration issues, survivors’ benefits and once you have ceased to be a member as the only ways of accessing the funds.
His lawyers noted that such provisions are illegal and unconstitutional as they contravene a number of articles in the Constitution which provide for protection of right to life, protection from deprivation of property, equality and freedom from discrimination among others.
For these reasons, Rwakakamba asked court to amend the said provisions of the NSSF Act and issue injunctive orders against NSSF from imposing restrictions that deprive members the right to access their contributions at any time in future.
On May 14 2020, the NSSF Director Richard Byarugaba wrote to the Finance Minister saying that they do not have any problem with paying the 20 percent to each saver provided Parliament approves the Bill seeking to include the said amendments.
However, last month, Parliament halted this discussion after legislators failed to agree on the group of people and percentage that should be availed to the contributors to NSSF.
The petitioner Rwakakamba has said that in the interest of Justice, NSSF and government should listen to his request and allow it because the people are still struggling to survive economically despite the partial lifting of the lockdown.