Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Land Division of High Court has issued an interim injunction blocking the Uganda Investment Authority-UIA and two other companies from operating on a contested five acres of land in Namanve, Kampala.
The ruling stems from a court case in which Twed Property Development Limited sued UIA, Victoria Nile Plastics Limited, and Jerryfa Limited for taking over its land in Namanve industrial park.
It all started in 2011 when Twed Property applied to UIA for an allocation of land to set up residential, office developments, and a four-star hotel. According to an affidavit sworn by Dr. Dan Twebaze, the Managing Director of Twed Property Development Limited, the proposal was approved in September 2011 and on June 20, 2014, the company was issued a lease term of 5 years that was meant to expire on June 20, 2019.
Unfortunately, according to court records, the lease intended for this company was erroneously granted to a different entity named “Twed Properties Limited” and not “Twed Consulting Company Limited” as “Twed Property Development Limited” was then known.
In his affidavit, Twebaze, the Managing Director says that they asked UIA to rectify the mistake but the same wasn’t immediately granted and the company started groundworks to the allocated land, compensating squatters, excavating and grading the land.
By the end of 2014 however, the company wanted to change the use of the land to construct a warehouse, arguing that its initial business wasn’t viable because the roofing company had set up a facility just adjacent. The company then “applied for the change of use from the original proposal to a modern warehouse and logistics center in order to match the character of the adjacent facility.
According to court records, in 2018, UIA wanted to withdraw the lease on grounds that the company had failed to meet the terms of the lease which was expiring in 2019. UIA would later reconsider and allow the company to occupy the land for another six months within which they had to work on the land and have necessary documentation from National Environment Management Authority processed among others.
According to UIA, Twed Property Development Limited failed to meet the conditions of the lease agreement and in 2020, after the lease had expired, they reallocated the same land, giving three acres to Victory Nile and two acres to Jerryfa.
Twed Property Development Limited filed a judicial review case before the Civil Division of the High Court arguing that they had a legitimate expectation that UIA would issue it with an amended lease with fresh terms. The company asked the court to declare the reallocation of the land as illegal and irregular and hence quash this move by UIA.
But UIA through its director Hamza Galiwango opposed the application saying by the time Twed’s lease agreement expired, they had not graded or fenced off the land, submitted acceptable building/architectural plans to UIA, obtained NEMA approvals to commence project implementation, or erected any physical development on the land yet these were the terms of the initial lease agreement.
The case was dismissed by Justice Musa Ssekaana on grounds that Twed’s rights as the applicant were wholly derived from the lease agreement, an agreement that involves a private law and not public law issues that would not ordinarily be the subject of judicial review.
Since the case was wrongly filed as a judicial review case and hence dismissed, last year the company filed another application seeking to reverse UIA’s decision to withdraw land from it and give the same to Victoria Nile Plastics Limited and Jerryfa Limited.
The company also filed another application seeking the deputy registrar to issue an interim injunction to stop further transactions on the contested land until the main suit is resolved. The Deputy Registrar however declined to grant the orders saying the company would not suffer irreparable damage.
Displeased with the Deputy Registrar’s decision, Twed appealed before the Land Division of the High Court. In his judgment dated 27th May 2022, Justice John Eudes Keitirima set aside the Deputy Registrar’s decision and granted an interim injunction as sought by Twed Property Development Limited.
His decision was based on the fact that the two companies that UIA had reallocated the land to did not oppose the appeal, something the Justice interpreted as conceding. As for UIA, the court ruled that since they don’t have physical possession of the land, they wouldn’t be affected by the decision of the court.