LIRA MUNICIPALITY is on the brink of missing vast development projects due to legal threats from investors over a number of public spaces in the face of colossal World Bank funding.
Among the open lands with a high development potential is the mayor’s gardens, Numa grounds popularly known as Tipa stage and the Coronation Park currently under construction and beautification.
However, the municipal council and businesspersons who either have sought litigation or are pushing for compensation are contesting nearly all of them.
This coincides with the current Uganda Support To Municipality Infrastructure Development program-(USMID) which has seen the construction of magnificent streets like Oyam Road, Imat Miria Road, Oyite Ojok Lane, Aoma Lane and Amombhai road among others worth over Shs40b.
Under the same USMID programme, Lira main street -Obote Avenue is also currently under beautification, and the same is supposed to cater for the beautification of the Mayor’s garden but this has been impeded by the existence of a caveat.
In the case of Lira mayors Garden, the then council whose mayor was Charles Omara Akello decided to lease out plots on Ayer road to business men among them Bishop Tom Ibrahim Okello of Elim Ministries.
The businesspersons paid the required fees to the municipal council but just when they were about to develop the land hell broke loose.
History has it that around 1995,the then area MP Cecilia Barbra Atim Ogwal, current Dokolo Woman MP contested the idea of plotting the mayor’s garden on grounds that it is a green belt and an open space meant for among others recreational activities.
The vocal opposition legislator then dragged Lira municipal council to court and learned friends of the law ruled in her favuor putting a permanent injunction to any commercial construction by the businessmen at the mayor’s gardens.
Businessmen sue Lira Municipality
Having paid for the plots and dug foundation for their buildings, the businessmen realized that they had lost the plots and dragged Lira municipal council to court for compensation.
Court heeded to their demand worth Shs 2b which stands till today and has rendered Lira municipal council powerless to beautify the mayor’s gardens.
Lira Municipal Council speaks out
TND News correspondent caught up with Patrick Ogweng, the deputy town clerk and the official spokesperson of Lira Municipal Council at his office and he admitted that legal threats have slowed development in the municipality.
“We wanted to beautify the mayor’s gardens but we cannot until we settle the businesses men who took us to court in the past,” Ogweng told TND News.
Ogweng says the council of 2011-2016 headed by Morris Odung Omara in their wisdom chose to compensate the businessmen who lost their plots at the Mayor’s gardens with alternative plots at Numa ground.
But, this was short lived as former LCIII chairman Moses Ocip tiptoed to court saying the land belongs to his ancestors.
In a tactical move to avoid plunging the council into revenue losses as a result of court cases, Ogweng says they have opted to dialogue with affected local investors so that they can get alternative land.
Under phase II of the USMID programme, Lira Municipality received Shs21. 4b that covers the designing and expansion of Lira -Soroti road, Kwania road and Obote road from single to dual carriage ways, as well as erecting security and traffic lights.
According to Assy Abirebe, the Lira Municipal town clerk, the Coronation Park, an open space in the middle of Lira town measuring about a hectare, will be transformed into a modern recreational center.
It will have trees planted alongside walkways, a modern restaurant and bar, a children’s play corner and an open garden.
The project, funded by the World Bank under phase II of USMID is expected to be completed within 12 months.
Battle for Coronation Park rages
Located on Uhuru Park road opposite Lira main market, Coronation Park measures about the size of two-foot ball pitches combined and is meant to host public events such as open-air preaching, promotions and political crusades among others.
Though currently beautification, Lira Coronation Park remains at the center of controversy between Lira municipal council and Simon Peter Ongom Sedu, the Amolatar district LCV chairman who has a public toilet within the facility.
According to documents seen by TND News, Ongom applied for the plot in 1994 to be allowed to erect a temporary structure within the Coronation Park.
His request was approved on 27-02-1996 and later his lease offer was extended for another five years.
However, Ogweng says to the council’s surprise Ongom Sedu had already acquired a title to that piece of land.
This has forced the municipal council to leave out that portion with the public toilet not beautified, something that has not gone down well with the municipal council authorities.
“We now have a public toilet within the main market; Ongom’s structure is now uncalled for. We pray he understands,” Ogweng says.
But the LCV chairman is not willing to see his structures and source of livelihood demolished. “This is my land and I hold its title, if Lira municipality thinks it is theirs, let them try to bring down my public toilet,” Ongom Sedu said recently.
Lira district chairperson Alex Oremo Alot insists despite Ongon Sedu suing the municipal council, the tension can be contained through dialogue.
Lira Municipal council has also indicated its readiness to give Ongom Sedu another prime alternative plot in town if he agrees to surrender the one at Coronation Park.
Government last year tabled a bill seeking to amend Article 26 of the Land Act to allow for compulsory acquisition of land by the central and local government for development.
Government fronts the delays by individuals pushing for huge and unreasonable compensations for their land at the expense of public projects.