TORORO – Shock has engulfed the board of governors, school administration, students and parents of Rock High School in Tororo district after Solicitor General recommending government through the Ministry of Education and Sports to surrender ownership of land hosting the school to a private developer.
The recommendation that has left the school’s faith imbalance is part of guidance that Solicitor General has guided government to respond to summons to file a defense arising from the court suit 705 of 2019 filed before High Court of Uganda at Kampala against the school by one Mr. Bakame Alvin Emma seeking to evict the school from the its current location in LRV 88/15 plot 1 block VIII Malakisi road in Tororo municipality and FVR 446 Folio 5 land at Tororo plots No. 21-25 Uhuru drive.
The court suit demands the defendants in this case; Attorney General, Uganda Land Commission, Board of Governors Rock High School and Mr. Apollo Lyada the school headteacher to file their defense in the suit within 15 days or else the plaintiff may proceed with the suit and judgment may be given without their presence.
‘’You are hereby required to file a defense in the suit within 15 days from the date service upon you in the matter prescribed. Should you fail to file your defense on or before the date above mentioned, the plaintiff may proceed with the suit and judgment may be given even in your absence’’ reads the summons.
However, the Solicitor General according to his formal opinion dated December 3, 2019 and signed by P. Mawanda to the permanent secretary ministry education and sports has suggested to the government to hand over land to the registered proprietor and move the school activities to the other remaining adjacent land after the rectification of the title has been done.
“To avert the pending notice, convince the registered proprietor for outright purchase of his interest in the said land thereby avoiding disrupting school activities. Given the fact that this is one of the largest government-aided the secondary school in the Eastern part of the country, it’s this office’s considered the opinion that negotiating with a view of purchasing his interest is a better option” said part of the Solicitor General’s opinion suggests.
The letter that daily monitor accessed highlighted established facts being; the claimant Mr. Bakame secured ownership of the said land on June 22, 2016, after the land was transferred into his names under instrument NO. 00021778 after acquiring from Agaba Emmanuel and Laban Ajanga who also secured ownership of the disputed piece of land under instrument NO. 00016824 on November 12, 2015.
It also explained that whereas records show that the school started way back in the early 1960s, the lands ministry housing and urban development specifically both department of surveys, mapping and land registry have pronounced themselves on the matter confirming that the land in question exists and that it is occupied by a school and the registered owner is Bakame Alvin Emma.
“Section 59 of the registration of titles Act Cap. 230, is to the effect that a certificate of a title is conclusive evidence of ownership. In respect since the registered proprietor, properly obtained the lands in question, a fact that has not been disputed by ministry of lands, our hands are tied and as such his ownership cannot be disputed and as such government cannot deprive him of this right without contravening the provisions of Articles 26(2) of the constitution’’ the solicitor general added in his opinion.
However, chairperson of Board of Governors of the school Mr. Difas Yoga told the daily monitor that as a school they are consulting with their school lawyer see how best to file a defense.
He said the school has all documents to defend any planned fraudulent takeover of school however he equated the move as a plan by some officials in the ministry to deny the school resources that could have been in pipeline to be disbursed to facilitate school developments especially the ongoing construction of the school science laboratory that government is funding.
“I don’t think this one person’s deal. Am sure the racket is big and the claimant is just being used as a conduit grab school land and hand it to the mafias but they will not take it on a silver plate. We are also prepared to defend it although our mother ministry seems to have betrayed us,” Mr. Yoga said.
What leaders say;
Mrs. Sarah Achieng the councilor representing Eastern division in Tororo municipality has described the lawyers opinion as a mockery adding that as leaders they are not ready to lose the school because it’s the only school they are proud off in terms of affordability and academic excellence.
“If possible we shall even petition president’s office to intervene on the dispute but at this moment we want the ministry to revise its position because it seem the claimant has connived with some officials in the ministry to grab school land’’ she said.
Late last year a team from the ministry of education and sports led by MS. Jane Nantale a senior administrator land desk in the ministry of education and sports visited the school to ascertain the situation and promised to harmonize the situation to avoid issues of litigation which might lead the government into financial losses.
She said as a ministry they found out that both the school and the claimants have genuine running land tittles on the same land and the ministry has commissioned an inquiry to establish the boundaries as well as establishing the circumstances under which the second party Bakame secured a title Of the same land.
The ministry official allayed fear among the district leaders that the school is most likely to be evicted since the claimant has genuine land documents adding that if proof is availed to that matter, the government will opt to settle the matter out of court to save the school from being evicted.
“The ministry no longer trusts courts because they have never ruled any case in favor of government even where the matter is genuine and that in most cases court has made the government to pay exorbitant costs which they are trying to void,” she told leaders.
The sad news went onto public domain in June 2016 when Bakame through his lawyers Didas Nkurunzisa and Company Advocates issued an eviction notice threatening to evict a public school that has existed since 1964.
According to the school records, the claim has so far affected the school’s enrolment because after the eviction notice some parents shifted their children to other schools because they were not certain on the future of the institution.
The eviction threat puts the future of over 3,000 students hanging according to the school headteacher Apollo Lyada because the school has got no alternative land to shift the school.