The first public hearing on the controversial ‘Age Limit’ Bill has kicked off with the Opposition Whip Ibrahim Semujju Nganda questioning the impartiality of Jacob Oboth-Oboth, the Chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.
Ssemujju alleged that Jacob Oboth-Oboth had attended the National Resistance Movement-NRM party caucus that endorsed the bill and held a secret meeting with President Yoweri Museveni, the ‘targeted’ beneficiary of the bill.
The bill seeks to amend article 102 (b) of the constitution by removing the 75-year age limit on persons intending to contest for the presidency. Once amended, the article will give president Museveni a legal backing to seek another term of office when his current term ends. He is now aged 73 and would not be eligible to contest for the seat after more than 30 years in power.
The allegations by Ssemujju must have rubbed Oboth the wrong way as the two started an exchange for the next two minutes while other members looked on.
Oboth: I know that some of you have already taken decision before you even listen to both sides, I am open, let someone convince me as chairman, that where we will vote, and I will take a vote.
Ssemujju: I am sorry I don’t want to make this a pin pong between me and you but you are aware the caucus meeting you attended, those who were not agreeing were thrown out and you were not one of them. You can not say you have no side; you certainly have a side.
Oboth: When you see me with Mr Museveni, don’t get worried, for you when something is not on your side whether good or bad, you will disagree. I am not like you and that’s why I have been independent for two terms. You can not be in my position.
Ssemujju: So you did not become an independent as a choice, you stood twice and failed and u became independent.
Oboth: You Ssemujju can not stand as independent and win.
Ssemujju: Because I will never stand in West Budama
Oboth: No you can not…(he is interrupted by Mathias Mpuga who calls on a point of order)
Meanwhile, Ssemujju was also concerned about the venue of the meeting alleging that the parliamentary Conference Hall A, where they were sitting, had been used by Security Operatives on September 27, 2017, before raiding Parliament and later after forcefully ejecting opposition legislators from the chambers.
“I do not feel safe in this room. Can we get another venue?” Ssemujju stated in a request supported by Shadow Attorney Wilfred Niwagaba and Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga.
However, Oboth-Oboth insisted on proceeding with the meeting at the set venue attracting ire from Ssemujju who kept demanding for a ‘proper’ venue.
The situation was saved by the Sergeant at Arms Ahmed Kagoye who stepped in notifying Oboth-Oboth that the South Committee Room was available for the committee if members deemed it fit. The legislators changed the venue of the meeting after two hours of bickering.
The sitting was however suspended after Kaberamaido Woman MP Veronica Eragu demanded that the sitting is suspended until all internal issues are handled. It resumes later with an interface between the committee and the mover of the controversial bill, Raphael Magyezi.