The High Court in Mpigi has directed UNRA to pay only shs4.6 million instead of shs500 million to a man as compensation for cutting down a purported spiritual tree to pave way for the construction of the Busega-Mpigi Expressway.
One of the members of the Lugave clan recently refused to allow UNRA cut down a tree they said is sacred without paying them shs500 million as compensation for allowing the shs300 billion Busega-Mpigi expressway pass through their piece of land that has the tree.
The same has since stalled the construction process of the road after one of the clan members, Hussein Katamba ran to court challenging UNRA’s move to draw plans of constructing a road to go through his piece of land which also has the spiritual tree named Nabukalu.
In court, UNRA’s defence team was joined by lawyers from the Attorney General’s chambers to argue the case.
However, on Thursday, Mpigi High Court judge, Anthony Oyuko Ojok ruled that there was no evidence to show how long the so called cultural site which also has the said tree has been in existence.
“The evidence(provided) in no way proved that the said land was a cultural site belonging to the Lugave clan and had been in existence since the 1800s,” the judge ruled.
He explained that whereas he takes cognizant of the fact that cultures and diverse ethnicities need to be protected, they should not contravene with the fundamental rights and freedoms, human dignity, democracy and the law.
“The plaintiff didn’t bring any official from Buganda kingdom to confirm the existence of the cultural site from the Lugave clan, nor did he bring any of the people who are said to always be going to the site for healing.It was only at locus that court found some individuals who were said to be interested in testifying yet the same were never witnesses during the hearing of the case.”
The judge insisted there is no evidence to prove there is a cultural site at the said piece of land which also has the purported spiritual tree.
“This land is individually owned by the plaintiff for his traditional purposes as a Lugave clan member. The plaintiff also failed to prove that the tree was indeed a recognizable cultural site.”
In his suit, Katamba asked court to order UNRA pay him shs500 million in compensation before cutting down the tree and seeing the road pass through his piece of land.
However, during the hearing, UNRA and Attorney General’s lawyers argued that basing on the location of the land in relation to urban centres, economic activity in the area, physical and geographical factors, population density and vicinity to services such as water, electricity and roads, Katamba deserves only shs4.6 million as compensation for using his piece of land and cutting down his tree.
UNRA officials said the land measuring 0.083 acres is worth shs3.48 million, the contentious tree shs100,000 and a disturbance allowance of 30% amounting to shs1.07 million.
On Thursday, the Mpigi High Court judge reasoned with UNRA’s lawyers that Katamba cannot ask for shs500 million as compensation but can rather get only shs4.6 million.
“Since this court cannot hear from spirits as it only bases on viable evidence adduced before it, I am unable to find the claim of shs500 million justifiable. It is rather gluttonous of the plaintiff to want to reap from what he didn’t sow,” Justice Oyuko said.
“The defendant is hereby allowed to pay the plaintiff the compensatory amount of shs4.6million due to him over the said land and if he refuses to take the said money, let it be deposited in court. The defendant can proceed with the road construction over the land.”