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Education Committee Queries Gulu University, NFA Land Swap Deal

Philips Illukol Lokwang, the Napore West County MP in Karenga District wondered why the University is willing to swap 500 acres for only 70 acres instead of negotiating to have the entire 243 acres of the NFA land to carter for their future development projects.
08 Oct 2021 09:27
Philiphs Illukol Lokwang, the Napore West County MP making a submission during on the Gulu University - NFA Land Swap Deal. Photo by Dominic Ohcola

Audio 4

The education committee of parliament has questioned the proposed land swap between Gulu University and the National Forest Authority – NFA. 

The query arose during a fact-finding visit to the institution following a motion tabled by the Bardege-Layibi MP, Martin Ojara Mapenduzi in parliament on 14 September 2021 seeking resolution of Parliament to degazette part of Gulu Central Forest Reserve for the University expansion.  

Faced with lack of land for expansion, Gulu University signed a memorandum of understanding with NFA in 2012 to procure 500 acres of land at Pajengo Village, Purongo Sub-County in Nwoya District in exchange for 70 acres of land from the Gulu Central Forest Reserve.  

On April 3, 2020, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni directed the then Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda to degazette the land in question to aid the University expansion. In spite of the University fulfilling its part of the deal, the Government has not commenced the processes leading to the degazettement of part of the forest reserve.

Mapenduzi's motion sought a resolution of Parliament to compel the Ministry of Water and Environment to urgently implement the Presidential directive guided by Sections 7 and 8 of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act. 

On Wednesday, the Education Committee of parliament led by their Chairperson John Twesigye Ntamuhira, Bunyaruguru County questioned why the University has committed to offering up to 500 acres in exchange for only 70 acres of land that bears no sign of a forest.

Philips Illukol Lokwang, the Napore West County MP in Karenga District wondered why the University is willing to swap 500 acres for only 70 acres instead of negotiating to have the entire 243 acres of the NFA land to carter for their future development projects.

//Cue in..."My worry or my….”

Cue out… land for expansion.”//

Joseph Ssewungu, the Kalungu County MP in Kalungu District grilled the NFA officials for rendering a disservice in the MOU claiming to have a forest reserve yet on the ground, there is nothing to the effect.

//Cue in..."NFA, you are….”  

Cue out… where is the forest.”//

Silas Aogon, the Kumi Municipality MP observed that the swap deal is questionable on the basis that the University had already constructed on 70 acres of land that bears no trees with visible economic impact.

//Cue in..."Government has been….”

Cue out… from such forest.”//

Rev. Fr. Charles Onen, the Pece-Laroo Division MP, where the University and the Gulu Central Forest Reserve are located observed that the committee has effected its mandate and should guide the University to pursue the land matter further.

//Cue in..."We came here….”

Cue out… for the same thing.”//

In response, Jimmy Ouna, the NFA Regional Supervisor for Northern Uganda, said the land in question is prime and has grown in value. He also noted that the 173 acres remaining is home to staff quarters and private tree planters who still have running licenses.

Since being founded in 2002, Gulu University has been struggling to find land for expansion. Part of its structures like the Faculties of Agriculture and Environment, Medicine and Library among others seat on the forest reserve land in Pece-Laroo Division, Gulu City.

The Committee also visited Nwoya to physically see the availability of the 500 acres of land offered by the university. They demanded District Resolutions authorizing the swapping of the land for the purposes of degazetting and gazetting a forest reserve in Gulu and Nwoya respectively.

Gulu University has exponentially grown with over 4,500 students as of 2019, necessitating it to establish campuses in Lira, Kitgum and Hoima.