Hima Cement Limited has agreed to surrender back over 30 acres of land it irregularly acquired in Mwello parish in Mulanda sub-county in Tororo district.
Hima Cement managing director Nicolas George, says the company will ensure that residents get back their land having learnt of the indefensible irregularities committed by their agent while acquiring the land.
Earlier this week, residents of Mwello parish petitioned the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire led Land Probe Commission, accusing Hima of coercing them through its agents into selling their land at a cheap price.
The agents, operating under Optima Mines Consultancy Limited, allegedly told the residents that Hima was in possession of an exploration license that granted them rights to acquire land in the area. In their petition, the residents demanded that Hima either returns their land or enters fresh negotiations with them since the previous negotiations were conducted under duress.
On Thursday, George told the Commission that Hima is a reputable company, which can’t grab land. He said Hima is ready to pay the price for contracting the agent by reinstating residents on their land.
"Sometimes you have to bear the consequences of your wrongdoing. Before, the management was not following the procedure internally and we have bear the consequences and have to take responsibility," George said.
Some of the irregularities committed by the agent include threatening residents that they risked losing their land without pay if they declined the offer to sell to Hima.
Apart from coercing residents into selling their land, Optima Mines acquired the land without a certificate of customary ownership as required while leasing customary land.
The land was leased in the names of Optima, which then transferred it to Hima. The former commissioner geological survey and mines, Edward Kato, told the commission that the exploration license he awarded to Hima didn’t grant them rights of land acquisition.
However, George explained that they started the land acquisition process because they wanted to process a mining lease. He says the practice is that since surface right is a requirement to get a mining lease; the land is acquired the moment one establishes the existence of minerals after exploration.
Hima had explored granite stones in Mwello along the Mwello rock. He however, said they will discuss with their agents to return people’s land. Bamugemereire says her legal team will sit down with the legal team of Hima to see how to implement its decision to return the land.