By Andrew Irumba
Nicholas Opiyo, a leading human rights lawyer and founder of the human rights organization, Chapter Four-Uganda has come out to defend Speaker of Parliament Rt.Hon.Rebecca Kadaga on her decision to extend the Katuntu-led COSASE committee for more two weeks so it can conclude its probe on BoU over the controversial sale and closure of the seven commercial banks.
The crusading Ugandan Human rights Activist lawyer and recipient of the 2017 German Africa Prize, while appearing on NTV News night last week said the speaker was with in her mandate to extend their term.
He also argued that the speaker can even legally opt to extend the term for Katuntu’s committee to particularly deal with BoU business as the new team led by Kawempe MP Mubarak Munyagwa takes on new business.
“Actually the speaker can even decide to allow the new committee to take up their new role but specifically allow Katuntu and team to finish up their BoU business without taking up new roles, she would still be legally standing,” said Opio.
Opio is the first independent lawyer so far to give his opinion on the matter after the NRM MPs also backed her directive.
A section of key opposition figures headed by LoP Betty Aol Ochan and Mubarak Munyagwa (Kawempe) are pushing for an immediate boot out of the Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri county) led parliamentary probe committee on BoU over the sale and closure of seven Banks arguing that their term is expiring therefore they need to give way for the new team to start from there.
However, a wider section of the NRM members of Parliament who are the majority have backed Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to have the committee’s tenure extended to February 20, 2019, to complete its work.
The proponents argue that Mr Katuntu and his deputy Anita Among (Bukedea) have steered the committee’s hearings smoothly and a new leadership would disrupt the ‘good’ work so far, and probably alter the report for suspicious ulterior motives, since Katuntu is not in good books with the current Najanankumbi leadership.
“My friend, these are politicians first of all. One can just decide to undo the good works of his predecessor in order to prove appoint or just to deem his (Katuntu) achievements. Have you forgotten US’ Donald Trump with Barrack Obama? Or even come back here in Uganda,… which president accepts that his predecessor did anything good? That would mean that you entered into big shoes against which you may be weighed,” a Makerere University don and researcher who spoke on condition anonymity told this reporter on phone on Monday.
The speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kagada, last week wrote to the leader of opposition Betty Aol Ochan where she supported the idea of extending the term for the current Committee of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) to finalize its probe work on BoU before handing over to the new leadership headed by Kawempe MP Munyagwa Mubarak and deputized by Rubaga North MP Moses Kasibante.
The term was extended by two more weeks which ends in Feb 2019.
However, those opposed to the extension of the tenure beyond January 13th when it was to end officially, argue that a new committee chair wouldn’t in anyway affect the outcome of the final report.
The committee resumes the BoU probe on January 8, 2019, five days to the end of its current tenure.
Ms Agnes Kunihira (Workers, NRM) argued it would be wrong to change leadership at “a sensitive period” when the committee is handling a crucial matter which requires someone who has been keenly following the proceedings.”
Ms Among last week said they would only heed to the Speaker’s guidance which has already endorsed the extension.
The closed banks include; Teefe Bank (1993), International Credit Bank Ltd (1998), Greenland Bank (1999), The Co-operative Bank (1999), National Bank of Commerce (2012), Global Trust Bank (2014) and Crane Bank Ltd (CBL) that was sold to dfcu in 2016.