A section of legislators from fishing communities has petitioned the Constitutional Court to declare into law, the proposed Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, even without the President’s assent.
The bill, tabled before Parliament on September 28, 2021, sought to reform laws relating to the management of fisheries, fisheries products, and aquaculture. The bill was first passed by Parliament on May 3, 2022, and forwarded to President Yoweri Museveni for assent on May 25, 2022.
However, the President returned the Bill for reconsideration on August 18, 2022, raising concern that it domiciled the surveillance unit organisation command, control and training under the Uganda People’s Defence Forces-UPDF, yet it should be under both UPDF and the Uganda Police Force.
“The rationale is that given the need for continuous surveillance and sophisticated ways employed by people involved in illegal fishing, the support for both UPDF and the Uganda Police force is required,” Museveni said.
The President added that the bill had not adequately defined a licensing officer and explained that defining a licensing officer as a Chief Fisheries Officer, or District Fisheries Officer, will cause confusion and can lead to malpractice.
The speaker of Parliament Anita Among subsequently referred the bill to the Agriculture Committee and urged members to restrict themselves on the grounds that were raised by the President. This process was concluded and on October 18 202, the second draft was sent to the president for assent.
The Ugandan Constitution provides that a bill may become law without the President’s assent if he returns it to Parliament two times.
Now, Bbaale County Member of Parliament Charles Tebandeke and Susan Mugabi from Buvuma District, are bothered that President Yoweri Museveni has failed his statutory mandate on the Fisheries Bill.
Tebandeke told journalists at Parliament on Monday that the Speaker acted unlawfully and failed to cause a copy of the Bill to be laid before the House for it to become law without the assent of the President in accordance with the Constitutional command.
Mugabi pointed out that the failure of the respondents; the Attorney General and the Speaker to ensure that the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill is enacted into law to regulate the fisheries subsector is impeding socio-economic development while promoting torture and mistreatment of fishing communities.
Other Bills that were passed by Parliament and the President has not assented to nor returned or rejected within the requisite 30-day constitutional period include; the Market Bill, 2021, and the Public Finance Management (Amendment) Act, 2021, among others.
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