Drama as Legal Committee starts hearings on age limit bill

The first public hearing on the controversial and unpopular 'age limit' bill has kicked off with the Opposition Chief Whip Ibrahim Semujju Nganda questioning the impartiality of Jacob Oboth-Oboth, the chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.

Ssemujju alleged that Oboth-Oboth had attended the ruling party National Resistance Movement (NRM) caucus that endorsed the bill and held a secret meeting with President Yoweri Museveni, the 'targeted' beneficiary of the bill.

The bill seeks to amend article 102 (b) of the constitution by removing the 75-year age limit on persons intending to contest for the presidency.

The committee hearing session on the age limit bill 

Once amended, the article will give president Museveni a legal backing to seek another term of office when his current term ends. He is now aged 73 and would not be eligible to contest for the seat after more than 30 years in power.

"You and a couple of others met Museveni in groups and for you Mr chairman you met the president with MPs Esther Anyakun and Grace Kesande and in these meetings millions of money exchanged hands," Ssemujju said.

He challenged the Oboth-Oboth to 'come out clean' and tell the world that he will be impartial in handling the bill amid fears that he was compromised.

In his response, Oboth-Oboth said that his track record speaks for itself and that he has never been a subject of an investigation on matters of personal integrity.

"It's a serious issue against my person. I have achieved the centre of neutrality. I am not a corrupt man, I will never be. I have a track record. Make arguments that will add value to these proceedings. Don't bring political activism here," Oboth-Oboth said.

There was also drama when Ssemujju labelled fellow legislator, Kyaka South MP Jackson Kafuuzi as "Magyezi's wife". Kafuuzi demanded that Ssemujju withdraws the "insult" to no vail. Kafuuzi was the seconder of the motion, when Magyezi tabled the bill last month. 

“Whether Magyezi appears with his wife, I don’t care Honourable Kafuuzi,” Ssemujju said. 

“We are colleagues, I don’t want to be called Magyezi’s wife. You must respect me, I’m your colleague. If you are used to bullying people, I won’t take that", Kafuuzi protested.

There was also more drama when veteran comedian Bush Aienebyona aka Vicks Kingo also stormed the committee session claiming he had been invited only to be told by the members that he was unwelcome.  

Meanwhile, Ssemujju was also concerned about the venue of the meeting alleging that the parliamentary Conference Hall A, where they were sitting, had been used by security operatives on September 27, 2017, before raiding Parliament and later after forcefully ejecting opposition legislators from the chambers.

"I do not feel safe in this room. Can we get another venue?" Ssemujju stated in a request supported by Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba and Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga.

However, Oboth-Oboth insisted on proceeding with the meeting at the set venue attracting ire from Ssemujju who kept demanding for a 'proper' venue.

The situation was saved by the Sergeant at Arms Ahmed Kagoye who stepped in notifying Oboth-Oboth that the South Committee Room was available for the committee if members deemed it fit. The legislators changed the venue of the meeting after two hours of bickering.

The sitting was however suspended after Kaberamaido Woman MP Veronica Eragu demanded that the sitting is suspended until all internal issues are handled. It resumed in the afternoon with an interface between the committee and the mover of the controversial bill, Raphael Magyezi.

Meanwhile, MPs traded counter-accusations against each over holding biases and interests for and against the bill. Magyezi said some members on the committee have already expressed opposition against the bill hence putting their neutrality into question.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd