Parliament has for the second time passed the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, which seeks to make the fisheries sector more organized and more developed.
The Bill was first passed on May 3, 2022, but President Yoweri Museveni declined to assent to it and returned it to Parliament to make changes on two clauses where he had dissenting views.
The President opposed the Parliament decision in clause 13 to put the Surveillance Unit on water bodies under the control, training and command of the Uganda Police Force and in clause 4 he proposed the Chief Fisheries Officer to be the licensing officer.
The President suggested that the Surveillance Unit Organization, command, control and training should be domiciled under Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Police Force (UPF).
Explaining the rationale for his proposal, the President said, “Given the need for the continuous surveillance and sophisticated ways employed by people involved in illegal fishing, the support of both the UPDF and UPF are required.”
In the Parliament Agriculture Committee report read by the chairperson Janet Akech Okori-moe, committee members resolved to support the President’s proposal of defining a licensing officer as the Chief Fisheries Officer.
Explaining the rationale for the committee decision, Akech said the committee made the decision on the understanding that the Chief Fisheries Officer will delegate his/her responsibility to the District Fisheries Officers since the work would be enormous to be done by one person in the whole country.
Supporting the committee proposal, Kumi municipality MP Silas Aogon said, “I agree with the committee that we go with the President’s proposal. Like in all other laws in other sectors, there should be one center of responsibility for good control and regulation.”
In clause 13, the committee had resolved to maintain the earlier position of Parliament of keeping the Surveillance Unit under the Uganda Police Force, arguing it is the one constitutionally mandated with enforcing law and order.
Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa, however, advised that it would be choosing a bad precedent for Parliament to choose one force over another.
Following the concern of the Deputy Speaker, the minister for agriculture, animal industry and fisheries, Frank Tumwebaze, suggested that Parliament deletes the entire clause 13 so that it would remain at the discretion of the President as the commander in chief of all armed forces to deploy whatever force he wishes.
Tumwebaze also supported the President’s proposal of a Chief Fisheries Officer to be the licensing officer, arguing that the agriculture ministry has officials at the district level who carry out delegated responsibilities.
But several legislators including Bugiri municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa and the Leader of Opposition Mathias Mpuuga opposed the minister’s proposal.