4 March 2010

Uganda: Makerere University in Land Ownership Wrangle

Kampala — A scandal surrounding three plots in the upscale residential neighbourhood of Kololo owned by Makerere University is beginning to unfold. The plots in question -34 and 36- approximately 1.246 hectares are situated along Prince Charles Drive.

The university alleges that the land was illegally leased to unknown people without the institution's knowledge. "We started fencing off the land on Sunday. But yesterday (Tuesday), an unknown man appeared with some documents claiming that the land belonged to him. He ordered our workers to stop and threatened to harm them," Mr Erisa Masanso, the acting estates manager, said yesterday.

The university Vice Chancellor, Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba, said an investigation into the status of the university land registered under the freehold register volume was carried out recently. "It revealed that this land was illegally transferred to persons unknown to the university," he said yesterday.

The investigations were carried out by Dr Nasani Batungi, a senior lecturer, assisted by Mr Goddy Muhumuza, the senior legal officer and Mr Masanso. According to Mr Batungi, Makerere University College Council is the registered owner of plots 34, 36 and 40 although a lease for Plot 40 was approved by the University Council at its 89th meeting on Dec. 19 to 20, 2001.

Five-minute transfer

Mr Muhumuza said Plot 40 was then leased to Harjit Singh on August 20, 2002. However, Mr Batungi explained that plots 34A and 36A were assigned to the piece of land that remained after some land was carved out from plots 34 and 36 by Kampala City Council and added to adjacent plots 13 and 21. The said plots, 34A and 36A, were then successively leased to Ms Janice Amayo at 10:30am then to Rameiz Nassour at 10:35am on December 24, 2009.

According to Mr Batungi, the starting date of the lease was backdated to June 1, 2002 to coincide with the lease for Plot 40. This resulted into the university officials doubting the processes followed in the land leasing and transfer from Ms Amayo to Mr Nassour.

Mr Batungi said: "The backdating of the lease is highly suspicious. There is no Makerere University Council minute to support the leasing of plots 34A and 36A to Ms Amayo." The lease documents for plots 34A and 36A were signed by the late Samuel Byanagwa, then university secretary and Ms Jane Francis Nabawanuka on behalf of the University Council.

Mr Muhumuza said the late Byanagwa and Ms Nabawanuka were not working at Makerere University in 2009 when the plots 34A and 36A were leased to Ms Amayo. However, Mr Dennis Obbo, the Lands Ministry spokesperson yesterday said the ministry had not received any complaints from the university to prompt their investigations into the matter. Prof. Baryamureeba said the University had handed over the matter to police.

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