31 July 2017

Uganda: Museveni's Brother Named in Jinja Land Grab

Photo: The Daily Observer
Yoweri Museveni

Kampala — President Museveni's young brother has been named before the commission of inquiry into land matters as having allegedly brokered the fraudulent acquisition of a prime plot in Jinja Town and the subsequent destruction of a government property on it.

Mr Simpson Birungi, the managing director of Birus Property Services Limited, a company accused of grabbing the government property, told the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire-led commission that Mr Michael Nuwagira, popularly called Toyota, alongside a one Ibanda, masterminded the property take-over.

"In 2012, two gentlemen walked into my office in Kampala and [said] there was a good piece of land in Jinja.

They told me it is plot 60/62 Allidina Road. I informed my fellow directors who gave me a go ahead to inspect the property," Mr Birungi said in his testimony.

He told the commission last Thursday, that after inspecting the property, Mr Toyota told him that he was going to check and find out its ownership and revert to him.

"Later he came back and told me that the property exists and belonged to the Ministry of trade. But I asked him how to acquire it because I did not understand the ministry things (processes) and he accepted to help me," Mr Birungi said.

The witness added: "Toyota could have used his influence, but it is not me who asked him to. I just consulted him on how I could acquire this property."

The businessman said upon inspecting the property, he paid brokers Shs70m in commission and Shs2.3m as official rates.

M/s Birus Property Services is on the spot for allegedly grabbing and demolishing a government property managed by the Privatisation Unit under Finance ministry. The building housed different businesses were evicted.

Asked if he was in the habit of using high-profile connections to grab land, Mr Birungi denied it saying that he only consulted Toyota on how he could acquire the land.

The then Trade minister Kahinda Otafiire, now holding the Justice docket, was the day before Mr Birungi's testimony named before the commission for facilitating the fraudulent property shift.

Mr Emmanuel Olauna Olum, an under-secretary formerly attached to Trade ministry, told the commission last Wednesday that Gen Otafiire ordered him to write a letter of no-objection that permitted Birus Property Services Ltd to take over ownership of the property.

The minister's directive, the witness said, was contained in the comment on the application form submitted by Birus Property Services Ltd in which he ordered the allocation of the property to the developer because Uganda Chamber of Commerce had no mandate over it.

Four senior police officers were last week suspended after the commission quizzed them for superintending the demolition of the building and eviction of the tenants in 2015.

They included former commandant of the Land Protection Unit, Mr Julius Twinomujuni, Kidepo regional police commander Edgar Nyabongo, Rwenzori RPC Apollo Kateeba, then Jinja DPC, Kumi DPC Felix Mugizi.

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