22 May 2018

Uganda: Busoga University Takeover Hits Snag

Kampala — The government plan to take over the embattled Busoga University has hit a dead end upon discovery that the university had mortgaged its campus land and other assets for a loan.

In the initial meeting between the government committee on one side and the university management and the founding body, Church of Uganda, on the opposite side, President Museveni promised the takeover.

However, he said Busoga University would be taken over by government if it surrendered the land on which it sits. Sources said the President added that in case the university did not want to surrender the land freely, the government would be willing to buy it. But in the subsequent meeting, the government committee, charged with spearheading the takeover process, discovered that the university had already mortgaged the land and movable assets to secure the loan.

Sources on the committee headed by Dr Chrysostom Muyingo, the State minister for Higher Education, said upon this discovery, it became clear it would be hard for the government to take over the university.

The committee is visiting the university campus today for assessment of the status quo and make a report to the President.

Mortgaged assets

The mortgaged assets include Plots 73 and 83 in Kigulu, Buwooya in Iganga District in the name of Busoga University and plot 95-111 on Saza Road in Bugiri measuring 8.174 acres with a leasehold of 49 years and 12 postdated cheques.

Associate Prof David Lamek Kibikyo, the vice chancellor, Mr Edward Gaamula, and the Planning and development chairperson, Mr Joshua Kitakule, were presented as guarantors for the loan.

Daily Monitor's investigations established that the university obtained a loan of Shs2.6 billion in April 2016 and mortgaged its movable assets and land, which houses the university, the bishop's house and offices of Central Busoga Dioceses.

Sources said the university had been paying Shs54m on the loan every month until last year when the National Council for Higher Education closed it for failure to meet the minimum standards.

The university has already paid Shs1 billion on the loan. However, since there are no students to pay tuition fees following the closure of the university, payment of the outstanding balance on the loan is in jeopardy.

"Bank of Baroda will declare all mortgaged assets as non-performing assets and put them on sale. This is a disgrace to the Church of Uganda. The land and buildings include the Central Busoga Diocese bishop's house and their offices," the source said.

Efforts to get a comment from Central Busoga Bishop Patrick Wakula and Busoga Diocese Bishop Paul Naimanhye were futile as their known telephone numbers were not available by press time.

Central Busoga was carved out of Busoga Diocese in November 2016, seven months after the latter had secured the bank loan.

Bank loan

Bank of Baroda manager Ravi Kumar Gupta yesterday confirmed Busoga University has a loan with them but declined to give further details.

"The loan is there but we cannot disclose the details of our customer deposits and withdrawals," Mr Gupta said in a telephone interview.

Documents Daily Monitor has seen, indicate that the loan balance had reduced to Shs1.68 billion by October 4, 2017 when it was reviewed.

Daily Monitor has established that the Church is uncomfortable surrendering its land to government.

Due to the stalemate between the Church and government over the land, sources at the Ministry of Education said there is a consideration to move the university to Namasagali, also in Busoga.

On May 9, Mr James Mugerwa, the assistant commissioner for Vocational Education in Ministry of Education, wrote to the Principal of Busoga University School of Nursing and Midwifery saying his office had distributed their students to other institutions.

This further complicated the university's ability to repay its loan as they hoped they would use the students' fees to raise the revenue.

The first year students have been transferred to Lubega School of Nursing in Iganga while their second year counterparts will go to Johnass International College of Health Sciences in Buikwe District. The third year students will complete from Iganga School of Nursing.

Sources say about 400 students of the School of Nursing are finding it difficult to join the new institutions because the fees being charged are higher than what they were paying at Busoga University.

About 2,200 other students at the main campus are not yet distributed because the university has not responded to the National Council for Higher Education request for the names, according to Prof John Asibo-Opuda, the executive director.

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