8 February 2018

Uganda: Businessman Ntaganda Quizzed, Apologizes Over Dealings On Government Land

Kampala — Businessman Ephraim Ntaganda has been quizzed over the fraudulent acquisition and leasing of Nakasero Primary School Playground in the upscale suburb of Kampala City.

It is alleged that Mr Ntaganda through his Prestigious Apartments Limited connived with some officials in the education ministry, Uganda Land Commission (ULC) and Kampala Capital city Authority (KCCA) to obtain a lease for two hectares of land without the consent of the school management.

Evidence presented before the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire- led Commission of Inquiry into land matters indicate that ULC parceled out the land on Plot 34A and created plots 34A1 and 5C on Kyaddondo and Macknon Roads respectively.

Appearing before the commission to defend himself against the accusations, Mr Ntaganda on Wednesday confessed that he knew Nakasero Primary School was using the school but he went to city authority because it is the controlling authority.

He is accused of conspiring with a one Night Alice, the City education officer at Central Division to deprive Ugandans and their children of a recreation facility in speculation.

Mr Ntaganda was questioned in regard to the numerous correspondences with former education commissioner Mr John Agaba and ULC that gave a no objection to his company to acquire the disputed land.

Asked for a copy lodged to acquire the land, Mr Ntaganda said he did not have any before admitting that he went to the school administration after acquiring the land title and proposed to re-roof the school through a public private partnership.

"I apologize to this commission that when I was leaving the importation business, I thought I was going for a better business but I have since realized that it was a wrong business and I used a wrong model. For the last one or two years, I believe I have not done this and I intend not to deal in public land in future either by purchase or by acquisition," said Mr Ntaganda who is accused of intending to steal the school property by way of proposing the re-roofing of the school during the school holidays.

He said he applied for the land in order to sell it at higher price but denied interfering with the processes.

He confessed that him and his partner, Bob Kanabi sold their shares to Muhamood and Shaidah Baruani because they did not have the money to pay for the premium of Shs120 million and Shs6 million for ground rent.

He said that the land title was issued after selling his shares but remained as a director to help the company acquire the land title.

"We did not directly sell the land. We only sold the company because it was the condition of the people who were taking over shareholding that if they were to pay ground rent, they had to see us out as shareholders," said Mr Ntaganda revealing that the land was mortgaged at Shs3 billion and another $2 million was secured.

The Commission observed that since 2012, inquiries by the inspectorate of government have stalled because the file comprising of documents regarding Prestigious Apartments Limited on the disputed land has since disappeared from ULC.

Mr Ntaganda revealed that Plot 34A1 was sold at $400,000 yet the entire land under dispute was acquired at Shs120 million.

In a related development, the board of directors of Kololo Secondary School has asked the Commission to intervene and have several land titles issued on the land comprising of the school playground cancelled.

Rev. Can. John Awudi, a priest attached to Kampala Diocese of the Church of Uganda revealed that ULC parceled out the school playground and leased it to various developers without their consent.

Among them, Rev Awudi identified the encroachers on the land located on Lugogo Bypass in Nakawa Division as Kampala Parents School 2014, Chinese Hotel called Nainjing and Kesington Africa Limited among others.

He also revealed that two ministers; Charles Bakkabulindi (state for sports) and Frank Tumwebaze formerly minister for presidency and Kampala issued letters of no objection in favour of Kampala Parents School to acquire the leasehold title.

Siting at the National Archives and Records Center, the commission is investigating into the law, processes and procedures by which land is administered and registered in Uganda, the role and effectiveness of the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) in administering public land and the land fund and review the effectiveness of the relevant bodies in preservation of wetlands, forests and game reserves and to examine ways in which the challenge of human habitation in those areas can be resolved.

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