Uganda: MPs Discover 27 Illegal Titles for Asian Properties in Jinja

27 November 2019

The ongoing investigation by a select task force of the Parliament's Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase), has unearthed 27 of the Departed Asians' properties that were illegally repossessed in Jinja District.

The task force chaired by Mr Ibrahim Kasozi (Makindye East, Forum for Democratic Change) while meeting the Jinja District Land Board yesterday, found that the current occupants on the 27 properties did not acquire them lawfully as provided for in the Expropriated Properties Act 1982.

The team led by former chairperson of Jinja Land Board, Ms Innocent Ngobi Ndiko, and the district senior land management officer, Mr Fred Waiswa, told the MPs that the district had no knowledge of how the current occupants came into possession of the properties which were left behind by Asians who were expelled in 1972 by President Idi Amin.

Ms Ndiko testified that although the land boards that preceded hers handled the 65 properties currently under parliamentary investigation, 27 were found to have been illegally acquired and their possession is null and void.

"We were not in office by then. The transactions on all these properties that were done by a letter of repossession are a nullity," Ms Ndiko said.

Most of the properties are in prime areas across Jinja Municipality. Jinja Land Board officials also revealed that they are not sure how 16 other properties were handled because they are occupied by private individuals without evidence on how they were repossessed. For these, the Land Board referred the MPs to the Departed Asians Properties' Custodian Board, the statutory body that manages the properties.

Mr Waiswa, the Jinja Senior Land Management Officer, also faced hard time as MPs questioned him how he has been dealing with the applications by people who want to acquire the expropriated properties.

Mr Waiswa, at one point, told MPs that he had been "trusting documents presented" by applicants and acted without due diligence on the property in question. He was handed over to police attached to Parliament to record a statement.

"I would request our CID to get in touch with Mr Waiswa to retrieve all these files and investigate thoroughly how this was done to cause loss to Ugandans," Mr Kasozi ruled.

He said all the occupants of the 27 properties whose transactions were declared a nullity "have wrong titles."

He said a final recommendation on what to be done about the properties would be included in the report of the task force.

Appearing before the Committee in July, Lands minister Betty Amongi said her ministry was ready to cancel any title for expropriated properties that was acquired illegally.

Meanwhile, three members of Mbale District Land Board were handed to Parliament police yesterday as MPs called for an investigation on how they handled land matters for the last one year despite the board not being fully constituted.

This happened after Dr John Faith Magolo conceded that he had illegally acted as chairperson of the Land Board for one year during which he handled extension of land leases and granted freehold leases.

"I am a member of the board and whenever we sit, I become the chairperson though I am not approved by (district) council. I have been extending leases and granting leasehold for the last one year," he said.

The MPs said Mr Magolo and his two other members, Ms Annet Makuma and Ms Mariam Nagudi Wambede, do not constitute the district land board and have been acting illegally since there is no substantive chairperson.

Mr Kasozi said the task force was scrutinising ownership of more than 600 Departed Asians' properties in Mbale. He directed police to investigate whether the District Council authorised the trio to handle land matters when the board was not fully constituted.

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