Uganda: MPs Probe Land Board Officials Over Sale of Asian Properties

30 September 2020

By Fahad Malik Jjingo

Members of Parliament on the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprise (Cosase) have summoned district land board officials from Mbale and Soroti district over illegal sale of Asian properties.

The committee, which is currently investigating the dubious acquisition and repossession of departed Asians properties also summoned eight businessmen over the matter.

The summon was issued at a meeting held between the MPs and officials and a section of the business community in Mbale at the Mbale City headquarters in Malukhu at the weekend.

Mr Ibrahim Kasozi (MP Makindye East), the vice chairperson of Cosase, said about 30 buildings in Mbale City have been fraudulently sold off to people, who have also mortgaged them in banks.

Some of the buildings are on Republic Street, Naboa Road, Pallisa Road, Kumi Road, and Cathedral Avenue.

"The transactions were illegally conducted because the district land boards had no powers to grant authority over them,"Mr Kasozi said. He further explained that custodian properties were illegally repossessed because most of the owners had been compensated.

Some of the businessmen, who have been summoned include: Mr Mubarak Londa, the proprietor of Bam Shopping Centre on Naboa Road; Mr Massa Musa, the former chairperson for Industrial Division; Mr Robert Mulindwa, a businessman in Kampala, and Mr Hassan Galimera.

Those summoned were expected to appear before the committee yesterday.

"Those summoned will tell us how the businessmen acquired the said properties," he said, adding that the district land boards have no right to deal with any property under the Departed Asian Property Custodian Board (DAPCB).

"According to the land Act and the Constitution of Uganda, the land boards have no right to deal with any property belonging to the custodian board," Mr Kasozi, said.

Mr George William Bizibu, the executive secretary of the custodian board, said several properties in Mbale and Soroti have fraudulently been sold off.

"The people, who have fraudulently taken over the properties will face the law," Mr Bizibu said.

Mr Hussein Wasike, who was given Mukwano building in Mbale City by the custodian board, said some people fraudulently secured a lease from Mbale Land Board.

"Only the Ministry of Finance has the authority to handle properties of the custodian board, not the district land board," Mr Wasike said.

Mr Siraji Luledi, a former tenant on Mukwano building, which was demolished after being sold, said some district land board officials are conniving with businessmen to grab the said properties.

The Mbale Municipal Council town clerk, Mr Paul Batanda, said the custodian board properties have been a source of confusion with several people fighting for them without any documentation.

Masaka case

Meanwhile, the MPs have also unearthed irregularities in the sale of the departed Asians' properties in Masaka City.

Appearing before Cosase at Masaka District Recreational Centre-Kijjabwemi at the weekend, some of the owners of the disputed properties claimed that they legally acquired them through the custodians board, but surprisingly the board's records show that some of the properties are 'vacant' and on sale.

DAPCB is an agency charged with managing all assets left behind by more than 50,000 Asians who were forced out of Uganda by former President Idi Amin in 1972.

More than 40 property owners, who appeared before the committee that was chaired by Mr Kasozi and other legislators, struggled to prove ownership of the properties they are currently managing.

The committee heard that some of the properties in Masaka City were taken over by the government in cases where the owners did not return to Uganda.

Some of the properties government took over include: Plot 16 Musisi Ward, Plot 26-28 Grant Street, Plot 3 Mukunya Ward, Plot 9 Musisi Ward, and Plot 2 Mukunya Ward, among others.

DAPCB officials who attended the meeting told MPs that they have several properties in Masaka area that government officials have been occupying since 1972 to date and some of them have been listed for sale.

Mr Benedict Walusimbi, a proprietor of Plot 26 Edward Avenue, struggled to convince the committee that he is the rightful owner of the property contrary to DAPCB records.

"The record show a different certificate number and yours [Walusimbi] has another, the procedure followed to get that title was wrong, which means the entire transaction was fraudulent. I therefore, direct the custodian board to provide a full file of this property and present it before the committee on October,1 at Parliament," Mr Kasozi ordered.

Mr Kasozi said several DAPCB properties in Masaka were disposed of without following the right procedure.

"We have disposed of several cases after property owners proved ownership of their land, but some cases were not handled to their logical conclusion since occupants failed to provide sufficient evidence of ownership," he said.

The committee also discovered that Plot 15 on Hobert Street was sold by the custodian board at Shs29 million about 20 years ago but the buyer partially paid Shs15 million and has failed to clear the balance to date.

Some property owners who did not show up were also summoned to appear before the committee at Parliament.

These include: Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, who owns a property on Plot 18 Edward Avenue and Entebbe deputy Resident District Commissioner Noor Njuuki Mbabaali, who owns a commercial building on Hobert Street.

Other people who have been summoned by the committee are two former Masaka District land board chairpersons and their secretaries to help the committee with investigations into the fraudulent sale of several DAPCB properties in Masaka.

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