Daniel Kalinaki | The UBC land saga and a peek into the sausage-making in our corrupt land deals

Posted July 15, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Opinion ~ 4,101 views



The company received the lease on December 7, 2009 and put the land on the market four days later and sold it in July 2010 without paying a cent for it. — In 2011, John Njoroge, then an investigative journalist with this newspaper, covered a series of stories about the irregular sale of land and property by UBC, the public broadcaster.

In most cases, prime pieces of land had been sold quietly at below market rates and the buyers had, in some cases, sold it on soon after for twice the price. The revelations had forced the removal of the UBC board and later, the resignation of Information minister Kabakumba Matsiko.

The journalist remained unrelenting. In June that year, he revealed that Extreme Innovations, a company associated with Kabakumba’s successor, Mary Karooro Okurut, and former MP Margaret Muhanga had received a 49-year-lease to a prime piece of land in Kampala belonging to UBC.

The company received the lease on December 7, 2009 and put the land on the market four days later and sold it in July 2010 without paying a cent for it.

Unlike the earlier stories, this particular one drew the ire of a prominent public person close to the MP who launched a vicious public attack on the journalist, the newspaper and its editors, accusing them of ignorance, incompetence, idiocy, and so on.

Why was a toad hopping around during daytime? It soon became clear that the intrepid Njoroge, who often never let the facts stand in the way of a good pub story, had this time uncovered a widespread land grab at UBC.

The largest and most preposterous of all were 23 acres sold to Haba Group, a company connected to businessman and NRM financier Hassan Basajjabalaba.
The details are long, murky but revealing. Under the law, UBC can only sell or dispose of its property with the prior approval of the minister. The land was sold to Haba on January 14, 2011. The approval was given on April 8, 2011.

With the media spotlight on the deals, the matter invariably ended up in court. By that time Haba Group said it had already sold on the land first to a company called Deo and Sons, provenance unknown, and then to another company owned by the above mentioned former MP Muhanga.

Anyone interested in understanding the sausage-making process of dodgy real estate transactions in Uganda is advised to read the court documents of this case, right from the High Court, to the Court of Appeal and on to the Supreme Court.

In summary, the High Court ruled that the entire transaction had been built on illegalities and struck it down. However, Haba had paid money to UBC, which it wanted back if it could not have the land.

Three things happened. First Haba appealed the High Court judgment. Then it entered into a consent judgment for UBC to refund the Shs11.5 billion it had paid for the land. Meanwhile, the land was being sold, via public auction, on to Muhanga, potentially leaving UBC out of pocket and out of land.
Justice Kenneth Kakuru of the Court of Appeal would have none of it. The refund does not arise because there is no valid contract to enforce. Secondly, he saw through the various scams, of which two are worth noting.

A document was signed and sealed by a registrar a day before it was drawn up and three weeks before it was filed in court. In the Lands Office, the land went through three changes of ownership, at 2.42pm, at 2.44pm, and at 2.46pm, ending up in Muhanga’s hands.

The judge noted: “I find that this whole transaction from beginning to end was a well thought out and calculated fraud by all the parties involved, the applicants inclusive.

The Advocates involved must also have been aware. The Commissioner for land registration was very well aware and participated in this fraud.”

The Supreme Court has upheld the findings. Njoroge is no longer with the newspaper but wherever he is, he should walk proud and tall today. We know why the toad crossed the road.

Mr Kalinaki is a Ugandan journalist based in Nairobi. &Twitter: @Kalinaki

Source — Daily Monitor

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Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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