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INVESTIGATIONS

Bulambuli land saga; Advertised and abnormally traded by OPM

 

A Local resident Mr Muyonga follows up Minister Ecweru to explain the issue of their land in 2014 in Bulambuli. (Photo by David Mafabi)

BULAMBULI – Fresh intrigues have hit the 2,828 acres of land in Bulambuli.

The land is meant to resettle the Bududa mudslides survivors, however, it has been discovered that the land in question was purchased illegally.

Details also emerged showing that the rightful owners of the land were not consulted during the sale of the land and that it was never advertised.

The circumstances surrounding the sale of the land are further shrouded in mystery when the true owners of the land said they could not confirm the transaction, arguing it was undertaken by Simu Oil (U) Ltd, a company owned by Elgon county MP Mr Inyasio Mudimi Wamakuyu in connivance with OPM officials.

“OPM was outrightly accomplice in this land deal,” Mr Stephen Waisi of Bukiyabi village, Bumufuni parish, in Bunambutye sub-county in Bulambuli district told PML Daily October 20.

Mr Waisi says they learnt of the government move to buy the 2,828 acres of land through the newspapers and that Mr Mudimi has never engaged them and neither is he a member of their community.

“We are determined to fight for our land because nobody ever consulted us, OPM was duped. Nobody should even bring people here for settlement before we are compensated, let the government take these people elsewhere,” said Mr Waisi.

The former RDC Bulambuli Mr Nabende Wamoto said the purchase of the land was scandalous to the level that the procurement number OPM/SPLS/13-14/00100 was suspicious.

“And although the procurement notice was pinned on the notice board, it was removed before the mandatory 14 days at the request of MP Mudimi Womakuyu,” said Mr Wamoto.

This was plucked off the Bulambuli district notice board due to serious objection by the real land owners and that it came out clear that OPM was out rightly accomplice in the land deal.

Mr Wamoto wants President Museveni to intervene to investigate when and from whom did MP Mudiimi buy plot 93 [about 918 acres of land] which was abnormally traded by OPM at Shs 2, 754, 000b.

“What criteria were used by OPM to evaluate plots 93, 94 and 10? Because some plots in the same area, same topography,  same market value and less acreage were paid more than others,” added Mr Wamoto.

He explained that on the same bid notice for example Mr George and Christine Ochwo were paid Shs 3.8m per acre for plot 94 [about 270 acres], MS Simu Oil Company Ltd was paid 2.5 per acre for plot 10 [1312 acres and MP Mudiimi was paid Shs 3m per acre for plot 93.

Mr Wamoto further wants Uganda Revenue Authority to intervene and compel the beneficiaries to pay taxes to government and that the IGG should also intervene using the leadership to compel MP Mudini to declare his wealth especially from the illegal sale of land.

Mr Bernard Mujasi, the LCV chairman for Mbale also questioned the motive of re-advertising the deal, two days to the closing of the bids.

He explained that the bids were closed on October 31, 2013. The first advert went out on October 18, 2013 and later, through unclear circumstances, it was re-advertised on October 28, 2013.

“And worst of all the Mt Elgon LCV chairpersons were not involved in this deal even when Shs 8b had been released to resettle their people. This makes this deal fictitious because why didn’t they involve the leaders here?,” says Mr Mujasi.

He explained that the land in question is also public land that belongs to all Bamasaaba if the title belonged to Masaba cooperative union and that how then did the title change from a cooperative union for all Bamasaaba without an annual general meeting to an individual.

Police intervenes

On November 22, 2013, an intelligence officer attached to OPM wrote to Ms Christine Guwatudde assistant commissioner at OPM, raising several issues in the deal but the letter was ignored.

In the intelligence officer’s caution letter to OPM titled “Suspected anomalies in Procurement Department of Disaster Preparedness Management”, he indicated the title for the said land was a forgery and about half of the land was a swamp.

The intelligence officer proposed an independent verification team and warned OPM of future audit queries if procurement procedures were flouted. However despite this warning, Ms Guwatudde appointed a team of eight officers, including one Richard Masereje, who is presented as a consultant transaction advisor.

In the same police letter to OPM, the officer also reported what he called, “the fraudulent transaction” to his bosses at State House but no response was given.

Reports say that when police started investigations in the matter, they asked Centenary rural development bank to withhold payment to MP Mudiimi until issues of forgery and illegal land transaction were resolved but that the issue was handled by a divisional CID officer.

Mr Wamoto says that the land transaction of this magnitude should have been investigated by the CID headquarters; it was left to a divisional CID officer, Mr Daniel Batter, who on October 21, 2014, wrote to manager of Centenary Bank, Entebbe Road branch to release the withheld funds to Simu Oil Company.

In the letter titled “Clearance of EFT payment to A/C No 3010311186 Simu Oil Company”, Mr Batter cleared payment of the funds that had been blocked, pending conclusion of investigations into the alleged fraud.

“This is to bring to your attention that subject to our investigations inquiries vide CPS K’LA GEF: 77/2014 into this matter, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions has directed that our case file be closed and the owner of the account [Simu Oil (U) Ltd] be allowed to freely operate and run their account… this is therefore to direct you to comply with the directive,” Mr Batter wrote.

 

The document

Mr Simon Wananzofu the LCV chairman for Bulambuli told PML on phone that the land in question has a lot of controversies that require to be resolved before people are moved to it.

 

“We are urgently trying to deal with a disaster as government but we are also sowing seeds for another disasater, war, if we don’t resolve the conflicts surrounding the land in question,” said Mr Wananzofu.

He revealed that the land in question belongs to people OPM did not consult to buy but decided to buy it under MS Simu Oil Company Ltd, MP Mudiimi and Mr George and Christine Ocwo.

Local leaders at Bulambuli district including councilors and the district land office insist that the land at plots 10 and 93 in Bunambutye is customarily owned by 18 clans (300 families) and that OPM officials reportedly struck the deal with Elgon county MP Mudiimi, who is accused of fraudulently obtaining the land title in the name of his family company, Simu Oil Company (U) Ltd.

Fighting OPM

This reporter reported in September 2014, that the owners of the land armed with clubs, machetes at Tobagony Village in Bunambutye Sub-county attacked a government team that had gone to open the land boundaries for resettlement of Bududa landslide victims.

The State minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, Mr Musa Ecweru, Ms Christine Guwatudde Kintu, assistant commissioner, Ms Rose Nakabugo and other OPM officials were forced to flee after a charged crowd attempted to lynch them.

Another group says they petitioned the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire [ Ref MBL/18/2017 ] to intervene in the dispute between them and Simu Oil Company  (U) Ltd, a company they say allegedly forged land titles to sell their land.

Mr Hakim Konyi, the secretary of the land owners, says Justice Bamugemereire has not called them to testify about the alleged fraudulent sale of their land by Elgon County MP Mudiimi, through his company Simu Oil Company (U) Ltd.

Mr Waisi of Bukiyabi village, Bumufuni parish, leading other land claimants says they dragged government and OPM to court over trespass in 2016 and are still waiting for the judgment

The suit was lodged before the High Court on August 28, 2016 by Musambwa & Co advocates, the lawyers to the owners of plot 93.

In the suit seen by PML Daily, the applicants are seeking compensation for losses suffered during the time OPM blocked them from accessing their land and also want OPM to give them back their land.

The applicants through their lawyers are also seeking for a court declaration that the OPM were duped, to stop any attempts to give it out to the mudslide victims and that the land was sold after its ownership was dubiously changed.

Decision to buy land

Government in late 2013 purchased 2,828 acres of land in Bunambutye sub-county; lower Bulambuli District at sh8b for the resettlement of the Mt Elgon landslide survivors.

However the owners of the land led by Mr Stephen Waisi protested the purchase urging that they were never consulted and that they have never sold their land.

Officials from OPM view the land that was allegedly old to them for resettlement of Bududa landslide victims. (Photo by David Mafabi)

Other Owners speak out

“You will not grab our land, government must get off our land, MP Mudiimi, does not have land here” said Mr Mutewule Muyonga and Mr Patrick Wanyama.

The duo accused the area MP Mudiimi and other businessmen for grabbing their land and selling it to OPM without their knowledge.

“We have even sued them in the courts of law and these people are not ashamed to come with the minister here, we shall fight for our dear land until we get it back,” said Mr Wanyama

OPM speaks out

Mr Martin Owor, the commissioner disaster management while appearing on NBS October 18 over the recent Bududa landslides said they bought the land genuinely from the owners.

“We are now preparing a working plan to resettle the landslide victims on the land we bought in Bulambuli,” said Mr Owor.

He revealed that they have opened up roads, drawn plans for relocating the victims, have surveyed the land, landslide victims have been registered.

MP Mudimi speaks out

Mr Mudimi was not available for a comment yesterday. However, in an earlier interview, he denied allegations of forging the title for the land.

He said Simu Oil (U) Ltd, a company where his wife is a director, sold the 1,680 acres on plot 10 to OPM but said the land title in question was issued to Masaba Cooperative Union by the Uganda Land Commission in 1971.

“And this land title was later transferred to my wife’s company when she bought the land in 2012, you can cross check the facts,” said Mr Mudimi.

“Whoever says the land title is forged should ask the Uganda Land Commission, which gave out the title to Bamasaba Cooperative Union in 1971. And the land is not for those who are claiming it. They are masqueraders and should be asked to produce the forged title. The claims they are talking about were investigated and cleared,” Mr Mudiimi said.

 

 

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