KAMPALA – Members of Parliament from the West Nile Sub region have asked President Museveni to interest himself in the arrest of Dr Charles Lagu, the Executive Director of the National Animal Genetic Resources centre (NAGRIC) and Data Bank, saying he is a victim of witch-hunt by the mafia seeking to grab government land.
Dr Lagu was on Saturday arrested from his home in Mbarara by operatives from the State House Anti-Corruption Unit. He together with Philip Ezekiel Mukani, the procurement officer, Olivious Komujuni, Animal Husbandry officer, and the director of Nuruma Holdings Limited, Mr Emmanuel Kafute Rumanzi, appeared before Makindye Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, April, 29.
They were charged with abuse of office, obtaining money by false pretense, causing financial loss to government and conspiracy to defraud by Chief Magistrate Prossy Katushabe, which charges they denied.
However, under their grouping, the West Nile Parliamentary Caucus, the legislators told journalists at Parliament on Wednesday that Dr Lagu is being victimized by government officials who are interested in grabbing NAGRIC property.
MPs led by Ayivu County MP Benard Atiku questioned the manner in which Lagu was arrested and the failure by authorities to present him before court within the stipulated time.
Atiku says that Lagu’s arrest is a case of witch-hunt and backed with ulterior motives since he had already complained and reported to police about people harassing and seeking to extort money from him.
He alleges that the Anti-Corruption Unit was being misused by complainants who also need to be investigated in order to dig out the truth about the operations of NAGRIC.
Atiku demanded for the immediate release of Dr Lagu and also appealed to the Anti-Corruption Unit to pick interest in all the complainants against the NAGRIC Director including government officials he has previously conflicted with over government land.
West Moyo County MP Alero Tom Azaa also insists that Dr Lagu is being witch-hunted without a right to fair hearing. He says that they expect suspects to be presented before court in order for justice to prevail.
Adjumani Woman MP Jessica Ababiku described allegations against Dr Lagu as clumsy. She suggested that President Yoweri Museveni and the State House Anti-Corruption Unit instead pick interest in cases that the NAGRIC director has previously handled in order to arrest the land grabbers.
Upper Madi County MP Isaac Etuka and Maracha Woman MP Rose Ayaka also noted that the detention of Dr Lagu beyond the mandatory 48 hours was a human rights abuse and therefore a need for him to be released unconditionally.
Dr Lagu has been serving as NAGRIC Director for two years and his stay has been riddled with several controversies involving land grabbing and infighting.
On January 5, 2020, this website reported that Dr Lagu was living in fear after an anonymous letter dropped at his office threatened to end his life if he did not stop defending government land.
Dr Lagu has over the years been vehemently protecting government ranches, including Njeru in Buikwe and Ruhengyere and Nshaara in western Uganda, from grabbers.
And in December 2019, anonymous people hired by the land grabbers sent threatening phone messages and letters to Dr Lagu, warning him to back off the pieces of land if he wants to live.
One of the threatening letters was dropped at Dr Lagu’s office in Entebbe on December 31. The group threatened to put up trumped charges against Dr Lagu and have him jailed.
“The useless efforts of fighting people from government land will backfire on you. This is not your father’s land. It is not your property. We want to assure you that Police will not help you. Your days expired the day Joy Kabatsi left the ministry and her departure marked your exit too,” the anonymous letter reads in part.
“Trust me before January ends, we shall have you out of that office and the least we are getting you is a conviction. We have willing staff to testify against you. You are a selfish stupid man taking people for granted and you gave yourself all projects and want to eliminate fellow workers from office. You have employed your relatives and this must end,” the letter adds.
“We are giving you another chance to meet and we talk and we talk by January 2. If you avoid us, then write your will, whatever you have toiled for will be eaten by your thieving colleagues.”
Dr Lagu also said he had received threatening messages from telephone number 0703 710 976.
The minister for East African Affairs, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, is one of those accused of grabbing part of Njeru Stock Farm. Otafire told Parliament in November that he did not grab government land, but bought it from an individual.
The 1,099-acre farm located at Bukaya west village, in Njeru municipality, is one of the government farms managed under the National animal genetic resources centre and data bank. It hosts a demonstration farm, a breeding centre and a research centre, among other facilities. However, more than 504 acres, have been illegally acquired by individuals.
Otafire who tabled the documents said that he wants the government to leave the land that he had rightfully acquired. Among documents tabled are; copy of certificate of title, sale agreement copy, a judgement of the Buganda Lukiiko on the land dispute, copies of letters of administration among others.