- Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 0908 EAT on Wednesday 29th June 2022.
Legislators probing the contentious Shs 2.039 billion compensation to Natalia Namuli by the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) were treated to more shocking revelations Tuesday when witnesses gave even more contradicting accounts.
Namuli, 79, is considered a ‘ghost’ among the six claimants who sold their land to the government in 2015, and were hurriedly paid Shs 10.6 billion. The money compensation money originated from an unlawful supplementary budget initiated by the former Lands, Housing, and Urban Development minister and current Inspector General of Government (IGG) Beti Kamya.
On Tuesday, three witnesses including Peter Amara, Namuli’s son-in-law, Kyle Lubega, and Richard Bizibira from Lubega & Buzibira Company Advocates, the Kampala-based law firm that acted on behalf of the claimant, gave parallel testimonies while appearing jointly before the MPs.
While in an earlier appearance Lubega told the MPs that in 2020 Namuli walked to their chambers seeking legal aid to push for delayed compensation from the government, his work partner Buzibira told the committee that they linked up with the client through Amara.
The MPs on the committee on commissions, statutory authorities, and state enterprises (Cosase) learned that Buzibira first met Namuli on July 22, 2020, and three days later he (Lubega) linked Namuli to a broker identified as Warren Mwesigye.
Ironically, Buzibira told Cosase that the broker opted to buy Namuli’s claim of Shs 2.039 billion at Shs 318 million only. Lubega had in a separate appearance earlier on, revealed that Buzibira withdrew the money from the bank and delivered it to the client in cash.
Buzibira further revealed that when ULC released the money, they deducted 10 per cent in legal fees and channeled the remaining money to the broker. However, on the contrary, Amara revealed to the committee that Namuli has never received the Shs 318 million that Buzibira said the broker paid.
“To be honest Mr chair, I don’t see any reason I could really lie that my mother in law Namuli Natalia given her age that she received the Shs 318m. At that time there was no money, even Warren was not there,” Buzibira said.
Amara also shocked the MPs when he stated that Namuli traveled to Kampala on July 22, 2020 using a taxi to process her claims. He claimed that he picked Namuli from the taxi park before leading her to Buzibira’s law firm where she presented her land title and gave the lawyers powers of the attorney.
But Lucy Akello, the Amuru district Woman MP who also doubles as the committee’s vice chairperson tasked Amara to explain how it was possible for Namuli to travel to Kampala at the time when the country was under total COVID-19 lockdown with all public transport suspended and all firms ordered to shutdown.
“Actually Mr Amara is lying to us and my reasons for saying this is as follows; one, on 22nd July 2020 he says Natalia Namuli came to Kampala in taxi [but] that was the time we had a total lockdown. Taxis were not allowed to move. What magic did you do that taxis were actually moving from Kagadi to come to Kampala,” said Akello.
Notably, the ULC represented by Daniel Mugulusi, the accounting officer was tasked to explain why the commission proceeded to pay the claimants yet the family of late Antwane Kalete had written a letter disowning Namuli as a member of the deceased’s family.
The solicitor general also wrote a June 10, 2021 letter advising the ULC to halt the payment to Namuli because she was not a legitimate claimant for the land measuring 516 acres in Kibaale district. Mugulusi responded that it is just a matter of time, and the commission will review its next course of action.
The witnesses who were first put on oath because of uncoordinated statements, specifically Lubega and his partner Buzibira were later on handed over to the police at parliament for further questioning before they were released.
Elija Okupa, the Kasilo County MP requested an adjournment of the meeting to allow them to devise new methods of cross-examining the witnesses. Joel Ssenyonyi, the committee chairperson adjourned the meeting to a later date yet to be communicated