Thieving Hands: Uganda Lands Commission Bosses named in Bribery for Land-grabbing in Mbarara

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Robert Nyombi in his office (Photo by Patrick Jaramogi)

MBARARA, Uganda: The Uganda Land Commission (ULC) is on the spot once again over controversial awarding land titles in Mbarara. The land in question is Plot 9 and 7A located at Kyamugorani Road, Kakoba, Mbarara Municipality in Mbarara district.

The Investigator has taken time to un-earth the dung and hereby exposes influence peddling and corruption by senior ULC officials.

Background

According to documents obtained from the Uganda Land Commission, the above plots 9 and 7A were leased to Hydra Homes Uganda Limited in 2010 and 2012 respectively for a period of five years. A certificate of title number (ULC/154/668) Vol 4001 Folio 21) was subsequently released to that effect for plot 9 measuring 0.266 hectares.

Similarly, another title ULC/154/0094 Vol4380 Folio 6 was issued out on April 1st 2010 for plot 7 measuring 0.18 hectares. Hydra Homes also paid full premium fees for both plots. According to Mbarara police, when Hydra Homes moved in to start developing the said land, scores of squatters who were still on the said land objected the move.

The Investigator has established that three locals; Gordon Tumuhimbise, Nyanzi Vidi and Juma Kabwende who remained after the others had left made life for Hydra Homes so ‘hard’ to do any development on the said land despite having titles for the land.

Funny claims

What is so intriguing is that the two plots are being contested for by three parties. Hydra homes who were granted lease, the locals Gordon Tumuhimbise, Nyanzi Vidi and Juma Kabwende who claim they have occupied this land as their ancestral land for the last 40 years and the family of the late Abiba Abdallah Said who occupied the land since 1971 before it was taken over by government.

According to the documents, Saidi Abdallah, now deceased was occupying the land that housed the Geological Department and the Lands and Surveys in 1970s. The struggle to retain this land after camps were erected by some people in 1976 were futile until 1977 when Saidi Abdallah passed on. The widow, Habiba Abdallah continued to pursue the matter until she also died in 2011 without much success.

On December 2013, the son of the late Saidi Abdallah, Karim Abdallah wrote to the President Museveni complaining about the same piece of land. The Special Presidential Assistant/Manifesto, then Ngoma Ngime in a letter addressed to the then Minister of State for Lands Baguma Isoke requested that the family of the late Abdallah be assisted to reclaim the land.

To clear the air regarding the claims by the Abdallah family about the land, a communication (Ref.AE 8/B) dated October 6th 1997 from Eron V. Bubye, the commissioner for Geological Survey and Mines then seemed to seal the last blow to their hopes.

In the letter addressed to Ms Ahiba Kenith Abdala, Bubye noted that the said land was allocated to commissioner Geological Survey and Mines Department Entebbe on 27th October 1971. “The land in which we presently have our camp was allocated on the following conditions; in accordance with C.S.I No. 1 0f 1969, that no compensation is payable and that Mbarara Town Council surrenders the area to Uganda Land Commission.”

Bubye said the land was allocated to the department in order to bring services near to Mbarara in order to develop the Nations mineral wealth.

Enter the shacks at Lands Commission

We have established that the saga to have the land ownership twist begun as the lease for the Hydra Homes was being renewed. The locals (Gordon Tumuhimbise, Nyanzi Vidi and Juma Kabwende) were mobilized by a one Jeremere Twinomugisha who happens to be an auditor with the Uganda Lands Commission in Kampala.

Twinomugisha who revealed to us that Gordon Tumuhimbise is his uncle also mobilized lawyers of Ahimbisibwe and Agaba Co. Advocates in Mbarara to secure an injunction and court order, application No. 0184 of 2016) to stop Hydra Homes from engaging in any developments on the land.

Sources close to the shoddy deal revealed how Jeremere Twinomugisha connived with Kampala mafias to purchase the said contested land. The locals revealed how Twinomugisha ‘used’ them to ‘lie’ in court so as to have the land owned by them. As a senior official at the ULC, Twinomugisha is alleged to have secured a Shs150m bribe from a Kampala tycoon to expeditiously secure the lease title from lands.

IGG/ CIID intervenes

After a whistleblower alerted the IGG Justice Irene Mulyagonja about the pending fictitious transfer of the land titles without notifying Hydra Homes, IGGs detectives swung into action to investigate. Similarly we have confirmed that Jeremere and the Secretary Uganda Land Commission Robert Nyombi face arrest for the influence peddling, abuse of office, extortion and obtaining money by false pretence.

The CIID director Grace Akullo acknowledged the investigations. Communications like the one from D/SP Chiriga Taban the then District CID Mbarara to the chairperson ULC dated 4th April 2016 indicated the investigation were underway.

The latest communication seen by the Investigator is the one written on September 6th 2017 by D/ASP Mutabazi John Bosco to Hon. Baguma Isoke seeking clarification on the contested land. Detectives at CIID revealed to us that Jeremere Twinomugisha was being investigated for ‘stealing’ the said files and conflict of interest.

As we file this report, Jeremere is alleged to have helped the impoverished locals pay shs90m premium for the contested land.

ULC officials deny

The Investigator contacted the Acting Secretary ULC Robert Nyombi. “Claims that I ‘ate’ a Shs150m bribe to give out a title is stupid and utter nonsense. What were they paying for?” he fumed.

We put it to him in the face that claims are rife that a one Jeremere gave him Shs150m for expeditious processing of the title for plot 9 and 7A in Kayamugorani road and he responded thus; “that is nonsense. Jeremere is an auditor here, and he is here let him explain how and where he gave me the money from.”

He said as per now the said land had no owner. “The title given to Hydra Homes expired. I have also ordered the registrar lands Mbarara not to issue out any new titles to the new parties that had applied until the main case is resolved,” said Nyombi

Jeremere on his part was so bitter when asked why he doesn’t think being party to land issues yet he is a senior lands official doesn’t tantamount to conflict of interest. “Yes it is true I helped those people because Gordon Tumuhimbise is my uncle,” he said. Asked who between his uncles and the family of the late Abiba Abdalla are the true owners, he replied… “please go and ask them.”

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Patrick Jaramogi is a trained Crime, Financial and Fraud investigative journalist. He is a senior writer and Editor at the Investigator. He can be reached via email: pjaramogi@gmail.com or watsup +256772426211​​​