Departed Asian Properties Custodian Board (DAPCB) Executive secretary George William Bizibu has revealed shocking secrets regarding accusations of trying to sell over 800 acres of government land to ghost claimants.
Bizibu revealed the secrets while responding to our August 30, 2021 article titled “Custodian Board Boss Bizibu In Trouble As Minister Kasaija, IGG Kamya Unearth 800-Acre Land Theft”. In the said report, we revealed how a whistleblower report to the Inspector General of Government (IGG) pinned Bizibu and his junior Irene Apio Julu on ‘erroneously’ signing two consent agreements with two ‘ghost claimants’ of the land designated as Kayunga estate and comprised in Kyaggwe Block 45, Plots 21, 22 and 26 at Ntunda, Mukono district.
The purported ghost claimants were identified as Kayongo Moses Byanguye and Sarah Nakato Kiwumulo. As per the consents, the pair was purported to have relinquished 300 acres near Ntunda Trading centre to government upon which they would be sold the remaining 500 acres under private treaty. It is said that the agreements followed a court battle where the claimants were protesting being dispossessed of the same land by the Custodian Board.
But responding to the claims, DAPCB Executive Secretary Bizibu revealed that all the processes pertaining to this particular land were done following well-laid statutory due process and with the blessing of the DAPCB board led by the Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija.
He however regrets that the process has been mired in deliberate misrepresentations by his probable detractors who may be motivated by their personal interest or at worst, ‘work politics’. Explaining his own account of the events, Bizibu explains the whole matter as hereunder:
Bizibu explains that the mandate of the DAPCB is to manage the properties (and businesses) that were taken by government from Asians that departed Uganda following the expulsion of Asians by President Idi Amin in 1973. However, one of the perennial challenges facing DAPCB since its inception by the Assets of Departed Asians act of 1973 has been proper documentation, most especially the lack of a clear assets register of these properties. Bizibu noted that having inherited this challenge when he took office, he embarked on a mission to investigate, research and locate these properties. “We have had to comb university libraries and other sources to unearth this information because it was not readily available within the government structures,” Bizibu said.
It should be noted that in a recent report into the affairs of DAPCB, the Auditor General John Muwanga revealed that Bizibu reported to his supreme audit institution (SAI) that (through such research efforts), DAPCB has since compiled an assets register for these properties. The register currently reports that 4,063 properties have since been repossessed by returned Asians. 1676 properties were sold by government while 3226 remain unsold.
Enter Kayunga Estate
Bizibu noted that while the Kayunga Estate land fell within the DAPCB’s mandate, it was unknown to government. However, through the above efforts, the DAPCB research team unearthed it in 2018, it was discovered in 2018. This was when it was reported to the board’s Divestiture Committee, thus kicking off an effort to reclaim it for government.
To confirm its physical existence, a three-man Divestiture Committee members’ team visited the land. These officers were; Byakatonda Abdulhu (chairman), Irene Apio Julu and Clement Kandole.
On October 1, 2018, Byakatonda notified the police about this matter, and also alerted it to the fact that the land was being illegally occupied by unscrupulous people including one Kyeswa Godfrey and Uganda Farmers Crop Industries Limited. At that time Kyeswa was even operating a sugarcane growing and sugar milling (Kayanja Sugar Factory) business on 300 acres of this land and had even secured titles for the land from Mukono District Land Board.
It however later emerged that two people identified as Sarah Nakato Kiwumulo and Moses Kayongo Byanguye were laying claim to the same land. Police was thus urged to investigate the matter and come up with recommendations.
But having confirmed the existence of the land, the DAPCB Divestiture Committee on January 2, 2019 authored a report recommending that the said land be allocated to Kiwumulo and Byanguye who would however pay government Shs2m per month for using the land.
Indeed, on January 7, 2019, this allocation was done and the two allocates began paying the said rent to Bank of Uganda’s divestiture account.
The DAPCB got a boost when on February 19, 2020. Police outed its report whose findings showed that Mukono DLB erroneously issued titles to Kyeswa and Uganda Farmers Crop Industries and so these had to be cancelled.
Consequently, on February 27, 2020 DAPCB began this cancellation process when its divestiture committee wrote the Commissioner Land Registration to cancel the said titles.
Following a series of investigations, on July 24, 2020 the ministry of lands called the concerned stakeholders to this land for a public hearing in respect to this cancellation. This cancellation would subsequently be issued by Francis Banumba on September 11, 2020.
Following the cancelation, on October 19, 2020, the DAPCB divestiture committee delegation comprising chairperson Abdulhu Byakatonda, Irene Julu and Hirome Mayanja Sabehe went and handed over the said land to Kayongo and Kiwumulo. The handover was witnessed by the allocates’ lawyer David Henry Mukiibi, the area LC1 boss Edward Mukalazi, Abraham Bosingo Lubega and Detective Corporal Oluka Tom, the in-charge Land desk at Naggalama Police Division.
Handover U-turn Sparks Off Wars
One of the contentious issues that have seen Bizibu dragged into trouble is the allegation of signing two separate consent agreements with the allocatees for possible self-interest.
However, Bizibu explains that this was necessitated by the unscrupulous conduct of two members of the divestiture committee and was done to protect DAPCB against legal liability following guidance by the minister of finance.
He explains that two weeks after the above handover of the land to Kiwumulo and Kayongo, divestiture committee members Hirome and Byakatonda showed displeasure with the handover of the said land to the allocatees. “This was despite the fact that they both attended the handover and even consented to it,” Bizibu says. He adds that the pair vouched for the interests of Kyeswa, opining that he deserved to be allocated the land since he had established on it a mega project which was even launched by President Museveni.
The Suits, Two Consents
On getting wind of the plot to dispossess them of this property, Kiwumulo and Kayongo protested, thus dragging DAPCB to court.
It was at this juncture that Bizibu as the DAPCB accounting officer sought Minister Kasaija’s advice. As DAPCB supervisor (since he’s the chairman of the DAPCB BOD), Kasaija counseled that a middle ground be found so as to accommodate interests of all occupants on the land including Kyeswa. He however cautioned that Kyeswa had to be tasked to first compensate the government for what he had accrued from the land as an illegal occupant.
For this allocation to be done, the land had to be surveyed and properly documented.
The survey was conducted, led by two surveyors namely Lutaya of Entebbe lands & surveys and Agaba, a senior surveyor from the ministry of lands. It was witnessed by Irene Apio Julu on behalf of DAPCB and Bizibu revealed that he sent Julu to witness this exercise by virtue of her seniority and institutional memory of DAPCB matters having worked for the entity since 1989. The survey showed that the land measured 815 acres but Kyeswa had encroached on only 300 acres of it, with the 515 lying idle.
With the survey done, a consent agreement was undertaken before Justice David Batema of Mukono High court vide Civil Suit No. 202 of 2020. It was between the plaintiffs (Kiwumulo and Kayongo) who were represented by their lawyer Mukiibi David Henry and the defendants (DAPCB, Byakatonda Abdulhu, Hirome Sabehe, Irene Julu, Nyangoma Grace Everce and Ibrahim Kasozi Biribawa). As per terms of the consent, Kyeswa would be left with the 300 acres upon fulfilling the minister’s conditions. Meanwhile, 15 acres were to be consumed by roads and reserves and the allocatees would take the remaining 500 acres which were to be sold to them under private treaty.
Bizibu revealed that despite all members of DAPCB being involved in this matter to this point, Byakatonda, Hirome and Counsel Wandera Ogallo refused to sign the consent agreement. In a report before the IGG, the officers claim that their refusal was due to queries they had about the existence and identities of the plaintiffs (Kayongo and Kiwumulo).
Particularly they claimed they had never seen them; although there was availability of the pair’s identity cards. And that the two officials’ curiosity was further raised after remote searches of these IDs did not yield results. It was thus thought that Bizibu could have fronted fake people for reasons best known to him.
Bizibu however revealed that this was a false accusation since these officers had physically handed over the land to the said ‘ghosts’.
It is thus thought that the refusal had a bearing with an attempt to advance Kyeswa’s interests.
Second Consent Agreement Comes In
Bizibu says that following this deadlock, he sought the guidance of the solicitor general, who advised him to ensure that he takes a decision that protects DAPCB (government) from liability. It is then that he and Julu as well as other members of the divestiture committee opted to draft another consent which was signed in the interest of protecting government interests.
Bizibu says he resorted to this action after even when the lawyers of the assumed ghost allocatees physically produced them before the Hiromes, they still insisted that they were fake. Secondly, the purported second consent was approved by the DAPCB Board, which is the supreme supervising body as well as the entity’s lawyers of Victoria Advocates and Legal Consultants.
Watch this space.
To comment on this story, contact:
Tel: 0782 262 814/ 0701 822 301