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I cannot refund NSSF money – Mbabazi

By The Independent Team

The NSSF-Amama Mbabazi saga is now a mind game in which politics, business, and ethics are indecently mixed up. The Independent team talked to Amama Mbabazi to get matters back to the important issues.

You appear to have a water tight case but you have people like the MD of NSSF Jamwa and finance minister Ezra Suruma in a lurch.

I have defended Jamwa and the NSSF board. They were right in the way they acted. I have tried to explain this purported conflict; well as a lawyer I know that not everybody understands it well. I saw some PPDA (Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets) chaps presenting where they said there was conflict of interest. I

‘m sure they don’t understand it.  But after learning that Arma Ltd belonged to me and they got to know that I was involved, NSSF passed the resolution that I give Nzeyi the power of attorney. In doing so the board in fact acted in a manner that was not a conflict of interest in order to protect the interests of the fund. The resolution they passed that I should give power of attorney was also correct because Amos Nzeyi was carrying titles of land that he was to sell, some of which were not in his names. The reasonable thing anyone would to do was to ask for authority from the actual owners but unfortunately this resolution was misunderstood to mean that I was trying to conceal myself from the whole land sale.

The board can’t be faulted for my transfer of power of attorney.  The conspiracy that Mbabazi was in touch with the [NSSF] board being fronted is astonishing but I don’t feel angry with people like Hassan Bassajjabalaba because he cannot understand this.

Have you considered the calls for you to refund the money?

Why would I refund the money? I heard Nzeyi said he’s ready to buy back the land but Nzeyi is a businessman and he’s got money to do that. My friend, it’s easy for him to get Shs 10 billion but for me I don’t have that kind of money. I used the money for purposes of buying shares and I didn’t remain with a penny. That money never came to me; the payment went straight to Tropical Bank to pay for shares.  I never handled the money. Besides, I see no fault in the transaction upon which the idea of refund is based, so I am not in position to refund or buy back the land.

What do you say about reports that you got the money from the land sale to repay a loan you had with Tropical Bank?

That’s not true. The money I got from Tropical Bank was an addition to top up the funds from the sale of land to buy shares. We had the money from the sale of the land deposited in Tropical Bank because that was our bank which would transfer the money to the people who were selling me NBC shares. We paid all in a lump sum and all we got was additional two billion shillings from Tropical Bank to top up. You can’t get Shs 11 billion to repay Shs 2 billion.

The National Bank of Commerce has a record of unsatisfactory performance at Bank of Uganda and it’s said the Central Bank has not taken action because you’re well known to the Bank Governor and Finance minister.

We had a few problems some years ago but we’re performing well in most areas but not all.  Bank of Uganda cautioned us under late Governor Kikonyogo and that’s when we got a loan from Bank of Uganda. So it’s not true that I am peddling influence for BOU to bail out the bank. It’s not a big bank but we have had a profit of Shs 590 million this year, that isn’t small.  This is to demonstrate that we have broken even and paid all our debts and we have profit to declare dividends. If we were performing poorly, BOU wouldn’t have authorized payment of dividends.

People are wondering why you have chosen to interpret the NSSF issue in terms of tribal sentiments and people being against Bakiga?

I have never been in any public arena to say there’s any tribal connection to the NSSF land sale.  The tribal issue was started by [Hon] Jim Muhwezi in the NRM caucus and he later gave a press conference and said I was the one who had said it.The next time it surfaced was after our CEC (NRM Central Executive Committee) meeting in Entebbe which was leaked to the press, and among other things, they said I raised the tribe issue and it was Muhwezi again who leaked the rumour. I don’t see any point in saying this is a Bakiga thing because if you are to have a hierarchical list of integrity in the public office, these Bakiga you are making the centre of the saga (Mondo Kagonyera, Ruhakana Rugunda, Ezra Suruma) would top the list.

The idea of tribal sentiments didn’t come from me. Go and ask [Hon] Jim Muhwezi. It was his creation and by the way, it started at Tumukunde’s mother’s burial where he said the Bahororo would standup and fight. So who has tribal sentiments here? I am totally detribalized, I am very proud to be a Mukiga but I have no problem with being Ugandan as well. So that was a lie.

What exactly is the conflict between you and Muhwezi?

I haven’t gone after Muhwezi, he’s the one on my back. He’s the one saying the party’s image will be soiled if I remain Secretary General of NRM.  But we lawyers have a maxim that if you want equity from court you must come with clean hands. And Muhwezi is going to the public and saying this Mbabazi overpriced his land by charging less than what I charged, Mbabazi is given preferential treatment to speak to the caucus when I wasn’t. It’s really unfair because Muhwezi is the one who instigated those who petitioned the caucus and I didn’t ask to address them but I am glad I did. Now they turn around and say I was given the floor but Muhwezi should know I have not committed a crime, his is a criminal charge even if I believe in the basis of presumption of innocence. The fact is Muhwezi is accused of stealing money from government and I am accused of selling my property, and the two cannot be comparable, are they?

Issues seem to be getting out of control in the NRM party. You are the Secretary General of NRM, how can you keep the party together?

I am totally in charge. The party revolves around what I do.  They said that I am not approachable as far back at Namboole National Delegates’ Conference and they were rejected overwhelmingly and they are still being rejected.

It’s not uncharacteristic of a party to have internal contradiction and this contradiction is pitting two forces but I can assure you that we have been tested and we have always come out stronger so even this will be resolved because we have mechanisms and it can only make the party stronger.

You are facing a probable censure?

I think our parliament is made up of sensible people and they will find no reason to censure me.

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