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Land commission grills MP Balyeku over Jinja land saga

FILE PHOTO: The Bamugemereire commission on land

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Jinja West Member of Parliament Moses Grace Balyeku says he spent up to 2.4 Billion shillings to buy off interests of six businessmen in the controversial Jinja district land saga.

He told the Commission of Inquiry into land matters on Thursday that he bought the interests for him and his business associate Maganalal Jay Thummar Patel to utilize for setting up a shopping mall, private university, and offices for rentals.

MP Balyeku says he ended up registering the land in Thummar Patel’s name to give the investor confidence after cancellation of the 25 years lease of the first investor, Tirupati Development Uganda Limited by Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in 2016.

After the disclosure, the Commission pinned him for violating the leadership Code Act by exerting pressure on public officers, concealing his interests in the transaction, forgery of documents as well as using his influence to swing the deal in favor of his associate.

The Commission deputy lead counsel John Bosco Suuza said MP Balyeku must be held accountable for the mess which led to all the frauds in the transaction.

He said the anomalies include fabrication of Jinja District Council Minutes, forgeries in Jinja district Land Board Minutes as well as other paper works used in processing the freehold title over public land leased by Jinja Municipal Council for 17 years from Uganda Land Commission.

Others are alleged bribery of civil servants, intimidation of members of the land boards and using his military bodyguards to harass public officers and civilians.

MP Balyeku denied wrongdoing saying he only used his position to lobby for the land allocation to his business associate for the area to develop from peasantry cassava and bananas gardens into posh upscale shopping mall. He also denied being a part of the forgeries, bribery claims as well as the alleged intimidation.

“I personally pushed the Town clerk, Jinja district Land Board, the district chairperson Titus Kisambira and state minister for investment Evelyn Anite and Lands Minister Betty Amongi Ongom to get the land for the investor as investor confidence” he told the Commission.

The land commission is investigating circumstances under which the land was registered as a freehold against the interests of Jinja Municipality and a subsisting 25 years lease to Tirupati Development for construction of a recreation park.

Majority of witnesses who have testified before the Commission implicated MP Balyeku, Robert Kitimbo (the then Secretary Jinja District Land Board) and Fred Waiswa, the Jinja District Land Officer for the controversial land saga.

MP Balyeku who responded to a criminal summon issued by the Commission on Tuesday said he could not appear earlier because he had to participate in the maiden flight of Uganda Airlines on Tuesday. He apologized for telling the Commission that he was forced to make statement at the Commission.

“I personally organized meetings in my home with Jinja District Land Officer and some members of the land board to “lobby” them to give the investor confidence by allocating him the land,” he told the Commission.

He attempted to implicate the Jinja district land board chairperson Innocent Ngobi Ndiiko, Jinja district Council, Municipal Town Clerk and Commissioner for land registration for issuing his business associate the freehold title.

Commission chairperson lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire overruled his submissions saying some of the people he is accusing have since proved to the Commission beyond reasonable doubts that their signatures were forged in favor of the illegal transaction.

Justice Bamugemereire described the transaction as tainted in illegality, bribery, corruption, influence peddling, and impunity.

Commission Counsel Ebert Byenkya said MP Balyeku violated the leadership code by failing to declare his interests in the land allocation during the processing periods.

The land in question is located on plot 24 Kyabazinga Way in Nalufenya in Jinja municipality. It is located near the new Nile Bridge built in Jinja. The land was subdivided into ten smaller pieces and leased out to individuals in procedures that have since been established to be flawed.

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