By Clare Muhindo and Innocent Anguyo
Kyambogo University has secured an injunction from the High Court halting the attachment of the institution’s property.
Addressing the press on Wednesday, the Kyambogo University Acting Vice Chancellor, Prof. Eli Katunguka said their external lawyers; Kalenge, Bwanika, Ssawa & Company obtained the injunction on June 30.
The injunction follows a warrant of attachment and sale of Kyambogo University property reportedly issued by Irene Akankwasa, the Deputy Registrar of the Execution and Bailiffs Division of High Court on June 18.
In the warrant received by the University on that same day, Akankwasa ordered the attachment and sale of Kyambogo property, to recover sh3, 522,486, 396, as earlier awarded by the district labour court in Kampala to 54 former Kyambogo University staff.
The properties in question include land-Plot M-842, Plot 45, Plot 47 and Plot 67. Others are buses with registration numbers-UAJ 572Y, UAR 087Y, UAJ 600X and UG 1681E.
With an order from the High Court, on June 19, Libra Court Bailiffs & Auctioneers placed an advert in the media, saying the afore-listed university properties would be auctioned within 14 days of the publication, unless the university offset the said amount.
Kyambogo University has since taken the matter to court. Hearing is scheduled for July 11, in the High Court.
Background of case
The case which threatens to deprive Kyambogo University of its property is testament of a long-standing court battle between the institution and 54 of its former staff whose contracts were terminated in 2009.
Kyambogo was formed in 2003, by merging the Institute of Teachers Education Kyambogo (ITEK), Uganda National Institute of Special Education (UNISE) and Uganda Polytechnic Kyambogo (UPK).
“In 2009, when staff of the three institutions were harmonized, some workers who were considered casual workers were terminated after notice. These included 54 workers,” explained Katunguka.
“They 54 contended that they had accumulated salary arrears between 2003 and 2009, as a result of restructuring and that they were entitled to terminal benefit based on the recommended salary structure in 2009.”
The workers, now known as Robinah Nambirige and 53 others, dragged the university to Nakawa Labour Courts, which ordered the institution to pay the workers in 2010.
Magistrate Justine Olal Gumtwero ruled on December 10 2009 that the 54 could not be considered casual because they were on the university payroll and they had received salaries until their termination.
Olal also ordered that the workers be given repatriation in accordance with length of service and end of contract benefits, as calculated by their umbrella bodies, in light of ensuring that their terminal benefits were properly tabulated.
The terminal benefits of the workers, Katunguka noted were calculated and subsequently paid in March 2010.
However, the vice chancellor was quick to reveal that, in March 2011, “Nambirige and 53 others feeling that they were dissatisfied with the payments received from Kyambogo University took the same matter to court-the District labour office in Kampala.”
The case was heard by Adrine Namara. In her ruling on May 11, Namara ordered that on top of the terminal benefits of 54 being calculated based on their salary structure by June 30th 2009-M15 (sh383, 966); they should also be paid their accrued leave.
The university was ordered to clear the dues (then amounting to about sh400m) within 14 days, a directive it failed to implement to date.
Kyambogo University appealed against the award, on grounds that Namara erred-when she arbitrated over a complaint that had already been heard by the labour officer in Nakawa; regarded the complainants as permanent employees to base payment of their dues and entitlements; found that complainants were entitled to salary arrears, leave, NSSF pay and repatriation; and established the complainants salary structure as M15, five levels higher than actual.
Justice Benjamin Kabiito heard the appeal and made a ruling to that effect on March 03, 2014.
Kabiito quashed Namara’s ruling, saying the cited provisions of the law applied to entertaining an original complaint by any labour officer, but not a complaint about the dissatisfaction of an earlier award made by a labour officer under similar jurisdiction.
He further noted that the time within which the complainants could appeal the decision of the labour officer in Nakawa had also elapsed.
Therefore, the quashing of Namara’s ruling meant that the initial award by the Nakawa Court was reinstated.
Katunguka said the warrant of attachment is an ambitious ploy by fraudsters to fleece the university.
“Sometime back, the ministry of education requested Kyambogo University to give them part of their land to build ministry headquarters and this was agreed. The land tittle was surrendered to the permanent secretary to curve off about 5 acres of land,” said Katunguka.
However, when the land tittle was returned, Katunguka said it was discovered that four other plots of land were demarcated off and allocated to unknown persons. He said the matter was brought to the attention of the Ministry officials and Uganda Land Commission but no clear answers were given.
“It is no coincidence that the warrant of attachment is focusing on the four plots of land in question. It is our view that the same people who were involved in the illegal acquisition of this land are using the courts of law to buy it through auction. Most likely, this is happening with connivance of some administrative staff in Kyambogo University,” argued Katunguka.
Kayihura’s help sought
Sam Akorimo, the Kyambogo University Secretary has written to Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, asking him to probe and arrest persons attempting to defraud Kyambogo.
In the letter dated June 18, Akorimo said: “It is also our request that you direct your officers to exercise extra vigilance in protecting the University property.”
Akorimo said the warrant of attachment was “part and parcel of a fraudulent scheme perpetuated by unscrupulous individuals to illegally grab and dispose the university’s property through abuse of court processes.”
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Court halts sale of Kyambogo property worth sh3.5b