By Chris Kiwawulo and David Sempijja
The land row between Oscar Industries and a UN agency has taken a new twist, with the agency petitioning the Chief Justice over the matter.
The United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (UNAFRI) on July 9 petitioned the Chief Justice seeking his intervention in the case, where they are battling with Oscar Industries over a piece of land in Naguru, Kampala.
The petition followed a suit that Oscar Industries filed in November 2011 against the Uganda Land Commission (ULC), the commissioner for land registration and the commissioner for surveys and mapping for leasing part of its land measuring 1.8 acres to UNAFRI. Oscar Industries wants the court to quash the lease title.
Through their lawyers, Munanura-Mugabi and Company Advocates, UNAFRI argued that since the Attorney General did not file a defense to the suit, the case was most likely to be ruled exparte (without hearing from the defendants) to their detriment.
“UNAFRI was not made party to the proceedings and none of the defendants put in a defence despite being served. The net effect of the orders being sought in court will directly contravene Uganda’s commitment to its international obligations in this matter and affect none other than UNAFRI,” the letter read.
The UNAFRI statute gives the agency immunity against being sued unless the agency itself waives that immunity.
Attorney General Peter Nyombi said he was not aware of the suit.
ULC leased part of the land (1.8 acres) belonging to Oscar Industries to UNAFRI, causing a dispute. Oscar Industries is owned by city businessman Mohan Kiwanuka. The land in dispute initially belonged to the Police College.
Through its lawyers F. Mukasa and Company Advocates, Oscar Industries took the three respondents to the High Court’s civil division, seeking to have the lease that was issued to UNAFRI nullified “because it was created and entered into without jurisdiction, irregularly unlawfully and illegally.”
Upon President Yoweri Museveni’s instruction, ULC allocated the Police land to Oscar Industries to enable the company establish investments that would offer employment opportunities to Ugandans.
Osar Industries was in turn supposed to offer an alternative land to Police, where the Inspectorate of Vehicles would be transferred and established at the cost of the company, which was not done.
On June 13, 2011, ULC gave UNAFRI a 99-year lease to use the land measuring 6.88 hectares (16.8 acres) on plots 3 Mukabya Road and 2 – 8 Katalima Road for a $64m (sh159b) crime prevention training complex.
But part of the land (1.8 acres) overlaps into Oscar Industries’ land. Oscar Industries wants court to declare that its lease of 9.031 hectares (22.3 acres) that the company obtained in January 2009, is the only genuine and lawful one.
Oscar Industries also wants court to prohibit ULC from issuing any other certificates of title, letters of allocation, lease agreements, deed plans against the land. They also want court to issue “an order that the respondents pay the costs of the application.”
Faisal Mukasa, a lawyer representing Oscar Industries, confirmed the existence of the suit but declined to comment on the matter.
ULC chairman Mayanja Nkangi also declined to comment, saying the Solicitor General or Attorney General usually responds to court cases on commission’s behalf.”
Uganda was in 1989 selected to host UNAFRI on the African continent because she (Uganda) offered a whole Police training college with offices, hostels, leisure grounds, residential houses and ample land for future development and the proximity of the location to the capital city.
Egypt, Mali and Zambia had also offered to host the Institute.
The then internal affairs minister, Kirunda Kivejinja, in his March 29, 2011 letter to ULC chairman Mayanja Nkangi, expressed concern that Oscar Industries held a title covering part of the land that the Government made available to UNAFRI.
“We have never, as the user ministry, given you instructions to process a title in the names of Oscar Industries,” Kivejinja said.
Although Kivejinja called for rectification of the anomaly, nothing was done. This prompted the ministry’s permanent secretary, Dr. Steven Kagoda, to write a fresh letter on May 3, 2012, also asking the ULC secretary to rectify the error.