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Nakapiripirit rock claimants fight over Chinese cash

By Chris Kiwawulo

Added 12th October 2017 03:19 PM

Welt won the case against CRBC before Justice Henrietta Wolayo in Soroti High Court, which ordered Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) to release the cash to the account of the High Court Registrar, before part of it was later paid to Welt.

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A man using fire to weaken rocks for easy quarrying in Gulu. The rock in Nakapiripirit was to be used to get gravel to construct Moroto-Nakapiripirit road. Photo/File

The battle for over sh20b from a Nakapiripirit rock where a Chinese company extracted stones to construct the Moroto-Nakapiripirit road, has taken a new twist after one of the claimants dragged her colleagues to court over exclusion.

Princess Nuwahereza, one of the signatories/facilitators of Welt Machinen Engineering Limited, a company which sued China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) for illegally blasting Kamusalaba rock to construct the 93.3km road without payment, has now sued her colleagues for breach of contract.

Welt won the case against CRBC before Justice Henrietta Wolayo in Soroti High Court, which ordered Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) to release the cash to the account of the High Court Registrar, before part of it was later paid to Welt. The money was part of the balance that UNRA was supposed pay CRBC for constructing the road.

Although some of the money was released to Welt’s account, Nuwahereza has now asked court to halt any further payments arising from the case until her suit is heard and disposed of.

Through BKA Advocates, Nuwahereza argues that she was entitled to part of the 40% of the total court awards to Welt after she participated in facilitating the suit, but she was unfairly removed from the list of signatories/facilitators. She mentions the Attorney General as a second defendant in the case.

Welt is owned by two directors; Ben Koriang Lokeris and Felix Apo Oroma, both Minerals state minister, Peter Lokeris’ children. But when it came to picking the money, Welt filed a resolution dated September 1, 2015, to the registrar of companies presenting Oroma, Andrew Muhwezi and Nuwahereza as its representatives.

Nuwahereza contends that Welt directors unfairly resolved on October 17, 2016, to remove her as signatory to the Welt account in Cairo Bank yet she executed an irrevocable financial participation agreement with Welt and Muhwezi. Nuwahereza is now seeking damages and costs of the suit that she filed in the High Court’s Commercial division.

According to a ‘Clarification in final Orders’ issued by Justice Wolayo on March 20, 2017, Welt was to be paid sh21.19b in two installments (sh9.06b and sh12.13b). Out of the second installment (sh12.13b), the Attorney General (government) was to receive sh4.78b as dues for the rock, and this is supposed to be paid before October 31, 2017.

IGG probe

In June, the Inspector General of Government (IGG) has launched investigations into the controversial release of sh20.6b by UNRA to Welt despite a court injunction stopping the payment. The money was released through the High Court Registrar’s account number 003130058000001

Deputy IGG, Mariam Wangadya, confirmed that investigations into the matter had kicked off. According to documents, sh9b was wired on January 24, 2017, while sh11.6b was in June. It has emerged that the sh9b was later transferred to the Welt account in Cairo Bank.

Meanwhile, highly-placed sources revealed to New Vision that the matter also came up for discussion in the cabinet meeting that Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, chaired in June.

At the backdrop of these developments, sources revealed that the beneficiary top officials in government, judiciary, and UNRA have also developed misunderstandings over the way the sh9b was shared, after some individuals reportedly took more than what was agreed.

Each of the now grumbling officials played a role in ensuring the suspicious release of the money before an appeal by a Chinese firm, China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), could be heard.

CRBC had secured an injunction stopping UNRA from paying sh46.2b that court had awarded Welt and the Attorney General, but the roads authority under unclear circumstances released sh20.6b.

The award followed a court ruling in a case where Welt sued CRBC for quarrying Kamusalaba rock in Nakapiripirit district without authorisation from the alleged owners (Welt).

It also emerged that the lawyers who offered legal services to Welt Machinen in the court case – Mujurizi, Alinaitwe and Byamukama advocates – were bitter over non-payment of their fees. According to sources, the lawyers were demanding for payment for the services offered to Welt against CRBC.

In the suits, CRBC was represented by Omara Atubo and Company advocates while Welt was represented by Jabo and Company advocates and later by Mujurizi, Alinaitwe and Byamukama advocates.

How it started

In 2013, CRBC won a contract from UNRA to construct the road at $80m (sh286.5b). It is out of this money that CRBC risks losing sh46.2b.

CRBC project manager, Fan Wei, argued that they secured permission to quarry the rock from the Nakapiripirit district authorities and the community, but this did not save the firm.

Documents show that Nakapiripirit district local government entered into an agreement with CRBC to get aggregate from Kamusalaba rock for construction of the Moroto-Nakapiripirit road.

According to CRBC, they agreed to pay sh50m to Nakapiripirit district local government to operate on the rock land in an agreement that the two parties signed on May 13, 2013.

CRBC said before commencing the project, they agreed with the then Nakapiripirit district chief administrative officer, Moses Bahemuka Kisembo, his deputy, Jobs Lomenen Ilukol, Lorengedwat sub-county chief, Tonny Okello Agaza, and the community.

However, documents show that Welt Machinen secured a one-year mining license on June 4, 2013 at sh200,000, a month after CRBC had signed an agreement with Nakapiripirit authorities.      

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