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Jinja’s highlight property saga takes another twist as tenants join the case

The highlight tenants do not pay rent, neither do they carry out any repair on the building whose owners and the government also benefit nothing as far as ground rents and revenue are concerned.
NRM

One of the buildings in the centre of controversy and housing NRM in Jinja. File/Photo by Nelly Otto.

Last Updated on: 12th January 2023, 07:35 pm

Controversy surrounding a property widely known as ‘highlight’ situated on Plot 10 Iganga road has deepened after people claiming to be tenants have also joined a case currently before the court.

The matter had come for mention this Wednesday 11 January, 2023 before Lady Justice Farida Samilah Bukirwa when lawyer Sherriff Ssewagenda shot up claiming he was representing 37 tenants.

This was a shocking matter to the judge because the tenants were not included in the said case that has been in the court for nearly 10 years.

Available court records show that the owners (plaintiffs) had sued DAPCB and the Attorney General and not the 38 tenants who claim they have temporary allocation letters.

Ssemaganda from Kian Associated Advocates located along Main Street/Alice Muloki Road on the building that once housed former Bamboo FM says they are soon officially submitting an application to the court.

He says the ongoing settlement between the plaintiffs and DAPCB, once effected, will grossly affect his clients (the tenants) numbering about 300 people in the 38 households.

He wants court to include the 38 tenants on the settlements arguing that priority should always be given to the sitting tenants who can choose to buy off the property in case it’s out for sale.

Lady Justice Bukirwa was disturbed that lawyer Sherriff Ssemaganda seem not know that no one wakes up and storms the middle of a court proceeding without following the due required process.

Owners of the property are: Abubaker Manassar Saleh, Fatma Saleh Abdulla and Osman Saleh Abdulla, among others who reportedly bought the property from the original registered owners: Chamlal Yagnick, Kantilal and Nathwani through Gandehsa and Co Advocates who transferred the title certificate in 2002.

Hillary Nathan Ebila (State lawyer) who represented the Attorney General on behalf of DAPCB that has been sued by the owners has since conceded that the property was lawfully repossessed by the original owners.

Surprisingly, Ebila again requested for three more weeks to enable his team and those of the plaintiffs’ counsel Shaban Nkutu conclude the consent process which they both agree, is near completion.

Justice Bukirwa, after hearing all submissions, adjourned the matter until 6 February, 2023 as date for the last mention.

It’s not clear whether court will sit on this day 6 February, always a public holiday (Tarehe Sita) in Uganda to commemorate the day the then NRA rebel outfit fired the first bullet that triggered a five year protracted war that led to the capture of State power in 1986.

It’s feared the tenants who have emerged will be using the court to further frustrate the owners of the building where they have continued to enjoy for

The plaintiffs are being represented by Jinja lawyer Shaban Nkutu of Dhakaba and Nkutu Company whose offices are situated along Oboja Road opposite the Jinja Court Circuit, after shifting from plot 32/34 Main Street in Jinja City.

Background

To put the story in context, when the matter came up late last year, the presiding judge, Lady Justice Farida Samilah Bukirwa fixed 11 January, 2023 as date for last mention and the Attorney General and the family lawyer were supposed to submit their consent position.

The huge dilapidated building commonly known as Highlight that once was the centre of pride and elegance is now a shadow of its past glory with faded paints, falling ceilings, punctuated with alien vegetation growth.

Standing on two roads adjacent to a mosque, the multi million facility dysfunctional amenities like pipe water and sewerage system and falling ceiling boards, among others is commonly known as highlight.

The Attorney General (AG) on behalf of defendant DAPCB was represented by Hillary Nathan Ebila who requested for more time, saying as government they want the highlight saga settled out of the court.

The DAPCB’s Executive Secretary William Bizibu has made a formal communication stating that the property in question does not belong to the government (DAPCB as earlier presumed.

Bizibu’s letter written dated 8th December, 2021 is addressed to the occupants(tenants) of the building and copied to the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, the Attorney General, the Deputy Registrar (High Court Jinja), the Divestiture Committee(DAPCB), Liaison Officer DAPCB and the owners led by Abubaker Saleh Abdullah and four others.

The authorities and residents in Jinja are concerned that such litigants which are increasingly becoming a fashion are frustrating developers and investors who want to add value to the city.

The tenants do not pay rent, neither do they carry out any repair on the building whose owners and the government also benefit nothing as far as ground rents and revenue are concerned.

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