Last Updated on: 15th July 2023, 01:20 am
Lira, April 25, 2023: It is nearly seven years since Pentecostal Assembly of God (PAG) Limited has been battling over properties with what was then PAG Lira Limited after the latter broke away from the former.
In this piece, TND News investigative editor and journalists Frank Oyugi digs deep into the issue.
This pandemonium that has caused panic to hundreds of faithful of now the defunct PAG Lira was sparked by the termination of the services of Lira Pastorate Bishop Joel Mukalo in 2013 by PAG Uganda yet he enjoyed the overwhelming support of the Christians. The bishop had already served for five years.
Bishop Mukalo back then said that his church broke away because of PAG Uganda’s alleged sectarian leadership.
Former Internal Affairs minister, Late Gen. Aronda Nyakairima was among those who attempted to solve the issue but in vain. He then advised the Lira faction to form a new church, and indeed PAG Lira Limited was birthed but the matter ended up in court.
In 2015, Pentecostal Assemblies of God Limited dragged PAG Lira Limited to court in Civil Suits Nos. 97 & 290 of 2015 asking the court to deter it from using such a similar name and also demanding that PAG Lira Limited should hand over all properties in its possession.
Court then ruled in favour of PAG Uganda mission but PAG Lira Limited which has since been deregistered by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) appealed the case on the ground that the properties did not belong to PAG Uganda Limited.
In his ruling arising from the miscellaneous application no. 0290 of 2022 (arising from execution miscellaneous application no. 14 of 2022) (arising from consolidated civil suits nos 97 & 290 of 2015) Justice Musa Ssekaana had this to say: “The Court of Appeal in its judgment did not substitute the judgment and decree of the High Court, however, the appellate court largely adopted the orders of the High Court but made no order on the return of the applicant’s (1st respondent in the appeal) properties illegally held by the 2nd respondent (the appellant in the appeal)”
The Judge however ruled that Lira Pentecostal Limited should return all the properties in her custody to PAG Uganda Limited, something that has not gone well with the Christians.
Church leaders speak out
April 23, 2023, was a sunny Sunday in Lira City. TND News met Tom Obong, a deacon at the famous LPC church to find out his views.
An enraged Obong tells us that was the worst ruling ever made in Uganda because the case which ended up in the Court of Appeal was silent on the issue of properties and wondered why the same Court’s jude went ahead to grant consequential orders to the applicants, in this case PAG Uganda Limited.
“The Court of Appeal ruled against PAG Uganda and the issue of property was not in the case meaning the status quo remains. Each side remains on its property. Our problem is how can a case that was heard and ruled by the court of appeal come down to the magistrate court.”
Bernard Etam, a pastor attached to the defunct PAG Lira, now known as Yahweh Pentecostal Mission could not also hide his frustration.
“Could be lawful that a judge can hear a case, but the judge does not give us time to appear and testify before the court but instead preferred written submission, yet the case involves hundreds of people. We wanted to present our witnesses but he never gave us time,” Etam told this digital publication.
He added that in the initial case before the High Court, the Bishop was not involved but now they have included Bishop as a person, Etam calls this a personal attack on the personality of their leader.
“As a person, the Bishop doesn’t own anything, everything he owns is in the trust of the Christians,” Etam said, adding because of that they have resolved to appeal and they have already received the appeal notice.
But they are only waiting for the ruling so that they can file the appeal.
TND News investigations show that PAG Uganda is claiming ownership of over 800 Churches, buildings and land, among others.
Instead of bringing it down, they should have gone to a higher Court instead of coming down to a lower Court, this is what Etam thinks.
Further, according to Etam, PAG Mission doesn’t have anything to show that they built the Church. He says when they realized that PAG Uganda is claiming their Churches, the Christians dragged them to Court so that they can show proof that they contributed to the building of these Churches.
Legal experts poke holes
North’s First has since secured a copy of a letter authored by Karemani Jameson, a registrar at the Civil Division Court to the M/S ALP advocates advising the firm that represented PAG Uganda to appear before Justice Musa Ssekaana.
“I have been directed by the trial judge to advise you to make an application for consequential orders to confirm the properties,” the letter reads in part.
But a renowned Lawyer in Lira City who is conversant on this matter but did not want to be named on religious grounds has poked holes in the letter
“There is no judicial officer who is allowed to advise an opposite party in a case, In this matter, the trial judge advised the opponent to file for a consequential order and asks the lawyers to appear before him which means they could as well have sat somewhere and talked,” the lawyer opines.
He equally wondered why Bishop Mukalo who was not a party to the case in the High Court was eventually listed as a respondent alongside PAG Lira Limited.
Another seasoned Lawyer who has perused through the Court of Appeal’s ruling, said the warrant was erroneously issued under a decree not the order of seizure of properties and was quick to add that “you cannot seize an immovable property”.
He equally observed that the first decree was passed on a nonexistent entity because PAG Lira Limited was also deregistered by Uganda Registration Services Bureau and that the trial judge did not task PAG Uganda to provide proof of ownership of properties it seeks to seiz
On the other hand, Clement Omara, a pastor at Glory International Ministries in Dokolo when asked about his opinion on this issue, said most times Churches acquire their properties independently and as such PAG Uganda cannot claim it.
“Some of these poor Christians owned their land a long time before PAG Uganda came into existence in 1999, and they donated their land for Church construction, some sold their beans or maize and contributed towards Church developments.. are you going to grab their land?” He questioned.