State House Anti-Corruption

State House Anti-Corruption Unit denies land allegations by Gender Minister

(Last Updated On: 14 August 2023)

Lira I Nineteen suspects have so far been arrested and 260 files impounded in the Lira city and district land saga, says the State House Antic-Corruption Unit.    

Abbreviated as SH-ACU, the Unit’s boss, Brig Gen Henry Isoke has, in a letter dated August 4, 2023, responded to claims and concerns made by Gender, Labour and Social Development Minister, Betty Amongi Ongom following her letter to him regarding land files recovered from Lira district and Lira city.

In her letter, Minister Amongi accused SH-ACU of going to Lira district on the instruction of the RCC of Lira City. In the same letter, Gender Minister also alleged that the Minister of Health “uses SH-ACU to threaten officers in Lira district and the City to cause arrests, even without substantial evidence and outside the legal parameters”.

She further wrote that “in spite of SH-ACU identifying specific land under investigations, several files that are not being investigated remain in the investigators’ custody, rendering those innocent to suffer”.

The aforementioned are a few of the many concerns and claims she submitted.

Gen Isoke replies

“Reference is made to your letter, Ref; MGLSD/01, dated 30th July 2023, in which you raise a number of claims against State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SH-ACU), regarding land titles and land transaction files it recovered from Lira District and Lira City in March 2022.

“The same has been clarified in the brief, hereby attached, for your information,” Gen Isoke’s said in a response to the Oyam South MP.

Gen Isoke further replied that it is not true that the State House Anti-Corruption Unit team confiscated the majority of land transaction files for the entire Lira district and city, including areas not affected by the investigations.

“The bulk of the documents were retrieved from the Police in Lira, after the Secretary of Lira District Land Board, Mr. Okello Francis Olwa, was arrested in February 2022, moving them in the night at 11:00 pm, to an unknown location using his private vehicle, Reg. No. UAN 918T.

Also read: Why State House anti-corruption unit arrested Mbale City politician and tycoon

“The documents are in our custody as exhibits and still a subject of investigations. It is therefore not true that we have had these files since 2021. It is also not true that the files were confiscated, but rather they were recovered.”

On a claim that his Unit is working under political influence and the Minister of Health uses it to threaten officers in Lira District and Lira City, Isoke said the Unit is “never used or manipulated by anyone,” adding that there are no arbitrary arrests conducted by the Unit as Minister Amongi reported.

“In regard to Lira District and Lira City investigations, nineteen suspects have so far been arrested and charges preferred by the Office of the DPP. He who alleges must prove. I will appreciate addressing specific case(s) in which anybody has been arrested outside legal parameters, as a result of influence by anyone.

It is on the above account that State House Anti-Corruption Unit in coordination with Uganda Police, promptly intervened to collect the impounded files that comprised about two hundred sixty (260) documents and commenced investigations, and a number of the files belong to Lira City, Isoke added.

Also read: Amongi’s planned move to Lira City in 2026 ‘does not scare me’ – Dr Jane Aceng

Flashback

At the beginning of 2022, the State House Anti-Corruption Unit said it received intelligence and complaints from Wanachi and civic leaders in Lira, indicating massive fraud and a rush to fraudulently acquire public land.

It was revealed that the vice was being perpetrated by senior political leaders using proxies, including civil servants and businessmen, within Lira District and City.

On March 16, 2022, the Unit received intelligence that some political leaders and civil servants from Lira were pressuring the local Police to surrender the confiscated documents when they were still exhibits.

Earlier, in February 2022, two suspects were arrested by Lira Police for ‘stealing’ several land files from Lira MZO, using vehicle Reg. No. UAN 918T quoted by the Unit.

According to Isoke, there is a need to resolve the issue of legality of operation by the current Lira District Land Board, in view of its suspension by the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in February 2022.

Observations

After the two letters became publicly available, TND News sought comments from two known Lango sons. David Ebong Abongo – the former Maruzi County MP and former Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Julius Peter Moto gave their observations.

We start with Hon. David Abongo, who said: “The matter has become highly political drawing in the two ministers. It’s alleged that Minister (Amongi) has bought sizable plots of land with respect to the land deals in the city. Of course, one can question her mandate to intervene in land matters in the city, perhaps as a wife to the area MP.

“She is not new to these kinds of controversies with previous investigations on her by the Land Commission on the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board pinning her company’s illegal involvement, NSSF saga, the Maruzi land grabbing without community involvement aspect in the 42,129 acres of land which changed the land ownership from leasehold to freehold while she was the minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.”

According to Ebong, “It is believed the motivation for Hon Minister Amongi to contest in the City is to protect her property and the people involved in several illegal public land acquisitions in the city.”

“Unfortunately, it is happening at a time Lango as a people would like to regain the glory of leaders with high moral standing and integrity across party divides,” former Maruzi MP added.

What has Ambassador Moto observed? “I draw the following observations and conclusions: the majority of Hon Betty cheerleaders attempted to acquire public land in fraudulent ways. The Minister of Health and area MP Dr Ruth Jane Aceng has distanced herself away from any fraudulent land sage, hence her being disliked by some people cheer-leading Hon Betty.

“I can connect the letter with the rumour that someone told State House that Hon Jimmy Micheal Akena has been pushed to the village. The fight for proximity to the President seems to have taken the central role in Hon Betty vs. Hon. Dr Jane. No one is closer to President Museveni than First Lady Janet.

On if the President might use the current fight between the two Ministers and drop one in the next shuffle, Ambassador Moto said the “cheerleaders of the unhealthy competition for Lira City Woman-ship should be held responsible, adding that fraudulent land transactions have consequences, the worst being cancellation of land titles.”

“The recent generous contributions to the urban poor and political statements are clear evidence of open campaigns by Hon. Betty. Hon. Betty should be dissuaded not to proceed.

“She is still popular in Oyam South, though the voters there have become bitter because of Hon. Betty’s recent activities in another Constituency while leaving Oyam South yawning,” he observed.

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