The Attorney General of the government of Uganda, a wealthy lawyer, William Byaruhanga, has found himself at the centre of a land deal gone bad.
The deal involves suspicious ownership and intention to sell land which once belonged to a city government school, and now his company was bidding to sell it back to government at a lucrative profit.
Mr Byaruhanga, who became attorney general in 2016 is a media shy man, but this week had to come out as the storm raised dust as to how his company, Pine Investments, acquired land belonging to Nakasero Primary School, a prime location a stone throw away from Nakasero State House, and now wants to sell part of it back to government at a huge profit.
Whereas the acquisition of the land went on quietly but not to the intended sale where government intends to acquire land to construct the regional headquarters of the Afro Exim Bank project. The Bank’s headquarters are in Cairo, Egypt.
The matter reached the floor of parliament this week after a whistle blower complaint to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga that a firm belonging to Mr Byaruhanga was about to win a contract to sell three acres of land to the Minister of Finance to elect the Afro Exim bank in Uganda. Kawempe north MP Abdulatiff Sebaggala raised flags on the floor of the House saying taxpayers were bound to lose billions if Government went ahead to buy land from the Attorney General. He also said the AG was “putting pressure that government buys what was part of Nakasero Primary school land”. Sebaggala imputed that this land was acquired by Pine Investments under “unclear circumstances”.
Four companies have expressed interest in selling land including; Pine Investments Co which offered 2.2 acres near Nakasero Primary School at USD4 million per acre, Vara Enterprise Offered 2.4 acres in Bugolobi at $3.1 million equivalent and SGL offered three acres at Kololo Lugogo bypass at USD2.7 million.
Kadaga asked the Prime Minister to assure the country that Government won’t be duped into buying the land whose ownership is under contention.
Byaruhanga is one of the three directors in Pine Investments, according to documents from the registrar of companies. The other shareholders are Charles Lubega and Henry Lubwama. All three have equal shares, 400 each. However, other directors names mentioned in the company registration done by MMKAS law firm as directors, are Melinda K Atubet, Dorothy Lubega and Lubwama Ssali.
The company incorporated three years ago on September 28 2016, and started with share capital of Sh120 million, is about to harvest about Shs15 billion ($4 million) if the ministry of finance agrees to buy from Pine Investments.
Kadaga says the Prime Minister should pursue this matter to the final detail. She said, “That is a serious allegation if it is true that the land being sold is actually government land at an exorbitant price and possibly involving a member of your cabinet. Can you undertake that nothing shall happen, that government will not be forced to buy that land before you come back to this house.”
However, Attorney General Byaruhanga has denied allegations that his company Pine Investments intends to sell 2.2 acres of land at Nakasero Primary School.
Byaruhanga on Thursday admitted in Parliament that he is one of the three directors of Pine Investments. He however distanced himself from the decision of bidding to sell land to government for the project.
Certainly, there is no way the other two director might want to bid for business worth $4 million with the third shareholder not in the know.
Byaruhanga defended himself saying he was away in The Hague, Netherlands two months ago, when the Ministry of Finance put out a tender for bids for provision of land for Afreximbank and that this is when the two company directors Lubega and Lubwama participated in the bid by submitting documents.
He said on his return, he wrote to the Finance Minister Matia Kasaija and Secretary to Treasury Keith Muhakanizi seeking the immediate withdrawal of his company’s bid.
Byaruhanga said that his company is not a participant in the bidding process noting that there is no influence peddling in the ongoing process.
Uganda agreed to host the regional headquarters of the Africa Export Import Bank (Afrexim bank) created by African Governments to foster the development of member states and the continent, which constitute the largest proportion of ownership under the auspices of the Africa Development Bank.
Uganda has 2,426 shares (2.1%) in the bank with a share capital of USD 9.7 million and Share Premium of USD 14.5 million. The other shareholders in the bank include a section of African financial institutions and corporates as well as some international financial institutions. The bank currently has branch offices in Egypt, Zimbabwe and Cote d’Ivoire.
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