How tycoons grabbed city school land
Posted Thursday, March 14 2013 at 02:00
A Daily Monitor investigation reveals how a private company colluded with officials from the defunct KCC and the Ministry of Education to take over land belonging to Nakasero Primary School in Kampala.
People involved in land transactions in Kampala know how long and frustrating the bureaucratic delays can be. Not so for the well-connected people behind a series of companies whose acquisition of land belonging to Nakasero Primary School in the city is the subject of an investigation by the Inspector General of Government.
Prestigeous Apartments Limited, whose directors are listed as Ephraim Ntaganda and Bob Kanaabi, both well-connected city businessmen, was incorporated on August 5, 2010 in Kampala.
Three days later, the company wrote to Kampala City Council, the authority that was then in charge of the city, expressing interest in developing Plot 34A Kyadondo Road and 5C Mackinnon Road.
The prime plots are in the heart of the city, located next to the lush green leafy compounds of the rich and famous. State House Nakasero is not too far away; the British High Commissioner’s residence is within spitting distance.
KCC okays deal
Less than a week later, on August 13, 2010, an education officer in the then KCC, Ms Night Alice, wrote back to the firm. “This is to inform you that the division department of education, under which this school falls, has no objection to your intensions of acquiring this piece of land from ULC.”
Under existing regulations, the school authorities should have been consulted about the plans to acquire a lease over land that had, in effect, been set aside for their use or future expansion.
Instead, the process continued with the school kept in the dark. The forces behind Prestigeous Apartments then lodged a request with the Uganda Land Commission (ULC), the custodian of public land, to acquire a lease over, and develop the said prime plot.
The reply came only a day or two later. ULC secretary, K.S.B Mubbala, wrote to the Education ministry’s permanent secretary on August 16, 2010, informing them of the developer’s intensions.
Only two days later, there was a reply. A letter, whose authenticity is the subject of investigation, and bearing the signature of a one Mr John Agaba, as acting permanent secretary, replied indicating a no-objection: “This is to inform you that my ministry has no objection to your intended plans to allocate the land in question.”
On October 29, 2010, less than three months after Prestigeous Apartments was incorporated, it received a lease over the 0.657 hectares of land from the Uganda Land Commission.
The school had no idea part of its allotment had been sold.
As quickly as the company had come onto the scene, it now started going through changes in structure and ownership, a sleek corporate shedding its reptilian skin.
Three days before the lease was issued, the shareholders; Mr Ntaganda (65 per cent) and Mr Kanaabi (35 per cent) had accepted the transfer of all shares and approved the purchase offer by Mahmud Bharwani and Ms Shaida Bharwani at Shs200,000 per share, according to filings at the company registry.
Company changes management
More changes were to follow. Four days after Mr Bharwani and Ms Bharwani were appointed new directors of the company on January 17, 2011, a one Ms Shamira Muhammed Asim then replaced the duo, as ownerships and directorships continued to change.
Mr Bharwani, on March 03, 2011 resolved that the company guarantee a Shs3 billion overdraft facility from Crane Bank Ltd in favour of M/S Bravia Holdings Ltd. A mortgage of the said sum was then registered on the land to secure the overdraft.
With the land now secured, the company finally approached the school.
Mr Ntaganda, who would not be re-appointed as a director for at least another month, wrote to the school on April 19, 2011, expressing interest in the land, six months after his company had been granted a lease over it.