An inter-government agency paralysis coupled with a State House decision to give part of titled project land to private developers hampered commencement of the re-development of Naguru-Nakawa estates into a modern satellite, an insider has revealed.
Mr Vincent Ssekkono, the Local Government ministry’s former Permanent Secretary who signed the deal, spoke to this newspaper yesterday after President Museveni, during the project’s groundbreaking this week, blamed the six-year delay on backhanders in his government. Calling them “enemies of Uganda”, the president said the officials he did not name were constantly “asking for kickbacks.”
“What the President said may be true since he has many ways of getting information; I respect the President and cannot challenge him, but all I can say is I don’t know if anyone solicited bribe,” said Mr Ssekkono, speaking as a “concerned and key player” in the project.
The government and OPEC Prime Properties owned by Anglo-Irish firm - the Comer Group, signed a contract on October 15, 2007 to turn the blighted 56-hectare estates into a showpiece self-sufficient neighbourhood.
Under the deal, OPEC Prime Properties was to erect low-cost houses to re-settle 1, 747 households displaced by the project, but the tenants later balked fearing their interest would not be protected as promised yet they had nowhere else to go.
They subsequently ignored two eviction notices as elected leaders in Nakawa Division allegedly rallied to their defence for political expediency. Thus the re-construction expected to have begun in February 2008 delayed until this month on the back of multiple millstones, most engineered internally within government.
According to Mr Ssekkono, who said he was giving information as “I know it”, the project failed to take off mainly because of five reasons: resistance by tenants, their follow-up court injunction and lengthy legal battle, IGG Faith Mwondha’s embargo and two year’s investigations, President Museveni’s own directive to offer part of the titled project land to other individual and institutional developers, and Uganda Land Commission’s issuance of parallel titles to the claimants.
“No investor invests his money in a situation which is messy,” Mr SSekkono said in yesterday’s interview, adding, “the damage caused by all these developments affected the investor and he developed cold feet until recently.”
Mr Museveni later reversed all these land giveaways and trashed then IGG, Faith Mwonda’s report after he met the Comer brothers – Brian and Luke Comer in London in September 2009.
Other unconfirmed reports suggested that the Comer Brothers of OPEC Prime Properties had secured Pounds500 million from the Anglo-Irish Leasing bank to build the satellite town, but invested it somewhere else due to hiccups faced in Uganda, and that they only recently managed to secure new funding from UBS of Switzerland and Deutsche bank from Germany to begin the project.