The Ministry of Lands yesterday failed to explain how a running lease on land at Temangalo in Mpigi District was cancelled before Abbas Mawanda was registered and issued with a special certificate of title in 1988.
The 366-acre piece of land is now in the hands of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) after buying it from businessman Amos Nzeyi in April 2008 at Shs24m per acre.
However, the same land is being claimed by departed Asians, who are directors of Temangalo Tea Estate. They claim they have a leasehold running until 2024.
Appearing before the Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase), which is probing the ownership of the land, Mr Robert Opio, the acting commissioner for Land Registration, failed to explain how the tea estate’s lease was cancelled before a one Abbas Mawanda was registered as owner of the land.
Despite revealing that records indicate that the lease was cancelled on October 18, 1988, and a re-entry was registered under instrument number 237290, Mr Opio failed to produce the supporting documents.
“We have not come with the instrument itself. I have not seen this instrument and from what I am seeing now, it is most likely that it is not there,” Mr Opio said.
Mr Opio, who was summoned to appear before the committee after MPs questioned the competence of the Acting Principal registrar, Mr Johnson Bigira, said from the observation on the documents, the lease for the tea estate was still intact by the time a re-entry was registered in the name of Abbas Mawanda.
He said Mr Mawanda was registered on the title on October 27, 1988, about nine days after the lease was cancelled.
Asked by the committee’s lead counsel, Mr Paul Mwiru (Jinja East), whether it would amount to fraud for a re-entry to be made on a running lease without the consent of the tenant, the commissioner said; “in that case, the lease is out to have been cancelled but from what I am seeing, the lease is intact.”
Upon further probe, Mr Opio requested for more time to trace for instrument number that would help to identify the exact person who applied for the cancelation of a lease that was running until 2024 and the reasons given for that action.
“Mr commissioner, go back and make a written submission about your findings on the search you are going to do on the instrument and report to the Clerk tomorrow (today),” Mr Mwiru said.
After listening to Mr Nazim Moosa, the director of Temangalo Tea Estate Limited, who claims that both Mr Nzeyi and NSSF ignored the fact that there was a running lease on the land before transacting on the sale agreement, the MPs tasked the two parties defend themselves
Mr Nzeyi, who said he and Mr Moosa are in court over the same matter, told the committee that before buying land, he made due diligence through the services of Sebalu & Lule Advocates because they had knowledge about land in Buganda.
He said the law firm, after conducting a search in the Land Registry found that there were no encumbrances on the Mailo land offered to him by Mr Mawanda before making the transaction at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel.
Mr David Nambale, the legal counsel of Mr Nzeyi said the businessman bought a mailo interest not a lease interest, before Temangalo Tea Estate Limited was issued with a repossession certificate in 1993 by the Departed Asians’ Property Custodian Board (DAPCB).
“As far as Mr Nzeyi is concerned, there was a re-entry on the land and on the milo title. That encumbrance was not there” he said.
NSSF on the other hand explained that they hired the services of JB Byamugisha Advocates to conduct a search in the land registry to find out whether there were no encumbrances on the title that Mr Nzeyi had presented during the negotiations.
“On February 2008, the Fund (NSSF) obtained approval of the Minister of Finance for the purchase of land for real estate development. M/S J B Byamugisha Advocates conducted a search on the land. The search reports indicated that there were no encumbrances or lease interests on the land,” read part of a written submission by NSSF.
NSSF revealed that they bought 463.87 acres of land from Mr Nzeyi comprised of six separate titles for; Block 296 Plot 12; Block 296 plot 16; Block 296 plot 20; and, Block 296 plot 21.
However MPs questioned why NSSF did not deal with government officials to carry out the search instead of using a private law firm.
Bunyole County MP Mr James Waluswaka said; “without a search letter for the Commissioner Land Registration, and the receipts of payment for the search raises suspicion that NSSF might have not done a thorough search to detect the encumbrances”
Speaking to journalists after the committee meeting, Mr Kasozi said the MPs will scritinise the different documents before them including information expected from Ministry of Lands to determine whether Mr Nzeyi was handed a “row deal” before he passed it over to NSSF.
“I contacted professionals because I did not trust anybody selling me land in Buganda without due diligence. They found out that there was no encumbrance on mailo land, a freehold land. Therefore, I got a “clean” land and in fact I used that “clean” title to borrow money in banks,” Amos Nzeyi, businessman