Why Nandutu’s iron sheets trial flopped for second time

State Minister for Karamoja Affairs Agnes Nandutu with her lawyer Caleb Alaka at the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala on May 25, 2023. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

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The prosecution was ready to proceed with two witnesses in connection with the diversion of the iron sheets 

For the second time in two weeks, the corruption trial against State Minister for Karamoja Affairs Agnes Nandutu has flopped.
Yesterday, the prosecution was ready to proceed with two witnesses in connection with the diversion of iron sheets meant for the vulnerable communities in Karamoja.

However, the lead defence lawyer, Ms Caleb Alaka, was indisposed.
“As the defence, we are unable to proceed because one of our colleagues is indisposed. We are seeking for a short adjournment. We believe one week will be enough for him to recover and we believe we should have put our house in order,” Mr Evans Ochieng, one of minister’s lawyers, told the Anti-Corruption Court presided over by Justice Jane Okuo Kajuga.

The prosecution led by Chief State Attorney David Bisamunyu and Jonathan Muwaganya, did not object to the short adjournment requested by the defence team.
“My lord, this is the second time the defence is seeking for an adjournment. My lord, we cannot predict or determine ill health, so we shall concede to the short adjournment to a date next week,” Mr Bisamunyu submitted.

Presiding judge Okuo gave the prosecution one week to enable the sick advocate recover.
She warned that come next Friday, she will proceed to hear the matter without fail. “I will grant an adjournment. I am fixing this matter for June 16, so prepare and be ready to proceed without fail,” held Justice Okuo.

She added: “Bail for the accused person is extended until next week on Friday. We shall proceed without fail.”

The second adjournment comes at the time when Ms Nandutu’s lawyers since last week have been trying hard to secure a temporary injunction from the Constitutional Court to halt the said trial before the Anti-Corruption Court.

The lawyers contend that the charge of “dealing with suspect property” that the minister is facing is not well defined as demanded by Article 28 (12) of the Constitution. They further argue that the amended Act that Ms Nandutu is charged under was intended to prosecute people who deal with property of suspects who have since been convicted by wanting to conceal or hide it, which is not the scenario with the instant case. They want the Constitutional Court to determine the validity of the charges first.

It is prosecution’s case that Ms Nandutu between June and July 2022 at the Office of the Prime Minister’s stores in Namanve, and in Kkola Cell, Bulwanyi Parish, Mukono District, dealt with government property to which 2,000 pre-painted iron sheets of gauge 28 marked ‘Office of the Prime Minister.’

The DPP further contends that by Ms Nandutu receiving and holding the said iron sheets, she had a reason to believe that they were acquired as a result of loss of public property, an offence under Section 10 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2009 as amended. She denies the charges.

She is among three ministers who have so far been arraigned before courts of law in connection with the alleged diversion of iron sheets.