I salute the IGG for having seen the value of the investment by allowing the management of MMI Steel Mills LTD to compensate the occupants of plot M155. However, I wish to respond on some of the recommendations in her report:
1. My role in influencing the Jinja district land board
The relationship between the MMI investors and I is nationalistic. My involvement in acquisition of the land was in line with the presidential initiative of attracting foreign investors in the country to expand on the tax base and create employment for the jobless youth. If it wasn’t my involvement Uganda would have lost billions in terms of revenue.
MMI investors have invested USD 30 million in Jinja Steel Factory, which consumes 5 mega watts of power at over Shs 210million per month; they are also boosting the economy of this country by paying VAT of Shs1.2 billion per month. Moreover, they have never received support from government.
The acquisition of the said land was aimed at expansion of their investments in Uganda and solving a court case following a court injunction on the construction of USD 30 million factory. This followed a case filed against MMI by the second buyer of the land, Dolly Mubarak.
MMI acquired land from Mr. Dolly Mubarak little knowing that he had received a deposit of five million shillings on the same piece of land plot 40, 42-46 Walukuba Road from Mr. Keswala, the first buyer.
The Jinja high court judge, Flavia Senoga , advised both parties to settle the matter out of court. Mr. Subash Patel who was in Tanzania at that time requested me as a friend to spear head the process and in our November meeting at hotel Africana, Kampala we all agreed to settle the matter out of court on condition that the first buyer, Mr. Keswala, be compensated with 5 acres of land so as to lift the court injunction on the construction of the factory. There was no other option but to look for land for the expansion of the factory and compensation Keswala since 4 acres from the 11 purchased from Dolly Mubarak had been lost to NEMA.
Therefore, my alleged influence of allocation of plot M155 was aimed at solving the above problem to save Uganda from losing the MMI investor who has now expanded the tax base of the country. I could not allow the country to lose him. We are all aware that H.E has been keen on promotion and protection of foreign investors. On several occasions he has suggested that whoever stands in the way of investors should be hanged.
2. The alleged use of the Presidents name.
I don’t recall having used H.E’s name as a tool for acquiring the land. I only quoted the meeting of 3rd October 2011 in Dar- es-Salaam, Tanzania where H.E Kikwete introduced Mr. Subash Patel to H.E Museveni as a substantial investor who has contributed greatly to the economy of Tanzania. Among other issues discussed briefly was his Uganda investment plan. In attendance was the then PPS M/s Grace Akello. Records for the meeting can be traced.
However, my communication to the acting RDC Jinja dated 15th January 2012, by then Madam Rwakishumba Judith, was misinterpreted. To the best of my knowledge, it was a brief containing facts about the MM1 investors and not a directive as alleged. The brief was necessary since Mr. Katenda Luutu who had knowledge about the investor was not in office. This followed the failure of Mr. Nyago the deputy PPS to write a letter regarding the same as he had promised in his meeting with the mayor. I couldn’t wait to lose such an investor.
3. The alleged participation in bribery.
It is unfair for a law enforcement officer to punish a person who has been conned and set free a conman with a mere warning. Regarding bribery, if we are to have more foreign investors in the country government should work on mechanism of protecting the investors in this country. There are many investors in this country who have suffered more than MMI, and I can only discuss this matter physically, but what I have to say is that investors are suffering due to political interference with no government protection.
For the case of MMI, I dissuaded then deputy PPS Mr. Nyago from involving politicians but he insisted on involving them because I knew the consequences of involving them based on their track record. When we started facing challenges as a result of their involvement I tried to reach Mr. Nyago on phone and at office but in vain. However, I managed to send him an email on 13th January 2012, on the same matter. I couldn’t do much on the political interference because I am not the one who involved the politicians.
Secondly, on the alleged bribe of Shs15 million, the money paid out was commission to the person who identified the land on condition of refunding the money in case of failure to secure the land. It was receipted. I didn’t pay out that commission neither the subsequent token of appreciation.
4. Acquiring of the land
Jinja district land board is headed by a retired judge Alex Waibale and there is no way I could influence a full experienced judge to make a mistake.
Our main purpose of rushing to secure a title before compensating was to prove ownership of the land basing on the experience of poor management of public land in Jinja whereby land is allocated to more than one person and it was seen as a grave mistake to compensate public land before proving ownership.
Secondly, it is unfair to blame me for the acquisition of land which had occupants yet the council officials who identified that land for the investor were not blamed for misleading us.
The said land was surveyed on instructions of the Commissioner of Lands and Survey in his letter dated 20th may 2005 for Jinja district land board on the request of the then board secretary, Tabitha Kakuze.
Surprisingly, after some time the same Tabitha in her current capacity as the physical planner of Jinja municipal council made some changes on the same land from industrial to residential without notifying the district land board who had the rights over the land basing on their earlier instructions to survey the same land.
The land was dully inspected by the investors with the area land committee which recommended the acquisition of the said land with a condition of compensating the sitting tenants before commencement of the project. The said land had 15 families- not 6, 000 people as it
was alleged in the petition.
A survey was done by Jinja district land board and the lease was offered by the Jinja Land board on condition of compensating the sitting tenants before commencement of the project, and also the required money for the land was paid to Jinja municipal council- not Land board. Documentation is available.
However, when the company reached the stage of compensation confusion arose on who is responsible to handle the compensation among the area leaders.
As a result, the IGG was petitioned over this controversy. It took close to two years for the IGG to issue a report during which time the investment has been on hold.
That petition filed was backed by a clique of some malicious, demanding politicians and technical people who wanted to own oversight over the project for their own benefit. The IGG’s office was used to avenge themselves after failing to make in-roads.
There is always a claim that Jinja has lost its clout as an industrial town. Although numerically that’s false, progressively, it’s true. By 1986, greater Busoga including Njeru had only eight factories. Now they are 70 but could have been many more if it was not for investor frustrations like in the case of MMI.
Investors come here knowing that they will get all the support they need only to encounter hostile individuals who want to squeeze the capital they came to invest out of them. Such people are unpatriotic. Their sabotage is as destructive to the economy as the corrupt and the violent.
Patriotic Ugandans who are doing their best to heed the President’s call of attracting economic-boosters should not be sacrificed at the altar of self-seekers who only milk the economy.
In conclusion I ask you Members of UAH to spare some time and visit MMI. Personally I do not regret my involvement in support of the MMI investors, since it was aimed at expanding the tax base of this country for the growth of our economy which was achieved.