• Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | Parliament Police have arrested prominent city lawyers Kyle Lubega and Richard Buzibira for their role in the USh2b land compensation scandal involving 79-year-old Natalie Namulia. Namuli claims she did not receive any of the money that the lawyers say was paid to her.

The arrest follows a directive by the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (COSASE) chaired by Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi. COSASE is probing the USh10.6b unlawful supplementary budget initiated by the former Lands, Housing, and Urban Development Minister and current Inspector General of Government (IGG) Beti Kamya in FY 2020/2021.

The members of parliament were shocked by the witnesses’ contradicting stories presented to them Tuesday and Wednesday this week, as COSASE’s investigations returned to the circumstances under which the Kampala-based law firm, Lubega & Buzibira Co. Advocates, represented 79-year-old Nantalia Namuli in the sale of 516 hectares of land in Kagadi district, Western Uganda.

79-year-old Natalia Namuli in whose name UGX2.3b compensation was paid. Image source: @JoelSsenyonyi / Twitter

Appearing before the Committee on Tuesday July 28, 2022, the lawyers said that they had paid Namuli USh218 million in cash on the 22nd of July 2020. However, Namuli and her son-in-law, Peter Amara, have denied the payment claim. The lawyers have also been faulted for the forging of documents and signatures, among others, to validate their claim.

In an earlier appearance before the Committee, Lubega had told the MPs that in 2020 Namuli walked to their chambers seeking legal aid so as to pursue her delayed land compensation from the government. However, his partner Buzibira gave a contradicting testimony that they linked up with Namuli through her son-in-law Amara.

Buzibira revealed to the committee that they first met Namuli in July 2020 and three days later, Lubega linked Namuli to a broker known as Warren Mwesigye.

Counsel Buzibira also told COSASE that the broker opted to buy Namuli’s claim of USh2.039 billion at USh318 million only. Buzibira revealed that when Uganda Land Commission released the land compensation money, the lawyers deducted 10 per cent in legal fees and channeled the remaining money to the broker.

Whereas Lubega had earlier on told the committee that Buzibira had withdrawn the money and delivered it to the client in cash.

Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, asked: “What is interesting is that the name Warren Mwesigye is surfacing right now. We interfaced with you, and your account was that your client Namuli came to your office with all these documents, there was no mention of the name Warren. And you told us that you eventually got the money and paid Namuli cash. What has changed now? How come you have changed your statements? Who do you want us to believe?”

In response, Mr Buzibira clarified that he had held back the name because the matter was a discrete issue.

The committee proceedings took a further twist when Ms Namuli’s son- in-law said it was Mr Buzira who had introduced the broker to the family, and that he was lined up to cover all costs that would be incurred in the process of pursuing the compensation money. However, Amara reiterated that his mother-in-law never received the money.

Amara also shocked the committee with his own questionable testimony when he stated that Namuli traveled to Kampala by taxi on July 22, 2020 to process her claims, and yet that was the time the country was under total COVID-19 lockdown with all public transport suspended and all firms ordered to shut down.

Considering the contradictory positions from lawyers of Lubega & Buzibira Co. Advocates, MPs ordered the arrest of the duo as the committee gathered details to aid further investigation into the matter.

The following day, Wednesday July 29, 2022, real estate dealer Warren Mwesigye was called to give his testimony before the Committee.

Mwesigye revealed that on July 21st, 2020, he met Peter Amara together with his mother-in-law Natalia Namuli at the National Theatre in Kampala, following an earlier phone conversation about a land deal. According to Mwesigye’s testemony, after hearing the proposal, they approached lawyer Richard Buzibira for negotiations and signed an agreement to buy Namuli’s claim at USh318.750 million.

Mwesigye further disclosed that four days later on July 25th, 2020 he delivered the money in cash to the law firm. He claims that Amara witnessed the transaction and even counted the money, which was in 50,000 notes.

However, Amara disputed Mwesigye’s claims. Amara told the Committee that he agreed to append his signature on the agreement, however no money exchanged hands at the time. He also denied meeting Mwesigye at the National Theatre.

The Committee Chairperson, Joel Ssenyonyi tasked Mwesigye to substantiate his claims because, according to the agreement, Mwesigye bought the 518 hectares of land from Namuli, and not the claim before ULC.

Mwesigye responded that his motivation as a businessman was to buy the claims and not the land. However, his response provoked more inquiries from the MPs, who asked Mwesigye why he rushed to mobilize the funds within four days to compensate Namuli without verifying documents for the land in question.

City businessman and real estate dealer Warren Mwesigye (R) responding to queries from MPs at Parliament. Photo by Dominic Ochola_URN

To get to the truth of the matter, Elija Okupa, the Kasilo County Member of Parliament proposed that the witnesses including Amara, lawyers Lubega and Buzibira submit bank statements and telephone printouts spanning January 2020 to date for further scrutiny.

Ssenyonyi adjourned the meeting with a four-hour ultimatum for the witnesses to submit the said documents to help the Committee with further investigations. The Committee also resolved to write to the landlord of the Social Security Fund Building that houses the law firm to provide CCTV footage between July 21st – 25th, 2020.

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