How ‘fraudulent processes’ saw Maruzi Ranch going at paltry shs.9m

Issues affecting land in Uganda has been key topics for discussion, especially when it’s to be given for investment purposes.

And to many, especially those in northern Uganda, it’s the only asset they have and they will do all that is possible to defend it.

And whereas for a country to develop, its investments must be conducted on land – this includes establishment of factories and industrial parks, hospital, among others.

However, locals living on it are often displaced violently, with others even being killed.

Again, and for decades, areas where lands has been alloacted for investment has seen force during evictions, fraudulent processes during compensation and yet those executing the exercise are left without much questions or being tried in Courts.

This is exactly the event happening  to those living on Maruzi Ranch, Maruzi County, Apac district which has been given to an investor from Kenya.

Maruzi Ranch which is 64 Square Miles (42,149 acres) was leased to Uganda Livestock Industries Limited by Uganda Land Commission on 29, April, 1969 and its use was restricted to  ranching and beef production.

Back then, it was customary land owned by at least two tribes; the Ongoda, the Oyima and others.

However, the 13,987.860  hectares (part of the ranch) was fraudulently [some activists termed it] given to Hillside Agriculture Limited of P.O. Box 215 Jinja, a company owned by a one Rajeev Singh Rai from Kenya.

This transaction (lease) for 50 years, according to investigations done by this contemporary online newspaper, and whistleblowers’ accounts, was sealed on the 7, September, 2018  at a fee of Uganda shillings 9.3 million only.

The economic activity on the land has since been changed from what it was gazetted for formally, to Palm Oil Production – something the communities do not want – whilst approved by some leaders.

President Museveni is said to have directed Lands Minister also the Oyam South MP, Betty Amongi to get the title for Maruzi Ranch.

However, this directive was done either way, by instead changing the title, locally, investigations show.

“It was a cabinet decision which does not guarantee a Minister to process another land title,” a whistleblower says.

TND New has landed on a  letter dated 25, September, 2018 written by Minister Betty Amongi to State Minister for Privatization and Investment, Evelyn Anite, communicating to her that President Museveni had directed her (Amongi) to conclude titling of Maruzi Ranch land in favor of Hillside Agriculture Ltd for Palm Oil Production.

It’s worth recalling that Plots 2 and 17 Block 2 covering 24,149 acres of the ranch was registered as leasehold under LRV 717 Folio 4 in the name of Maruzi Ranch to Uganda Livestock Industries Ltd on 29, April 1969.

On 4, July, 2018, Apac District Land Board caveated the land but it was fraudulently substituted on 7, September, 2018 to Freehold title, comprised in FRV 1560 Folio 20 using an analogue systems as opposed to LIS [Land Information System].

Investigations showed that Lira zonal land office advised officials involved that since system for acquiring new land title was analogue, it could not show on its LIS system – and sources say the ministry of agriculture, animal industry and fisheries and other key stakeholders were never consulted.

To that effect, another land title for plots 2 and 17 Maruzi, Block 2 at Lango Maruzi Ranch was issued on 20, January, 2016 by Golooba Aruna, Registrar of Titles.

Another document printed on 7, September, 2018 at 10:02am showed that Lease for Plot 63 Maruzi Block 2 to Hillside Agriculture Limited of P.O. Box 215 Jinja for 50 years W.E.F 6, September, 2018 [LRV 4624 Folio 1] was issued on 6, September, 2018 for area covering approximately 13987.860 hectares.

Speaking to TND News on phone Thursday, Ishaa Otto Amiza, an activist and former Oyam South MP who is vocal and analytical on matters of national concerns, wants President Museveni to declare his interests on Maruzi land.

“The President should declare his interest on this ranch and substantiate his directive under Minute No.396 (CT 2018) as quoted by Hon. Amongi Betty to avoid speculation and misuse of his name on this scam,” Otto said, in an interview.

“I know President Museveni has used his office to grab land in Uganda and it’s the same they are using Hillside Agriculture Company Limited pretentiously to do Palm Oil Production but this time, they will never grab Maruzi land because that land will go at a cost,” former MP added.

He added: “To me, the Akena – UPC are trying to pay back to government the Maruzi  Ranch for their selfish gains and political favor and that shall never be.”

To Otto, this is a wakeup calls to the people of Lango entirely to reject and never vote for President Museveni and those under Akena for if they do, that land will permanently go and those that are not yet given to investors.

Why those cited in fraudulent process hurried.

One, to Ishaa Otto, they wanted to change it from leasehold to freehold (which has been achieved) to share it among themselves.

“Because, using the other title (original one), they could not subdivide, sublet and give out that land to another private user,” he said, adding, the new title is fake.

“The title they issued using analogue system to Hillside Agriculture Company Limited and one re-issued in the names of Uganda Livestock Limited are all fake contrary to LIS system which is now the recommended system for title issuance.”

Mr. Otto claims that money has changed hands between Lands Minister Amongi, Maruzi MP Akora Maxwell, Apac district LC5 chairperson, Bob Okai and his councilors, including other top government officials many of whom he said received a cash [bribes] worth millions of shillings.

“The involvement of local security forces headed by the RISO, RDC Apac, the army being used to effect evictions, boasting with the name of President Museveni and NRM government’s conspiracy to grab the said land,” he said.

“There is suspicion around Lango Parliamentary Group that met President Museveni at State House Entebbe and they have since remained silent. LPG and Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture may be compromised,” he argued.

Millions to get lost in revenues

The former Lawmaker, in a lengthy interview also opined that by issuing fake titles like it has been done to Hillside Agriculture Company Limited, Apac district local government and central government will lose multi-billion shillings in revenues.

He reveals that investor will now not pay Premium 1 off, about 6billilon shillings in annual revenue and Stamp Duty of 1.5% of the Premium, and ground rent of approximately shillings 400 million per annum.

TND New has exclusively learnt that the aggrieved locals through their Lawyers are going to Court to put an injunction, halting any development and progress on the said land.

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