Jinja High Court sets date to conclude on TIRUPATI land saga



The LC1 chairman of Nalufenya B Village where the land is located, Nicholas Elwangu also testified supporting Tirupati as true owners of the prime land.

Jinja 2, March 2021: THE HIGH Court in Jinja has set 6 April, 2021 as date for ruling on the controversial 13-acre piece of land situated on plot 24 Kyabazinga Way near the new Nile Bridge, Nalufenya B Village in Jinja City.

The land in the center of conflict is pitting two rival Asian tycoons: Jay Patel of Nile Agro Group of Companies and Harshad Barot of Tirupati Development Uganda Ltd, each vowing to wrestle it out of the other.

Tirupati boss Harshad Barot plans to set up one of the biggest modern multi billion shopping malls that will be the first of its kind outside Uganda’s Capital, Kampala. Sources say that it will add value to the once industrial hub of Uganda through employment and extending her tax base.

The presiding Judge, Lady Justice Jeanne Rwakakooko, after hearing witness accounts from both parties gave them a timeline for final submissions and rejoinders that will culminate into a ruling on 6 April, 2021.

This is likely to put to rest a protracted legal and economic battles that have characterized the controversial land between the two rivals which has also spilled to both the politicians and civil servants in the area.

During the recently concluded witness testimonies punctuated with cross examinations, Tirupati lined up the Nalufenya B Village chairman, Nicolas Elwangu, outgoing Mayor Majid Batambuze, and former Jinja District Land Board Chairperson, Innocent Ndiko Ngobi who argued that the whole processes were “littered with irregularities and illegalities”.

Ndiko who resigned from the helm of the land board, distanced herself from minutes extracts purportedly used to allocate the land to Patel, saying it was a forgery.

It was also observed that the minutes extracts quoted was also used in allocating another piece of land situated along Menya Road in Jinja, further deepening to forgery allegations.

Ndiko, an advocate of the High Court with 25 years of experience, told the Court presided over by Lady Justice Jeanne Rwakakooko that the then Board Secretary, Robert Kitimbo forged her signatures.

“…whatever Kitimbo did eventually prompted me to resign as JDLB chairperson because I did not want to associate my name and reputation with such illegalities…,” she told the Court and presented specimens of her genuine signatures against the forged ones.

The Tirupati land saga hit the headlines in 2019 when it became a subject of investigations by the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters headed by Lady Justice Catherine Bamugeirere.

For more than 120 minutes in the witness dock, Ndiko who also appeared before the Commission described the Jinja Land Board as ‘problematic’, adding that minutes used in allocation of land had numerous flaws making land transactions questionable.

The outgoing Jinja Mayor, Majid Batambuze testified against Patel maintaining that Tirupati which has several business outlets in Kampala still has a valid running sub-lease granted by the Council.

Batambuze told the Court that controversy broke out after a group of individuals acquired titles over the same piece of land in 2018, allegedly with consent from both Jinja Municipal Council and Jinja District Land Board.

The very eloquent politician also dismissed the 15 June, 2020 special Council convened by the outgoing Speaker, Moses Molson Bizitu as illegal since the government had issued a circular halting all land related transactions during the lockdown.

Advocates

Patel is being represented by Kampala lawyers, Sylvester Wamboga and Henry Nyegenye of M/s Arcadia Advocates while Tirupati has employed the services of Jordan Ssebuliba Kiwanuka of Aegis Advocates and Simon Peter Ssekidde and Caroline Nankwanga of Ssekidde Advocates.

The LC1 chairman of Nalufenya B Village where the land is located, Nicholas Elwangu also testified supporting Tirupati as true owners of the prime land.

However, the defendant witness, Ambrose Ocen the Jinja Town Clerk contradicted his mayor insisting the land belongs to Patel since Jinja Municipal Council did not raise any complaint against the freehold lease.

“…I state that there was no fault on the part of the council recognizing
the decision of JDLB as well as taking a decision which in its view
saved the municipality of hefty legal costs…,” Ocen defends.

Based on his two-page affidavit dated 28 September, 2020, Ocean who lasted more than two hours in the witness dock, further stated
that the cancellation of the parent lease in favour of JMC
automatically terminated the sublease in favour of Tirupati.

“…I am aware that JMC has never challenged the decision of JLDB re
entry and cancelling its lease interest in court…,” the Town Clerk who has repeatedly denied taking sides, stated.

This submission was found faulty by the plaintiff’s lawyers who presented and read a letter from JMC challenging the decision which made Ocen to look confused.


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