Custodian Board chief Bizibu on the spot over allocation of Asian properties

Mr George William Bizibu, Executive Secretary of the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board and once Kibaale District Speaker is on spot over allocation of Asian properties for 24 families. (Courtesy photo)

Twenty four families of Asian origin have accused the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB) and the commissioner of land registration of illegally parcelling out their prime properties located in the heart of Kampala to a businessman.

The families accuse the DAPCB under its Executive Secretary who once served as Kibaale District Speaker, Mr George William Bizibu, of ignoring the Attorney General’s opinion on the matter which indicated that the properties had been repossessed by their owners.

Top officials of the DAPCB have also been accused of defying presidential orders over the matter.

The 24 families say the properties belonged to their relatives who were expelled by former President Idi Amin Dada.

Under their two associations, Park View Ltd and Bharat Properties Ltd, the families state that whereas the former Attorney General, Mr William Byaruhanga in 2019 said the disputed properties on Plot 98 to 104, Nakivubo Road, Kampala LRV 646 Foli12 belong to them, DAPCB is attempting to sell them to one Mr Abdul Kasai.

The families of Asian origin filed their suit at the Land Division of the High Court on October 2, 2021.

In their suit, the families claim that whereas they hold the land title for the disputed properties, Mr Kasai is trying to fraudulently acquire another land title for the properties.

“The plaintiffs (the 24 families) have recently with shock learnt that the Ministry of Finance issued a certificate of purchase or receipt to the first defendant in the case, one Mr Abdul Kasai through custodian board,” the suit reads in part.

The families of Asian origin sought court redress after the commissioner of land registration at the Ministry of Lands, Mr John Karuhanga, in a September 28, 2021 letter, informed Prof Syed Abidi, the representative of the families, that the land title earlier issued by the Uganda Land Board for the disputed property was in error and should, therefore, be cancelled.

“This office further received instructions from DAPCB to issue a special certificate of title for LRV 646 Folio 12 Plot 98 to 104 Kampala Road. A certificate of receipt was accordingly issued to one Kasai Abdu by the MoF upon directive by President Museveni. You are, therefore, advised to follow up the issue of ownership of this land with MoF, DAPCB, and Parliament of Uganda,” the letter read in part.

But the families, who want court to issue a permanent injunction restraining lands from transferring the property to Mr Kasai through the Custodian Board, say all this is contrary to the Attorney General’s legal opinion on the matter.

In his opinion on August 15, 2019, then Attorney General, Mr William Byaruhanga, had told the Ministry of Finance that the properties had already been repossessed by the original owners.

“The background to this request for a legal opinion is premised on a letter by the Principal Private Secretary to President Museveni, dated June 28, 2019, to the MoF (Ministry of Finance) informing you that Hajji Abdul Kasai had identified Plot 98 to 104 Nakivubo Road, Kampala and wanted it to be allocated to him following a meeting with the President to resolve a long-standing dispute,” Mr Byaruhanga wrote.

“The property has been repossessed under the Expropriated Properties Act by the issuance of the repossession certificate by the minister and is not subject to allocation or interference by Custodian Board and MoF,” he added.

The Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board was formed after the fall of Idi Amin to manage the properties that had been taken away from Asians who had left the country when he expelled them.

The board’s mandate was to enable those Asians who returned to the country to take back possession of their properties and manage those that were not repossessed by the original owners.

The board originally was supposed to wind up and properties of Asians that had not been reclaimed sold off, in the mid-90s but this is yet to happen and any new proposed date of winding up has led to massive corruption and a scramble for the properties, many of them in prime locations by public officials.

There have been several incidences of the board cancelling certificates of ownership it has handed to Asian families, a matter which can now only be decided by courts of law.

In April 2021, DAPCB Executive Secretary, Mr George William Bizibu, was placed under investigation over a Shs1.6 b property involving city investor Ms Margaret Ssekidde of Seroma Ltd.

The joint investigation by both State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SHACU) and the Criminal Intelligence Directorate (CID) was sanctioned by President Yoweri Museveni after the investor reported the matter to the head of state.

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