A businessman acquired up to 180 acres of land in Wakiso district at shs.3.2 million, the commission of inquiry into land matters has heard.
Testifying before the commission on Wednesday, Haruna Ssemakula, a land dealer said he had bought between 160 and 180 acres of land at Kakiri in Wakiso district from a one John Bosco Tebandeke .
“I never measured the land on buying it. We stood on a hill and I was shown a clear view of the Kibanja,” Ssemakula told the commission of inquiry.
He said that the land he acquired at shs3.2 million in 1999 had no people settled on it, save for a few sugarcane and banana plantations.
The land however, according to Mr. John Giribo, the National Forestry Authority manager in charge of Lwamunda sector that covers Mpigi and Wakiso is part of the Nonve forest reserve which has been encroached on.
The members on the commission led by Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire were suspicious about the land, realising that only the LC1 chairman, the buyer and seller had signed on the purchasing agreement which is bizarre.
Under normal circumstances, at least 3 members of the Local Council leadership including the chairman, Vice Chairman and secretary are supposed to sign on agreements of such a nature.
When asked whether the amount he paid for such a big chunk of land was worthwhile, Ssemakula said he didn’t know the value of land at that time.
“As a buyer, I offered an amount I could afford and he (seller) was free to accept or deny it,” he retorted.
Forest Reserve Land
Tasked to tell the commission whether he knew the type of land that had been sold to him and the landlord, Ssemakula said he was aware it was public land that whoever wished could settle on.
“I didn’t know it was a forest reserve not until 2014 after getting titles.
The commission of inquiry was also told that the land dealer had got 44 titles on the various plots demarcated from the big chunk of land which was originally meant to be a forest reserve.
The commission also heard that in 2014, Ssemakula gave one plot of land measuring 41 acres to now Wakiso district RDC Eng. Ian Kyeyune, a close friend.
In return, Kyeyune linked Ssemakula to the Wakiso district surveyor, Joseph Batume who assisted the businessman to apply and get titles for the land belonging to National Forestry Authority, meant to be Nonve forest reserve.
Yesterday, the Wakiso district RDC was quizzed for selling 41 acres of land belonging to Nonve forest reserve for over Shs100 million.
The commission faulted Ssemakula for knowingly acquiring government land yet he didn’t pay anything to government.
The furious Lady Justice Bamugemereire blasted the businessman for destroying 600 of the 700 acres of Nonve forest reserve knowingly.
“For your own benefit you sold land meant for a forest for the entire country to suffer without rain,” Bamugemereire told him.
The commission also heard that a case of encroaching and selling government land was opened up at police but using a UPDD captain, Ssemakula blocked investigations.
“We are going to open up the investigations and find out who was behind this entire saga,” Bamugemereire said.
She also said all titles on the said forest reserve land would be cancelled.