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Ministers named in Soroti University land grab

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Ministers named in Soroti University land grab

Soroti University secretary Ruth Achimo and Communications officer Nyene Juma Hassan addressing the media about the land saga with squatters

Soroti University secretary Ruth Achimo and Communications officer Nyene Juma Hassan addressing the media about the land saga with squatters

Three former NRM ministers have been named in attempting to grab Soroti University land by hiding behind squatters sitting on the land. The allegation was made by the Soroti University Secretary Ruth Achimo during news conference held at the Ministry of Education headquarters in Kampala last Friday May 26, Capt. Mike Mukula and Christine Amongin Aporu as well as Soroti LC V. Chairman Mike Egunyu as having a colluded with the squatters on the university land.

Achimo says the land dispute is preventing the university from opening this academic year. According to an available document, The Sunrise has seen.

But Achimo says the powerful politicians are putting pressure on her to compensate the squatters. However, she says that the university offered the squatters an opportunity for the Government to value their land, but only four accepted the offer, and have since been paid.

The University Communications Officer, Juma Hassan Nyene, said that eleven households have refused to accept the offer on the incitement of local politicians. Nyene told journalists that President Museveni has learned of the development and directed the university officials not to compensate the squatters.

According to sources, Museveni directed that the squatters be evicted and a security fence be erected around the land.

Soroti university obtained about 228 hectares from Teso College of Higher Education, but discovered that there were people on the land who obtained the titles.

“The university is in the final stages of completion after it was built from scratch, to give it a modern touch. However, the local politicians are inciting locals to refuse to vacate land which belongs to the university, frustrating some of the last projects of the institution before it opens,” Achimo said.

She added that the university was willing to value and compensate the squatters despite land being Government-owned. However, some of these squatters have put pressure from Soroti politicians not to vacate the land after they sold the land to them. The rationale of the politicians is to take advantage of the proximity of their properties to the university to put up commercial buildings tapping into the university market.

The problem with the squatters is that they have already spent the money the politicians had paid them for the land. Now, if they take the money from the university, they have to refund it to the politicians, who had also paid them for the land; and since they have already spent that money, they will be left with no money and no land. The only option, as they see it, is to stick to the land.

The Solicitor General has given Soroti University a go-ahead to remove any impediments on the Government land, but the squatters, with support from politicians interested in the said land, took the university to court.

However, in March 2017, Grade One Magistrate, Grace Wakooli slapped an injunction on the university activities on the contested land. The contested plots; 50 and 51;  where the university playgrounds should be erected.

Achimo said: “The contractor’s time is running out and should be handing over the university soon, but cannot do so with some projects such, as playgrounds, not completed. Yet, anything that extends the contractor’s time fetches penalties in costs.” The contractors say that they cannot put their expensive machinery to excavate in a risky area and want the university to sort out the mess, or offer protection, before they can do so.

The University Bursar, Edward Obere, said Ushs.11 billion has been spent on the construction and an additional Shs7.4 billion is to be spent to complete the facility.

About one hundred students have been admitted to start their studies this academic year. But this now hangs in balance as the land dispute rages on. 40 students have been admitted to study Medicine; 30  on Nursing; and, 30 to do Computer Sciences.

Efforts by this newspaper to obtain a response from some of the politicians including Capt. Mike Mukula yielded no results as they declined to pick their calls by press time.

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