Bitangaro remanded to Luzira over sh3b fraud

A policeman escorts Bitangaro at Makindye Magistrate Court yesterday. Photo by Eddie Ssejjoba

Former minister Sam Kwizera Bitangaro and three others, including a director in the gender ministry, were yesterday remanded to Luzira Prisons after they were charged with seven counts relating to obtaining money by false pretense.

Bitangaro, the Member of Parliament representing Bufumbira South County in Kisoro district, and his three co-accused, allegedly obtained a total of sh3b, which was released by the Government to purchase land to resettle 2,579 people evicted from Luwunga Central Forest Reserve in Kiboga district.

The land was being procured under the Kiboga Twegatte Co-operative Society Limited. The others are William Tumwine, the manager projects at Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme under the gender ministry, his wife Stella Kakuba and Francis Onyango Owor, a city lawyer.

They were arrested yesterday on the orders of the State House Anti-corruption Unit, headed by Lt Col Edith Nakalema and were produced before John Robert Okiipi, a Grade II Magistrate at Makindye Court in Kampala city.

The accusations

According to the State House Anti-Corruption Unit, part of the land sold by Bitangaro to the co-operative society was already under the ownership of city tycoon Abid Alam in Bukompe village, Nalutuntu sub-county in Kassanda district.

The unit officials, during a briefing to the media, stated that a survey report done by the lands ministry indicated that Abid Alam obtained his land title long before Bitangaro and, therefore, there was effectively no land available for sale to the co-operative society.

Bitangaro, Tumwine and Kakuba were brought to court at about 1:00pm in two separate Police vehicles and escorted by a team of Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) detectives from Kibuli.

They were detained in the holding cells for some time and were later joined by Onyango, who was in handcuffs. The four were subsequently taken to the courtroom, where the magistrate read all the seven counts to them.

Okiipi asked the accused not into take plea, saying administratively, he was not authorised to consider any bail application for them. He remanded them to Luzira Prison till Monday, January 6, when they will be produced again before the area Chief Magistrate, who he said was authorised to listen and consider their bail application.

“Today, my work is simple; to remand you until Monday, that is when you will take your pleas and apply for bail, if you wish,” Okiipi told the accused.

“Are you in the agreement or not…? I remand you till January 6. So you are going to prison first,” Okiipi insisted, as one of the lawyers of the suspects, Annet Adania Bada from Onyango and Company Advocates, was trying to argue with him, saying she had received instructions to apply for bail for the accused persons.

The relatives and the lawyers, including Julius Galisonga, representing the suspects, tried in vain to plead with the magistrate to reverse his decision as the suspects were kept waiting in the holding cells. At about 2:00 pm, the accused boarded two vehicles, together with other suspects, to be taken to Luzira Prison.

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Lukwago Joseph grew up in a newspaper family, and rumor has it that instead of playing the guitar in his infancy, his parents put a reporter’s notebook and a pen next to him shortly after he turned born eight years. Before becoming editor of UGANDANZ, Lukwago was a parliament news editor for WBS TV. He joined UGANDANZ in July 2018, A few months after the company launched. Lukwago also spent five years as a freelance reporter, where he covered reporting for the highest bidder, intelligence, foreign policy, and Ugandan police. Lukwago graduated from Makerere University in 2008 with a B.A. in Journalism and worked on his college newspaper.