LIRA, January 15, 2024 – The State House Anti-Corruption Unit [SHACU] has charged at least 22 people in Lira City, and Lira district with fraudulent titling of public land, and abuse of office.
The charged persons include several civil servants and businessmen. They include Francis Okello Olwa, the former Secretary District Land Board, Ogwang Joel, the Zonal Cartographer in Lira district, Patrick Ogweng, the former Lira Municipality Town Clerk, and Fabias Otike, Head of the Natural Resources Department.
Other public officials charged include; Joseph Alwong, the Senior Land Management Officer, Francis Ateng, the former Principal Assistant Secretary In-charge Lands, Francis Opio, the former District Staff Surveyor, Bazil Opio Eramu, the former Area Land Committee Chairperson, Lawrence Okello, and Joel Okwir, the former area land officers.
On the other hand, private individuals charged include Rebecca Atoo, Walter Ogangi, Julius Kabaweza, and Anthony Ojuka and businessmen Patrick Olet, and Peter Okodo among others.
Among the the pieces of land tampered with include; Lira Central Forest Reserve for which authorities created titles illegally, irregular sale and disposal of Uganda Railways Corporation land, irregular titling and sale of Mayor’s Garden in Lira City, irregular sale of Ireda Estate which is owned by Lira district.
According to Israel Ochwo, the Deputy Head of SHACU, the investigation into the land matters within Lira City, and district started in March 2022. “We commenced investigations in Lira City, and Lira district in March 2022. We were prompted to act after the police in Lira arrested a district official in the dead of the night moving vital land files from district offices and taking them to unknown destination and before this happened, we had also received from the citizens a number of complaints,” Ochwo said.
Ochwo explained that illegal land transactions in both Lira City, and Lira district occurred when the Lira Municipality gained city status in the process where government was elevating the status various municipalities across the country in a bid to improve service delivery.
“Immediately cities were created that meant the land within the cities stopped being in the jurisdiction of the district land boards but in Lira City we had seen the district land board continuing to deal with the land. This was in disregard of guidance from the Ministry of Local Government and Ministry of Lands,” Ochwo explained.
He further stated that, “The issue of land in Lira district was complex. The political leaders and technocrats at the district facilitated land fraud. We can’t tolerate such impunity. We have seen some technocrats at the district grab land and register it in the names of their wives, husbands, brothers and sisters. After they do that they take it and sell it to businessmen here.”
He added that the team will still return to Lira handle many more cases of land fraud. “We are coming back in a phased manner, we have a number of other cases against other politicians and technocrats,” Ochwo said.
Sowed Muhammad, an investigator attached to SHACU called upon locals who have facts on illegal land transactions in Lira City, and Lira district to present them so that matters are handled faster.
“We receive facts and facts speak for themselves, we gather evidence send it to the DPP who assesses them for sanctioning and people are arraigned in court. For Lira, you will realise that most of the cases are now in court,” Sowed noted.
Meanwhile, the Resident City Commissioner Lira City Lawrence Egole applauded the operations of the SHACU rescuing Government land from fraudsters.
He urged locals to take part in the fight against corruption by availing relevant information to anti-corruption agencies.
“Since December 2018, we have charged in courts of law about 543 people, 292 are civil servants from across the country and 251 are private individuals. Many times, we think corruption is only a problem of the public sector but it is facilitated by the private sector through bribes. Out of these people, 43 are security personnel. We have 126 cases that are still pending,” he said.
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