The State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SH-ACU) has disclosed that individuals are willingly relinquishing land titles obtained through fraudulent means in Lira City and District.
The investigations initiated by the unit in March 2022 focused on the acquisition of land in Lira City after the arrest of a senior public servant transporting crucial land documents to an undisclosed location. The subsequent uncovering of numerous complaints revealed a web of issues, including fraudulent sale of public land, illegal titles, and mass evictions. To date, the unit has opened 20 investigation files, resulting in charges against 22 individuals, including politicians and technocrats, with some already convicted.
Addressing journalists, Israel Ochwo, the Deputy Head of the Unit, disclosed that certain individuals, whose identities he chose not to disclose, have started surrendering land titles, possibly fearing imminent arrest. This voluntary surrender comes as a consequence of ongoing investigations and legal actions against those involved in the fraudulent land dealings.
One notable case involves Lawrence Okello, a local businessman arrested in December for fraudulently obtaining a certificate of land title for a plot in Railways quarter, Lira City East Division. Okello and Joel Okwir, the former chairperson of the Railway division area land committee, faced charges before Lira magistrate’s court. However, accusations later surfaced, suggesting bias in investigations towards businessmen, an allegation vehemently denied by the SH-ACU.
Israel Ochwo clarified that the allegations lacked evidential support, emphasizing that businessmen implicated in the cases are encouraged to provide evidence and become state witnesses, particularly if they were misled by technocrats.
“A businessman can see a forest and think it is good for a hotel and that is what he wants to do there, but the law says that is a forest! So I kept telling them to come and be witnesses because for you, I appreciate you following your business interest, but most of them did not cooperate, and again for some of them, we see that they were complicit in these activities,” stated Ochwo.
In response to the situation in Lira, Sowede Mohammed, the lead detective at the unit, called upon individuals possessing evidence to come forward and assist in ongoing investigations. Lawrence Egole, the Lira Resident City Commissioner, stressed that the fight against corruption should not be politicized but should be a collective commitment by all Ugandans.