Iron Sheets Scandal: Minister Lugoloobi Remanded to Luzira Till April 20
The state minister for Finance Amos Lugoloobi has been remanded to Luzira prison until April 20 over the alleged theft of iron sheets meant for the vulnerable people of Karamoja.
Lugoloobi is accused of diverting 700 pieces of iron sheets under the Karamoja Community Empowerment Program to roof his cow and goat shed. The iron sheets were part of the interventions made by the government to aid groups of youths and older persons in the Karamoja sub-region.
The minister was arrested on Friday and spent the weekend in a police cell with 13 other suspects accused of different crimes. While in court, the minister was seen sobbing with tears rolling down his cheeks.
The Anti-Corruption court in Kampala heard that Lugoloobi, while at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) stores in Namanve, Mukono district and at different places in Matugga, Wakiso and Ntejeru North in Kayunga district dealt with government property containing 700 pre-painted iron sheets, which he later used for roofing his personal projects.
The said iron sheets were obtained in two phases; one containing 400 iron sheets that were taken between July 14, 2022, and February 2023, and another batch of 300 iron sheets obtained between February 16, 2023, and March 16, 2023. He denied the charges.
Prosecution led by state attorneys; Stanley Moses Baine, David Kisamunyu, Jonathan Muwaganya and Safina Lule informed the court that the investigations in this matter are still ongoing and asked for an adjournment.
The minister’s lawyers led by John Isabirye and Tonny Tumukunde later moved on to apply for bail saying that prosecution has informed the court that they are not ready for trial and have not indicated how much time they need. Isabirye told that court that Lugoloobi is a member of parliament and a minister with a fixed place of abode in Makindye Sabagabo.
He said he has substantial sureties namely: Mariam Naigaga, the Namutumba Woman MP, James Kakooza, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), Kiboga East MP Dr Kefa Kiwanuka, Paul Mugamba Ssempa-Uganda’s former ambassador to Brazil, Martin Ssekajja, head of operations at Uganda Security Printing Company, Joseph Muwavala, the prime minister of Busoga kingdom and the executive director of National Planning Authority and Businessman Kalisa Moses Karangwa.
The sureties presented documents including introduction letters from their respective local councils, bank statements and land titles to demonstrate to the court that they have the financial ability to pay monies worth the charges against Lugoloobi in case he absconds from the trial.
Lugoloobi’s other lawyer Tonny Tumukunde presented a medical report from the Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) indicating that Lugoloobi is hypertensive with type two diabetes, dyslipidemia, and also suffers from coronary heart disease for which he got surgery in July 2022.
Tumukunde also submitted a report by a police doctor Julius Muhwezi who, over the weekend also made a report corroborating the diseases confirmed by the UHI. He added that the minister also suffers from asthma on top of all the other ailments, before displaying a collection of tablets which the minister swallows on a daily basis.
But the application was opposed by the prosecution saying that inquiries in the case are in advanced stages and can be completed within the shortest period of time. Baine said Lugoloobi is a minister and MP therefore a very influential person who is capable of interfering with the investigations.
The prosecution noted that hat the sureties have presented documents including bank statements and land titles with encumbrances. Baine added that they did not receive any documents from sureties like Moses Karangwa and they are also concerned about James Kakooza who sits in Tanzania and might not discharge his duties as a surety in a Ugandan court.
He added that if the police discovered that Lugoloobi is sick, he has no worries that Luzira prison will fail to handle his condition. But acting senior principal magistrate grade one Abert Asiimwe, who presided over the matter said that the applicant tendered in many documents which could not be scrutinized in a short time. He sent him on remand until April 20, 2023.
Lugoloobi faces a seven-year jail term or a fine not exceeding 160 currency points (about Shs 3.2 million) or both, upon conviction. He is the second minister to be arraigned before the Anti-Corruption court over the Karamoja iron sheets scandal.
The first was Karamoja Affairs minister Mary Gorreti Kitutu who was presented in court on April 6 together with her brother Michael Naboya Kitutu on six charges related to causing loss of property and conspiracy to defraud the government of Uganda. Kitutu and his brother Naboya were granted bail and will return to court on April 27.
Last month, the CID stated that they were investigating 22 ministers, 31 MPs and 13 chief administrative officers.