Verida Kajungu Degeya formerly a resident of Lubaga Division in Kampala was in September found dead in River Mpanga in Fort Portal city. This happened about two months after she allegedly sold her land measuring 0.25 acres with four houses at Shs 650 million to the minister for the Presidency, Milly Babirye Babalanda.
In a longwinded case that goes back last year, Babalanda purchased a family home at Shs 650 million in a deal that has now been labelled as both dubious and illegal. The land in question was registered in the name of Verida Kajungu Degeya, a widow to Fredrik Degeya and her only daughter Florence Namubiru.
It is alleged that Kajungu approached a money lender William Kigongo for a quick loan of Shs 170 million, which she was meant to pay back in three months. But the loan agreement which was signed on July 15, 2021, indicated that she had received and had to pay back Shs 300 million in three months without fail.
Two days earlier, the three; Namubiru, Kajungu, and William Kigongo had signed a sale agreement indicating that the former had sold the land to the latter. The said land is registered as Plot 336, Kibuga Volume 1530 Folio 14 Block 16.
This raises the question of how one can sell land and again use the same land as collateral security to get a loan two days later from the same person. But because Kigongo was never a registered money lender, he had no locus demanding collateral security for the loan.
“That’s why he had to disguise that the land had been sold to him. But clearly, there was never a sale. Because you can’t enter into a loan agreement on a property that is already sold,” Stanley Okecho, Namubiru's lawyer said in an interview.
Surprisingly, before even three months elapsed, Kigongo transferred the title into his name on August 19, 2021. But Namubiru told URN that her and her mother’s signatures were forged to effect the transfer.
“The only agreement that I have ever appended my signature on is the one he was giving money. If my signature is on any other document, either it was forged or I was tricked into signing it. But knowingly, I never signed on any transfer forms,” Namubiru said.
Kajungu moved to lodge a caveat on the land to stop Kigongo from selling it to a third party. In an affidavit she swore in support of the caveat, through Bbaale & Partners Advocates & Legal Consultants, Kajungu stated her relationship with Kigongo was that of a money lender and nothing less.
“While I was in some financial need, I, together with my said daughter obtained a loan facility of Shs 170 million from Kigongo William and surrendered to him the certificate of title of the said land as security... I have discovered that Kigongo William transferred the land into his name and now he claims that he purchased the said land and the property thereon which is not true."
Kajungu’s statutory obligation written on April 22, 2022, further stated that Kigongo had started taking prospective buyers on the said land with the intention of having it sold to third parties,” the caveat was granted on April 27, 2022.
Namubiru who admits to signing the loan agreement said the terms of the loan were predatory.
“How can someone give you money and in three months that money is doubled? But I had less power to stop my mother from taking the loan because she said she had other loans from other people and she needed to clear them. I actually had wanted her to just sell the property instead of getting a loan from a money lender,” Namubiru said.
However, in an interview, Kigongo denied ever lending money to Kajungu and her daughter. Instead, he explained, he just outrightly bought the land and all the four houses on it. But he doesn’t explain is why the sale agreement signed between Kajungu, her daughter, and Babalanda on May 5, 2022, refers to him as a money lender. He also refuses to explain how the land ended up in his name less than three months after the signing of the loan agreement.
According to documents that URN has seen, the caveat that had been lodged by Kajungu was removed on July 11, 2022, following a May 5, 2022 agreement between Kajungu and Namubiru as the vendors, Kigongo William as the money lender, Dan Lwasa and Fred Lukyamuzi the mailo landowners on which the vendors had a lease and minister Milly Babalanda to whom the land was subsequently sold at Shs 650 million. The minister's mortgage was financed by Housing Finance bank.
According to the agreement, the three parties shared the money among themselves - with the land owners taking Shs 200 million, Shs 330 million taken by Kigongo, and then Shs 120 million by the vendors. The agreement also states that Shs 100 million was to be given to the parties on the day it was signed and the balance after the processing and transfer of the land title into the names of Kajungu and Namubiru having as earlier seen, been transferred into the names of Kigongo.
However, in another amended agreement signed on June 4, 2022, Kigongo retained his Shs 330 million while Shs 170 million went to the land owners and another Shs 50 million went to Kajungu. It is not known whether, on the first Shs 100 million that was paid, Kajungu took Shs 70 million to make up for the Shs 120 million in the first agreement.
What’s more, the new agreement also indicated that Shs 50 million would be paid in the bank account of lawyer Sadat Bbaale. However, Namubiru insists that even when they were allegedly given Shs 120 million, she never received even a coin despite the fact that she was a co-owner of the property.
In fact, according to documents, the only money acknowledgement, was the Shs 55 million received by Kajungu on July 5, 2022. Namubiru also says throughout this transaction, she never saw the minister at their home to either talk to them or inspect the property she was purchasing.
But in an interview, minister Babalanda said all the due diligence was done for her by her lawyers; Natala & Co. Advocates because she's always too busy. She wondered how anybody can turn against her yet the transaction, according to her, was in the open. She said anybody who accuses her of wrongdoing risks being dragged to court for tarnishing her otherwise good name.
"I am a Christian lady, I cannot do anything contrary to what is supposed to be done. Everything was handled in the bank. I was represented by my lawyers due to the nature of my work. I bought that land from the late, the lady owner of that place. There is no way how I can forge anything...It is good all the footage [is] there. Even the daughter herself. Everything was captured in the bank including her presence. Everything, the footage is in black and white. If she's not contended with what took place, let her go to court because court is there to guide us on the way forward. But let her be in the know to meet all damages and costs for damaging one's life because all footage is there. She was captured in bank signing and the money was paid to those people in the bank," said Babalanda.
Earlier on May 27, 2022, Bbaale Sadat, Kajungu's lawyer wrote to all the tenants demanding that they leave the houses in a month’s time to allow for vacant possession by the minister. This also meant that Kajungu and her daughter had to look elsewhere to stay. Namubiru says she was shocked to learn that her mother had not bought anywhere they would relocate to and that they had to go to her mother’s sister’s home in Gayaza.
“This was a shocker; I asked myself where my mother put the Shs 120 million that was allegedly paid to her. How could she, at her age not have somewhere to go after selling a property, which was valued at over Shs 1 billion?” Namubiru said.
While the questions abound, in early September 2022, Kajungu said she would check on her relations in Fort Portal and return to Gayaza after a couple of days. That was the last time they heard of her alive. The next they heard was that she had been found dead in river Mpanga.
"My mother died, she is not going to come back but am seeking for justice. I want to really know how did she die? If she pushed herself in the river, there must be evidence. I know when even papers fall in a river or even a bag falls in the river it floats, it doesn't sink," she said.
A police post-mortem report dated September 22, 2022, indicates that the cause of death was unknown. But Namubiru believes that there is a connection between the land transaction in Lubaga and the death of her mother.
“...I’m not convinced that her death was innocent. I believe she was pushed. I looked everywhere in her things and I didn’t see anything that suggested that she had sold let alone received more than Shs 100 million. I believe there was foul play in her death,” Namubiru says. Police in Kampala is currently investigating both the transaction and the mysterious death.
Namubiru is also very suspect of her mother’s lawyer, Sadat Bbaale whom she says was in the middle of the controversy.
“The same man who brought the money lender is the same man who instituted a caveat on the land and is the same man who brought the minister to buy the property. When the money was paid it was paid in his bank account yet we also have accounts. I have never seen even a coin of that so-called Shs 100 million yet he knew that we co-owned the land,” Namubiru said.
But Bbaale declined to discuss the matter, instead, he sent a short message saying if we want more information, the investigating officer of the police would be the right person to speak to.
“They sold to the minister and she dully paid and they advanced her possession of the property what else do they want? They lodged a complaint with the police. I will avail you of the contact of the investigating officer I believe he will be of use to you. You will get all you need from him,” Bbaale’s message reads in part.
Now Namubiru’s lawyers have written to all the parties involved in the transaction demanding that they relinquish the property. In a letter dated October 28, 2022, written to Housing Finance bank, Bbaale Sadat, Milly Babalanda, and William Kigongo, Namubiru says if they fail to fulfil the demands, she will have no option but to prefer both civil and criminal charges against the parties.
“The purpose of this communication is to demand as hereby do that you immediately do the following; cancel or cause the cancellation of all entries affecting our client’s leasehold interest and reinstate our client’s running lease, immediately handover the duplicate certificate of title of land…, Cancel or cause the cancellation of the illegal and fraudulent mortgage which affects our client’s leasehold interest, pay our client UGX 50million for the inconvenience and legal fees,” the letter reads in part.
But in response to Okecho’s letter, Housing Finance bank through its head of legal affairs Anne Abeja, and the chief credit officer, John Sitakange said all due diligence was done before the minister’s mortgage was granted.
“Be informed that your claims of any fraudulent dealings attributed to the bank with respect to the registration of the mortgage are absurd and untrue. Please note that in all mortgage transactions, the bank conducts due diligence both on the property and in the land registry to confirm the registered proprietorship and whether are any encumbrances before proceeding to offer a loan facility to an applicant. Where an encumbrance is found, the bank does not proceed with the transaction. As a result, the mortgage registration process is always in line with the stipulated laws, regulations, and procedures,” the letter reads in part.
Okecho says the transaction is littered with irregularities that can’t stand a legal test.
“You have someone lending money when he is not legally supposed to lend money, you have transfers that are dubious, and then you find a bank giving a mortgage without following proper procedures. The mortgage is dated July 14, 2022, the transfer is dated July 21, 2022. You can’t give money to someone who got registered on July 27, 2022,” Okecho said adding, Namubiru’s case is not the only one where money lenders charge exceedingly exorbitant interest rates that make it almost impossible for the borrowers to pay back. This he says has led to an uncountable number of people losing property they mortgage as security.