GENEROUS TYCOONS RAISE SHS1.3BN FOR ULS HOUSE AS MAJORITY LAWYERS DEFAULT
By Isaac Wandubile
Uganda Law Society (ULS) has always been a closed institution about which very little could ever be known especially regarding its funding operations. But the ongoing debate and scrutiny focusing on the tenure of outgoing President Simon Peter Kinobe, has caused many things to come to the fore.
It has for instance emerged that the ULS bank accounts currently have a total of Shs1.4bn. This includes Shs10m accruing from interest accumulated on the fixed deposit bank account for the organization to which over 3,000 wealthy lawyers subscribe across the country (its remarkably indicting that in a country of more than 6,000 qualified lawyers, only 3000 consider it prudent to be ULS members). Another Shs641m is available under the Billing Account (whatever that means) and another Shs752m is available under the ULS House construction account.
This Shs752m is part of the slightly over Shs1.3bn that has so far been raised in fundraising efforts aimed at raising cash for the ULS House project meant to be erected on the ULS land particularized as Plot 5A1 Block 254 John Babiha Avenue in Kololo. In total, Shs6.3bn has been fundraised so far both in pledges and cash contributions. This includes the Shs1.3bn from members contributed so far in compliance with the ULS General Assembly resolution requiring every ULS subscribed member to make a one-off contribution of Shs420,000. The other Shs5bn is in respect of the pledge President Museveni during the ULS Annual Dinner in 2018.
But the President’s pledge hasn’t been easy to realize notwithstanding the fact that ULS President Kinobe, at whose invitation the big man attended the dinner, is a proud and active member of the ruling NRM party. Leveraging on his contacts in the system, Kinobe has tried tooth and nail to recover the money but his efforts haven’t come to fruition so far. Yet delivering the pledge would have softened ground and increased NRM’s acceptability among the legal fraternity members who are renowned for being very contemptuous of the ruling party.
Kinobe’s countless follow up efforts have only led to the promise by the President himself that his pledge will only come in installments and the earliest installment can only be expected next month of April. The lukewarm progress of the fundraising efforts, with 85% of the ULS membership contributing nothing so far, explain why nothing has been done so far on the ULS House site and the place has become a bushy wasteland and a risk to neighbors. It was demolished after the old building, in existence for over 60 years, developed cracks and became a risk for human habitation. Neighbors too were complaining of the imminent risk.
The lack of progress has bred speculation with some lawyers, uncomfortable with Kinobe’s NRM links, originating false alarms that the Kololo-Kamwokya property was sold off and no longer belongs to ULS. Relatedly, another rumor has been to the effect that the Ntinda-Buye zone house where ULS rents for its secretariat belongs to one of the executive members with whom Kinobe leads the ULS. All these rumors have given fodder to the different contenders campaigning for the different ULS executive positions. These wild claims continue to be used to scandalize some of the Kinobe-era executive members now seeking reelection or running for new positions.
The ULS members’ meanness and refusal to pay up the Shs420,000 (which VP Phiona Hall Nabaasa says was imposed during a General Assembly meeting in Entebbe in 2017) aside, the ULS House project has been delayed by the fact that the original lease was ending in 2025 something that created uncertainty. Gratefully, the same has since been extended for another 25 meaning ULS is sure to have the land up to 2050 as the Kinobes continue pressing for conversion of the same from leasehold to freehold.
To its credit, the leadership of Kampala District Land Board (chaired by Yusuf Nsibambi himself a ULS member), the ULS Kololo-Kamwokya land was successfully converted from residential to commercial property and without this change the process to secure the necessary KCCA physical planning approvals would have been more complicated.
WHO PAID WHAT?
In the meantime, the following are the only ULS members and stakeholders who have contributed money towards the ULS House project in the last 3 years counting from 2017 when the fundraising first commenced under the leadership of the then ULS President Francis Gimara who, like Kinobe, is currently scouting around for a constituency in his native Acholi-land where to run on the governing NRM ticket. Phiona Wall Nabaasa, who is the outgoing ULS Vice President, maintains that the obligation for each ULS member to contribute Shs420,000 towards the ULS House remains because it’s a decision the General Assembly has never altered or altered (NB that is all that was required of each ULS member on top of the mere Shs500,000 they are each required to pay as membership fees).
Prominent names on the list of those who have contributed so far include Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, ex-CJ Benjamin Odoki, young lawyer Pamela Diana Nalunkuma, Fred Muwema, ABMAK’s Denis Kusasira, Deputy IGG George Bamugemereire, Phiona Wall Nabaasa, Simon Peter Kinobe, MMAKS law firm, Francis Gimara (Shs10m), Bernard Oundo (Shs7m), ex-ULS President Ruth Sebatindira of Ligomarc Advocates, Makerere lawyer Goddy Muhumuza, JSC’s Norah Matovu Winyi and many others as reflected on our lists. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).