Members of Parliament (MPs) sitting on the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) were Monday left wondering how the former Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi was overpowered by former Bank of Uganda boss, Justine Bagyenda in ordering for the closure of National Bank of Commerce (NBC) in which Mbabazi was a shareholder.
National Bank of Commerce is one of the seven defunct commercial banks that was closed on September 27, 2012 by the Central Bank on allegations that it lacked the minimum capital requirement of Shs 10bn.
Appearing before the committee the shareholders of the NBC led by the Chairman Board of Directors, Matthew Rukikaire, Amama Mbabazi noted that their bank was summarily, arbitrary and illegally closed on orders of Justine Bagyenda who was the Executive Director, Bank Supervision.
They noted that despite efforts to comply with the bank requirements, Bagyenda made it hard for the bank to operate.
“It was made once when NBC was unfairly slapped with illegal civil penalties of Shs 2m per day by Mrs. Justine Bagyenda for purported non-compliance with BOU directive,” noted Rukikaire, a former Minister for Privatization.
He accused Bagyenda of acting against the several Court orders that were issued.
Rukikaire’s submissions to the committee prompted Iganga Municipality MP, Peter Mugema Panadol to question the powers that Bagyenda had beyond those of Mbabazi who was then a Prime Minister.
“I remember during that period, you (Amama Mbabazi) were then a Prime Minister. How powerful was Mrs. Bagyenda compared to you and yet you were regarded as being more powerful because you were the alpha and omega then?” Mugema asked.
He added, “How powerful was Bagyenda compared to you that she sold your bank when you were just looking on?”
Mugema said that the closure could have been a political move orchestrated by government after learning that Mbabazi had expressed interest to run against President Yoweri Museveni in the 2016 general elections.
“Could it be that government wanted to cripple you because you had almost started showing interest in contesting as President?” Mugema wondered.
In response, Mbabazi noted that he is quite incomparable with Justine Bagyenda since he is a man who acts within the law.
“On how Bagyenda was stronger than Amama Mbabazi, I think the difference was that I act in accordance with the law and she was acting outside the law and therefore we are not comparable,” the former Prime Minister told the committee.
“She was in her field and I was in my field, you can’t compare unlike things,” Mbabazi responded.
The legislators were however still left wondering why Mbabazi couldn’t evoke his powers to put Bagyenda to order since she was acting outside the law.
On whether the closure of the bank was aimed at trimming his financial muscles, Mbabazi said that he doesn’t engage in speculation but deals with facts.
“When they invaded the bank, I called the Chairman Board and I immediately rang Gen Kayihura [former Inspector General of Police] who was then the IGP. I asked him if he was aware which he said he didn’t know. I then told him to find out and get back to me. He neither came back to me nor did the actions stop,” Mbabazi noted.