Justice Bamugemereire commission of inquiry into land mismanagement and fraud has in its latest attempt to crack a whip on unscrupulous public servants, ordered for the detention of the O.C Kapeeka police station in Nakaseke district Atayi Christine Ayeko. On Wednesday, Justice Bamugemereire who chairs the ongoing land probe sanctioned an investigation by the Police Professional Standards Unit (PSU) on Atayi for suspected involvement in the intricate land disputes in Balatira village in Kapeeka sub-county.
The police officer had appeared to testify in a matter refered to the commission by residents of Kapeeka who claim to have been wrongfully evicted from their land by a one Hajji Swaibu Yiga. Circumstances under which Swaibu acquired the vast piece of land measuring up to 1,000 acres in Balatira are contested by a family to whom the estate belonged.
Although Swaibu had initially reached an understanding with the family of the late Yakobo Lukwago to get 295 acres of land for the survey work he had conducted, family members claim he later took possession of more acres.
It is on this same contested land that Atayi, the O.C Kapeeka police station bought 5 acres at a cost of Ugx 22.5 M in March this year at a time when there was an open selling of the land.
In her testimony, Atayi told the commission that she was referred to Swaibu by the area L.C 1 Chairman Anselm Buyinza and that she got the Ugx 22.5M through her farming harvest of beans and maize.
But the commission interrogated her for conducting herself in a manner that was unprofessional and putting herself in a position of conflict of interest. Atayi had previously attended two meetings with the aggrieved family and had knowledge of the controversies surrounding the land but went ahead and got into a business relationship with Swaibu, a party to the dispute.
The lead counsel to the commission Ebert Byenkya asked her: “How did you raise the money? Did you bank the money you got from the harvest? Is there any evidence to show that you actually paid to acquire the said land?”
“I am known by people in Balatira to be a farmer. I grow maize and beans. I planted 10 acres of maize and harvested 54 bags. I also collected maize from other farmers to make 13 tonnes which I sold and bought the land,” the witness stated in defense.
But Commissioner Rose Nakayi questioned Atayi’s moral competency to adjudicate in a land matter given that she already had a conflict of interest. “In a scenario where a case is brought to you where both Swaibu and Buyinza are fighting over the land, how would you settle it?”
However, Atayi stuck to her word saying she did no wrong in making the purchase and that it wouldn’t limit her from executing her duties as a police officer.
Justice Bamugemereire criticized Atayi for absconding from her duties and rather resorting to being a merchant which has escalated the tensions in the villages of Balatira, Mizimbo, Naluvule and Senda.
The Lady Justice added; “It is a pity that officers like out get unleashed on unsuspecting citizens. This commission can not do its work effectively when you are still in Kapeeka because we will have to keep visiting Kapeeka to settle disputes.”
“You don’t see this as a conflict of interest? You are mixed up in land transactions, farming and you can’t do your work professionally as an officer. I ask that my senior security officers escort you to Professional Standards Unit and I hope I don’t get to deal with you again,” Bamugemereire stated.
She had earlier quizzed the officer on her role in the alleged brutal and unnecessary arrest of Godfrey Sekalango a resident of the same village on suspicion that he stole 6 bags of maize from Swaibu’s garden. The commission suspects that Atayi could have ordered the arrest from a compromised position given her connection with Swaibu.