State Minister for Karamoja Affairs Agnes Nandutu has hit out at the Director of Public Prosecutions after being committed to the High Court to face trial over the Karamoja iron sheets scandal.
Speaking to journalists outside the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala on Wednesday, 19 April 2023, shortly after being charged and remanded over the scandal, Nandutu wondered why her matter was referred to the High Court yet a lower court can handle it.
“I have been baptized by fire but I am firm. What I am asking is, why should Agnes Nandutu be committed to the High Court when the lower court has the mandate to deal with this?” she said briefly before taken away to prison.
The Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala remanded Nandutu to Luzira Prison over her alleged role in the diversion of iron sheets meant for the Karamoja Community Empowerment Program.
Nandutu, the Bududa Woman Member of Parliament and a resident of Nantabulilwa in Seeta Mukono, was arraigned on Wednesday before the Court presided over by Grade One Magistrate Esther Asiimwe and charged with one count of dealing with suspect property.
The court heard that during the month of June 2022 at the Office of the Prime Minister’s Stores in Namanve and Kkola Cell Bulwanyi Parish Mukono District, Nandutu dealt with government property that is 2,000 prepainted iron sheets Gauge 28 by receiving and holding the said iron sheets.
According to the prosecution, Nandutu had reason to believe the iron sheets were acquired as a result of loss of public property an offense under section 10 of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2000 as amended.
She denied the charges and the prosecution led by David Bisamunyu and Jonathan Muwaganya informed the court that investigations are complete and immediately asked Court to commit her to the High Court for trial.
According to the summary of the case read, the iron sheets were bought but allegedly ended up in the wrong hands of third parties including Minister for Karamoja Affairs Mary Gorreti Kitutu Kimono and her Personal Assistant Joshua Abaho among others.
Later Asiimwe committed the file to High Court for trial.
Nandutu’s lawyers led by Charles Nandaah Wamukoota, Humphrey Tumwesigye, and John Nalera informed the Court that they were ready to apply for bail for their client.
Nandaah told the court that they had lined up a team of Ministers and Members of Parliament with their documents and in court to stand surety for their client.
But the Magistrate said that the file has been forwarded to the High Court for trial following a speedy process of finalizing investigations by the State.
Although the law provides that an accused person is entitled to a speedy trial, Nandutu’s lawyers in rare circumstances complained that the process of finalizing investigations has been fast adding that the State did this hurriedly with intention of making their client not get bail.
Asiimwe remanded Nandutu to Luzira Prison until May 3rd, 2023.
Nandutu who spent a night at Kira Division Police in Wakiso District prior to her production in Court becomes the third Minister to be arraigned before the Anti-Corruption Court over the iron sheets scandal.
Recently, the Minister for Karamoja Affairs Mary Gorreti Kitutu Kimono, and State Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Amos Lugoloobi were also charged in relation to the diversion of the iron sheets in question.
Although the Criminal Investigations Department-CID stated that they were investigating 22 Ministers, 31 MPs, and 13 Chief Administrative Officers over the iron sheets scandal, the Spokesperson of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Jacquelyn Okui stated that files of those implicated will be coming in piecemeal as and when they are forwarded by the Police which is investigating the matter.
On Tuesday, lawyer Male Mabirizi petitioned the Anti-Corruption Court seeking to declare that the investigations, arrests, detentions, and subsequent Prosecutions of the Speaker, Vice President, Ministers, and Members of Parliament in this scandal are illegal on the basis that they are by law not supposed to be held criminally liable but the liability should rest on the accounting officers.
Mabirizi who wants the investigations and Prosecutions halted pending the determination of his case also argues that the piecemeal investigations, arrests, detentions, and Prosecutions derogate the right to a fair hearing and easy legal representation.
Mabirizi’s matter is fixed for hearing on May 22nd, 2023 before Justice Lawrence Gidudu.