The Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala has dismissed an application in which Micheal Naboya Kitutu, one of the persons implicated in the infamous iron sheets scandal, was challenging the jurisdiction to try him from Kampala as opposed to his home district-Namisindwa.
The court presided over by Lady Justice Jane Okuo Kajuga dismissed Naboya’s request to have his trial transferred to Namisindwa, where he allegedly committed the crime from. Naboya is a brother to the Minister for Karamoja Affairs Mary Gorreti Kitutu Kimono with whom they are jointly charged alongside her Personal Assistant Joshua Abaho.
The Prosecution alleges that between the month of June 2022 and January 2023, at the office of the Prime Ministers Stores in Namanve, Mukono District, Kitutu caused the loss of public property in the form of 9,000 pre-painted Iron sheets which were diverted from the intended purpose of benefiting the Karamoja Community Empowerment Program to her own benefit and to the benefit.
It is also alleged that while at the same place, in January 2023, Kitutu and her Personal Assistant Abaho diverted 5,500 iron sheets for unrelated purposes and they ended up being received by third parties yet he was charged with the duty of keeping them in good and safe custody as the receiver.
According to the Prosecution, Kitutu’s brother Naboya received 100 pieces of iron sheets while in Namisindwa district which was part of those that the Minister and Abaho had connived to divert. But Naboya questioned the jurisdiction of the Anti-corruption court to try him for the offence of receiving stolen property which is not a corruption-related offence prescribed under the 2009 Anti-corruption Act.
He had also said that it is too costly for him to travel a distance of more than 270 kilometres from Namisindwa to Kampala to face trial. Through his lawyers led by Jude Byamukama and John Musiime, Naboya asked the court to dismiss the charges against him and set him free.
But the Prosecution led by Jonathan Muwaganya opposed the application saying that it had no merit before the court that it was tantamount to abuse of the court process and that it was filed prematurely. Justice Kajuga ruled that given the particulars of Naboya’s offence of receiving 100 pieces of stolen iron sheets that were marked “office of the Prime minister ” there is a nexus or connection between the corruption charges against him and his co-accused.
The Judge has noted that the period of the alleged commission of the trio’s offences-June 2022 and January 2023, the description and size of the alleged stolen iron sheets and the connection to the office of the Prime minister where his sister Kitutu is the minister in charge of Karamoja, it shows there is a relationship between the offences which occurred as a result of a series of a same transaction.
“The period of June 2022 to January 2023 which is cited for all the charges shows there is a connection in terms of the time of the commission of the offences in the issue. The description of the iron sheets in size and make and the connection to the office of the Prime Minister, all show the relationship between the charges. I am satisfied that they are offences which occurred in the series of the same transactions by virtue of continuity as defined herein above”, said Kajuga.
She added that the Magistrates Court Act allows the joinder of persons alleged to have received or retained property together with those from whom possession was transferred, which means he was properly brought before the Anti-corruption court.
“By virtue of the fact, therefore, that the main offences under the Anti-Corruption Court Act are connected to the charge of receiving stolen property. I find that the Magistrates Court at the Anti-Corruption Division has the jurisdiction to entertain the matter”, added Kajuga.
Justice Kajuga ruled that Naboya is properly joined on the same chargesheet with Minister Kitutu and Abaho and therefore the Anti-corruption court has jurisdiction/ powers to charge and try him.
The judge has however expressed dismay at the way the DPP drafted Naboya’s charge by failing to show the connection or showing any transactions between him and Kitutu or Abaho who are said to have diverted the Karamoja Iron sheets to the benefit of third parties and that there is no legal prejudice he will suffer facing a joint-trial.
Naboya, Kitutu and Abaho will now return to the Anti-corruption court Chief Magistrate Joan Aciro on June 29, for committal to the High Court.