Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ugandan Stuff Up

The Monitor  ( Uganda ) reports

Nakawa-Naguru land abandoned for rats, squirrels and policemen

                        A section of the Nakawa-Naguru estates. PHOTO BY EMMANUEL GYEZAHO 

Fourteen months ago, bulldozers arrived with a bang, knocking down homes and leaving in their trail wailing women and distraught family members at the Nakawa-Naguru estates, in Kampala.
These houses were supposed to be replaced with new flats- an estimated Shs750b investment was expected to be sunk into a project flaunted as one that would change Kampala’s skyline by creating two self-sustaining satellite towns.
Today, however, the 66-hectare Naguru-Nakawa estate has grown into bush-land and turned into a home for hoodlums, rodents and policemen. 

An interesting combination. I guess the police are close to their clients.

The government had argued that the houses were blighted and unfit for human habitation. But in a twist of fate, the police, who supervised the eviction of the tenants, some 1,750 families under the stewardship of Kampala Capital City Authority and at the behest of a presidential directive, have become new occupants at what is left of this rambling suburb. And here is how they are living.
Black polythene sheets, tarpaulin and several pieces of wood have been improvised to close broken windows and doors. Concrete frames of the ramshackle three-storeyed flats still hold the shape of what the police are more than happy to occupy and call home.
Makeshift bathrooms have been built. It is difficult to imagine how these law enforcement officers answer to nature’s call as what remains of functional toilet facilities is a conked-out sewer system.
A police source admitted that the personnel who live under these squalid conditions are servicemen and women deployed at the Central Police Station.

Sounds to me anyway, that the police in Uganda are getting a very rough deal.
Driving school instructors now ply their trade in this estate whose main road, Estate Road, is now a busy potholed short cut used by the public. Goats roam and graze freely in this estate whose bushes people now use to urinate and defecate.
But what could explain the glaring delay in executing this multibillion shilling project? Do the investors, Irish billionaire brothers, Brian and Luke Comer through their real estate development company, Opec Prime Properties Limited, whom government allocated the land lack money to start the project? Are they still interested in developing the project? Or has the proverbial curse that has plagued similarly hyped projects such as the Shimoni and Nakasero land giveaways obtained its latest victim?

By the sound of it yes. The Ugandan Observer detailed the demolition in January and details the terms.

" The contract does not state that any premium payment would be made to the government for the land, as is the normal practice. A local government official familiar with such arrangements told The Observer that normally, a premium fee based on the value of the land would be paid upfront. Over the life of the lease, the premium and the annual rent would add up to the value of the land. The official found it laughable that OpecPrime would pay only $990 over 99 years for land it values at $20 million at present."

Stranded: A former resident looks on as the Nakawa-Naguru estate is demolished
“Look at the bigger picture here, leave that micro thing. Uganda is not the best investment atmosphere. In order to attract investors, government sourced for international investors. Government brought land and the developer is bringing $300 billion. What is important is not the $10, but the huge investment that will span over 10 years,” Tendo says.

Except that it hasn't happened. The bigger picture is that a lot of people have been made homeless for no real benefit.

The government version of events is that a tedious process of titling the land into the names of the investors as well as dealing with issues surrounding compensation demands by former tenants and other investors who were reportedly leased parts of the land has bogged down the process of starting the project.

Officials at the Ministry of Local Government, the entity overseeing the project, told Sunday Monitor that the delay is “negligible” and the project will soon start.

Presumably alternative accommodation will be found for the police if not the hoodlums and rodents.

Acting Permanent Secretary Patrick Mutabwire, who confirmed reports that President Museveni recently issued a directive to have the site “expeditiously” handed over to the investors as well as an end to “speculation” over their financial muscle, declined to address himself to queries as to why the project has stalled.
“Call me at 10 o’clock on 3rd September and I will give you the entire story after we have finished our technical meeting on this project,” he said, before admitting: “The developers are showing us their development plans and time plans.”
Mr Simon Barigo, a former resident who was part of the 1,750 families forcefully evicted on July 4, 2011, said he was disappointed to see that “a lot of things have been happening but not in favour of sitting tenants”.
Mr Barigo doubled as the area local council chairman and has been leading a campaign for redress of former tenants. “We have heard that the developers actually don’t have money right now and are running around international banks looking for funding,” he said.

Sounds about right.
This newspaper could not independently verify that claim although officials at the Local Government ministry were quick to dispel the idea. By press time, Sunday Monitor was still waiting for a response from Opec Prime Properties, despite days of repeated calls and email inquiries.

Find a new developer and start again with a sensible contract $990 US for a 99 year lease means the current developer has no real risk to incentivise the  development. 

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