SOUGHT REPRIEVE IN COURT: Jimmy Michael Akena

Factions of the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) are in court fighting for the control of three accounts in the Orient Bank, a matter that is coming up for hearing tomorrow in the Court of Appeal, before Justice Steven Kavuma.

According to documents seen by the EagleOnline, on February 18, 2017, James Michael Akena’s UPC faction represented by Magna Advocates, sought reprieve from the Court of Appeal and wants Orient Bank to allow it operate Account Numbers 11876202020101, 11876202030101 and 11876202040101, which are currently frozen on instructions by a faction led by Joseph Bbosa.

In the ‘Notice of Motion’ by Magna Advocates dated February 9 and received by the Registrar Court of Appeal on February 10, the law firm avers that Orient Bank, which is the 1st Respondent, has refused to comply with an Interim Order issued on December 9, 2016 in respect to Civil Application No. 020 of 2016, to ‘unblock, defreeze or lift the freeze’ on the three accounts in contention.

The standoff has pitted James Michael Akena, the ‘UPC’ and the Electoral Commission against Orient Bank, Joseph Bbosa, Ambassador Olara Otunnu, the ‘UPC’, the latter which had also filed a case in the Commercial Court through Ms Kavuma Kabenge and Company Advocates on February 3, 2016, challenging Orient Bank in respect to the management of the operations of the three accounts, from which Akena reportedly withdrew Shs570, 019, 320 between July 21, 2015 and January 14, 2016.

‘The defendant is a Limited Company operating as a commercial abnk, incorporated under the laws of Uganda with capacity to sue or be sued in its own names…the plaintiff’s claim against the defendants for recovery of a sum of Shs570, 019, 320 withdrawn unlawfully…’ the three-page plaint drawn by law firm Kavuma Kabenge and Co. Advocates reads in part.

In the plaint the lawyers also want their client, the ‘UPC’ to manage Shs234, 130, 346, which is remaining on account, and ‘an interest on the total sum of monies unlawfully withdrawn from its bank accounts (by Akena) and costs of the suit’.

TO HEAR CASE: Head of the Court of Appeal Justice Steven Kavuma

Interestingly, both parties went to court under the umbrella of the UPC, with one of the factions alleging that Justice Kavuma has ‘refused to determine the rightful party president’ in a case that is before the Court Appeal.

It is pertinent to note that Mr Akena withdrew the said 570 million after former Electoral Commission Chairman Eng. Badru Kiggundu wrote to Orient Bank, confirming him as UPC president.

It is against that background that the contesting party went to court, seeking that Akena or any of his agents be stopped from managing the three accounts in Orient Bank.

Background

On June 18, 2015 Peter Mukidi Walubiri, writing as the UPC National Treasurer, informed Orient Bank Manager about the status of the three accounts. In the letter he introduced the signatories to the three accounts and warned the bank against dealing with ‘a stranger’. The said stranger was Patrick Mwondha, who at the time Walubiri said, was holding out as the ‘Chairman, Transitional Committee’.

‘The so called Transitional Committee is an illegal entity and a stranger to the party Constitution. It has no powers to interfere with the operations of the Party’s Bank Accounts including withdrawing funds or sanctioning the withdraw of funds’, Walubiri wrote to Orient Bank.

According to Walubiri, the duly recognized signatories to the three contested accounts were himself, Secretary General Fr. Jacinto Ogwal and one David Baliraine, who were copied in the letter alongside Ambassador Olara Otunnu and Mr Mwondha (RIP).

Mr Walubiri would then, in a February 6, 2017 ‘Witness Statement’ write to the bank, reminding it that Mr Baliraine was replaced as signatory by Mr. Okello Lucima, a communication Amb. Otunnu had made earlier on June 21, 2015.

But earlier, a day after Mr. Walubiri’s 2015 letter Fr. Ogwal, writing as the Secretary General, had also asked the Manager Orient Bank to desist from dealing with Mwondha.

‘The Office of the Secretary General of UPC at the National Secretariat has received some informal information to the effect that a one, Mwondha Patrick, claiming to the Chairman, Transitional Committee, a post my office is not aware of, neither does it enjoy any authority recognition in the UPC Party constitutional arrangement, is said to have written to you to block any bank business transactions between my office and the bank’, Fr. Ogwal wrote.

Orient Bank reacts

In a cautionary letter of January 15, 2016 addressed to both contesting parties referenced ‘OBL/OPS/007/2016: Operations on UPC account(s) 11876202020101, 11876202030101 & 11876202040101’, the Orient Bank wrote to the Uganda Peoples Congress Leadership’, urging them to sort out their differences and to give the bank operational direction.

‘The above subject refers and all our correspondences thereto expressing our intention to streamline operations of UPC accounts domiciled at Orient Bank Limited… Further, the Bank is aware of the recent court ruling whereof all the current signatories to the account were declared by court not to have been validly elected, therefore, operations on the said accounts are BLOCKED effective immediately until you avail the Bank with the individuals duly authorized to operate the said accounts duly sanctioned by court and advise us where to transfer the funds’, Orient bank wrote in the letter signed by Barbara Mwanja, the Service Manager and Pankaj Sharma, the Head of Operations.

The Bank’s letter was buttressed by another one by its lawyers, Ms Shonubi Musoke and Company Advocates dated December 15, 2016, in which the defendant law firm shot down Magna’s intention to sue for contempt.

‘We act on behalf of Orient Bank Limited and make reference to your letter to our client…we have the benefit of perusing the Order issued by the Court of Appeal, as forwarded with your letter to sue our client and take the view that the Order in no way compels our client to defreeze the accounts in question for the reasons hereunder…’ the two-page letter signed by Andrew Kibaya of Shonubi Musoke and Co. Advocates state in part.

And, as the haggling continues, tomorrow afternoon the Court of Appeal headed by Justice Kavuma will hear the matter and probably put to a temporal end to saga that has paralysed the activities of the UPC since James Michael Akena, Amb. Olara Otunnu and more recent Joseph Bbosa, started haggling over the UPC leadership about four years ago.

Meanwhile, theruling today barring a single judge from hearing and making rulings in respect to the constitutional court will not hinder Justice Kavuma from hearing Akena’s case, it has emerged.

“The ruling is about constitutional interpretations and not cases before the Court of Appeal, the two are different,” a constitutional law expert told the EagleOnline on phone after the ruling that many were arguing, had brought an end to the era of a single judge making rulings in the Court of Appeal.