The anti-corruption court yesterday cleared the former chairman of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Geoffrey Onegi Obel, of all corruption charges related to the botched Nsimbe estate housing project.
Obel was accused of abuse of office and causing a financial loss of about Shs 8bn to the fund. The prosecution had alleged that between 2003 and 2005, Obel acted arbitrarily when he allegedly floated an illegal private business entity, known as Premier Developments Ltd as a special purpose vehicle (SPV), on behalf NSSF.
It was alleged that Obel and his accomplices, illegally made a joint venture with a private company, Mugoya Estates Ltd. But in her ruling, trial judge Margaret Tibulya cleared Obel of any wrongdoing, saying all the 10 witnesses adduced by IGG’s prosecutor, Sydney Asubo, failed to pin him.
“The witnesses came here and told court of how the accused was doing his work well and it wasn’t his fault that the project failed,” Justice Tibulya said.
According to the IGG, Obel did not ensure financial viability of the value of the money for the investment, which violated provisions of the NSSF Act. However, Tibulya ruled that the prosecution witnesses had testified that the investment was viable and would have brought in profits if it had not been halted by government.
Justice Tibulya further explained that Obel was innocent since prosecution had failed to specify the amount of money which was lost in the deal.
“No evidence was adduced that there was abuse of authority,” she said. “Also, the prosecution failed to show how much money government lost since the project had not yet taken off.”
Onegi-Obel was initially jointly charged with Leonard Mpuuma, a former managing director of the Fund, former Labour Minister Zoe Bakoko Bakoru, who is in exile in the USA and James Isabirye, a businessman. By press time, it wasn’t clear if the IGG planned to appeal the judgment.
Source : The Observer