The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that former Board Chairman of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Geoffrey Onegi Obel should go back to the Anti Corruption Court and resume trial for corruption.
This follows the dismissal of his petition with costs by a panel of five justices led by Remmy Kasule in which he was challenging his trial at the Kololo-based court as being illegal.
Other justices on the panel included Eldad Mwangusya, Solomy Bossa Balungi, Kenneth Kakuru and Prof Lillian Tibatemwa. He is facing charges of abuse of office and causing financial loss of 8 billion shillings to the Fund.
Obel had unsuccessfully argued that he could not be charged with criminal offenses under the Anti Corruption Act of 2009 for offenses that he allegedly committed between 2003 and 2005.
But in their unanimous judgment, the justices of the court held that Obel’s reference to their court was ‘misconceived’ saying the coming into force of the Anti Corruption Act in 2009 does not mean that such a law never existed before and that such charges should be quashed.
The justices also noted in their judgment that such similar references by Obel to their court had already been decided and dismissed in other matters including that of Damian Akankwasa, the former Executive Director of National Forestry Authority (NFA).
“In the result, we see no merit in this reference which is hereby dismissed with costs. The registrar is directed to return the record of the lower court of the Chief Magistrate in criminal case No. 153 of 2010 to the High Court Anti Corruption Division with the direction that the trial magistrate should proceed with the trial of the respondent (Obel) forthwith,” the justices ruled in part.
Obel allegedly on behalf of NSSF carried out an illegal private business when he went into a joint venture with Mugoya Estates Ltd and made the Fund pay 8 billion shillings without ensuring financial capability for the investment.
Mugoya Estates Ltd, a construction firm, received 6.8 billion shillings to construct and design housing units at Nsimbe Estate.
The former board Chairman was initially charged jointly with Leonard Mpuuma, former managing director, former Labor minister Zoe Bakoko Bakoru and businessman James Isabirye.
However, in March 2008, the charges against Mpuuma of receiving a bribe were dropped after he pleaded guilty to causing a financial loss of sh100m.
Mpuuma paid back the money. The IGG also withdrew charges against Bakoko Bakoru and Isabirye since it had become hard to arrest them. The former minister is believed to be in exile in the USA.