Chief Justice Alfonse Owinyi-Dollo has called Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja to order after her heroic action last week when she rescued a widow imprisoned over debt from jail but in the process rode roughshod over the magistrate who sentenced her.
Nabajja won public admiration when she secured the release of Gertrude Nalule, a widowed mother of seven from prison where she had been sent for six months and had already served two. Nabbanja paid Nalule’s sh2.8 million debt.
It was all joy as Nalule was driven in a government vehicle to return home to her destitute seven children, the eldest of whom had missed her O’level (UCE) final exams while another had missed her Primary Leaving Exams (PLE) following their mother’s imprisonment.
But the celebration was short lived as Nalule and her savior Nabbanja were informed on arriving at the modest home in Namungona -a Kampala suburb – that the house belonged to a money lender who is her neighbor. A furious Nabbanja caused a meeting at Mengo courts in which she grilled the grade one magistrate Amon Mugezi who had ordered Nalule’s imprisonment. Mugezi stood his ground that the only evidence available in court was an agreement showing that Nalule had sold the home to the money lender.
Unimpressed, Nabbanja asked how Magistrate Mugezi arrived at the judgement without visiting the locus to establish the real facts on the ground. She also asked Mugezi why he had not asked if Nalule’s children as co-owners of the home, had consented to the purported sale. It also transpired that the writing of the agreement was overseen by an LC official from a different area.
Nalule’s plight was well known for when her husband died in an accident two years ago, it was the neighbours who contributed money for her to acquire the place and build a humble house. Nabbanja vowed that nobody was going to evict Nalule and she went ahead to start financing the construction/completion of Nalule’s home.
But Nabbanja’s action rubbed the Chief Justice the wrong way and in a statement on the weekend, he promised to defend judicial officers “both in public and private” as long as they followed the law in execution of their duties.
Come this Monday afternoon, the Chief Justice, while opening the annual Registrars and Magistrates’ Conference in Kampala, went for the jugular, saying Nabbanja has a lot of zeal. He advised the PM to use her zeal to do better things.
Dollo cited some poorly performing projects by the Executive like Isimba Dam which failed two months after being commissioned, and government health facilities that lack medicine, and advised Nabbanja to inspect those instead of busying herself with the judiciary.
“I would be failing in my duty if I see this kind of abuse and I keep quiet,” concluded the Chief Justice.
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