A Ugandan Engineer and one of the proprietors of the Kiira EV automobile project has revealed that the project was thwarted from him and a team of young engineers by their supervising lecturers when there was a guarantee for funding from President Museveni and government.
Dr. Steven Jeremy Ntambi, an electrical engineer alleges that Professors; Paul Isaac Musasizi, who also doubles as the Chief Executive for Kiira Motors and Sandy Stevens Togboa Tickodri, who were initially given the mandate to supervise Ntambi and colleagues to develop the automobile project, would later ambush the project and its funding.
In a Twitter thread, Ntambi launched an attack on the two senior lecturers at Makerere University and officials of the Kiiira EV Motors whom he claimed have neither an understanding of the project nor its direction.
Ntambi insists that the Tickodri and Musasizi got excited because “there were funds injected in the project” and they decided to ambush the project and claim it for funding from Museveni and government.
How the project was hatched?
Ntambi narrates that the project was actually birthed by Dr. Tom Wanyama, at the time a principal investigator for Internet Laboratories (ILs) for Makerere University who had visited Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2006, and while there he met a student called Will Jelliffe who was at the time one of the directors of Vehicle Design Summit (VDS).
Wanyama then introduced Ntambi to Jelliffe in 2007 towards the end of the June- August industrial training and shortly after that handed over the project.
Wanyama was leaving the university to pursue different business when he handed the project to Ntambi to actualize it.
Ntambi took on the project for his final research paper to be supervised by Musasizi.
Ntambi says that when Wanyama introduced the project to him, he built a team of four of his colleagues, and the number would later grow to nine.
“The chronology is as you see, initially I was introduced to the project because it was going to also be my fourth-year project. And then I built a team, starting with 4 and then 9,” Ntambi narrates.
Nile Post can identify the people who were on Ntambi’s team as; Steven Ntambi (team leader), Florence Nakitto, Aggrey Kabunga, Rashid Mijumbi.
The number grew to eight including; Maxima Nsiimenta, Paul Rwemalla, Emmanuel Ssebagala, Dativa Tizikara, and Douglas Bibita.
According to Ntambi, on seeing the project, the professor Musasizi started scoffing at him and his team, and said it was ‘too ambitious and impossible to come to life’.
“During the time we worked, I was labeled a fraud and always threatened to remember he (Musasizi) supervised my final project as a student,” Ntambi claims.
However, after the student team presented the global teams and the president approved their project, the professors returned to the project they didn’t believe in and said that it was always their “dream”.
Ntambi claims during the time he worked on the project with the colleagues, he approached University Chancellor Mondo Kagonyera, Godfrey Kamuntu, Alfred Kabuchu, Peter Mugarura Capt. Gasatura, Eng. Muloni, and Ham Muliira for support and they managed to offer help here and there.
“These are people I had to reach out to for support when the project was in a lot of obscurities,” he said.
Hijacking projects start
Following the approval of the project, the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and now Vice-Chancellor for Makerere University Prof Barnabas Nawangwe appointed Professor Tickodri based on merit to oversee the project.
Tickodri a very experienced engineer having qualified from Odessa, Ukraine had been initially posted to Gulu University when he was transferred to Makerere and handed the project of Ntambi and crew as an overall supervisor.
In an email seen by Nile Post, Ntambi expounds to Professor Tickodri on how he started the project from Wanyama, an entire genesis to give the professor a starting point.
With the project becoming popular and seeing a potential finally, Makerere University invited President Museveni to look at the first product, a lime green Proof of Concept Car (POC).
The car was consequently launched by President Museveni. The launch was supposed to be the climax of Makerere Celebrating 90 years of existence.
Musasizi and Tickodri steal show
Museveni arrived at the University for the launch at about midday and started with touring innovations from the different colleges of engineering.
When the time was testing the Kiira EV car came, Musasizi jumped onto the steering wheel and let Museveni in to give him a test ride of the car first hand.
“This is very good,” Museveni said with a smile as the car started to drive which was a stretch of a quarter a kilometer and lasted only 10 minutes.
On disembarking from the car, Museveni said; “This is very good, you fellows are now waking up from slumber. I will give you all the support. I am really happy with what is happening here. You can be sure of all the support from Government in spite of our limited resources.”
Those magic words, were the beginning of an end to the blossoming talents of Ntambi and his team of 8, while at the same time a beginning of a popular and rich life of Musasizi and Tickodri.
Nile Post will publish the next series on Sunday