Another suspect in the ongoing case of the kidnap and murder of social worker Maria Nagirinya has asked court to have him relocated from Luzira prison after implicating his co-accused.
Sharif Mpanga, a boda boda rider made the request to Justice Isaac Muwata after implicating fellow boda boda rider , Nasif Kalyango, Copriyam Kasolo and Johnson Lubega in the crime.
He joins fellow boda boda rider Nasif Kalyango who also turned against his co-accused in the ongoing trial.
The 27 year old told court that prior to his arrest, he had been a boda boda rider for over four years and that on the fateful day in 2019, Nasif Kalyango whom he was friends with used an unknown number to call him for passengers.
“Our stages(with Kalyango) are separated by the road and on that day, as I returned to my stage, I received a call from an unknown number and at the other end ,Kalyango told me had four passengers and could not take them all. He asked me to transport some of them,” Mpanga said.
He said on reaching the stage where Kalyango worked from, he was told he had already negotiated the fares and here he carried two passengers and his colleage carried the other two who had asked to be taken to Kalerwe and later Lungujja.
Whereas Kalyango carried Lubega Johnson and Copriyam Kasolo, his colleague, Mpanga carried a one Fred and Isaac Ssenabulya.
Mpanga said they rode to Kalerwe briefly before heading to Lungujja but said at around Busega, Kalyango’s motorcycle developed a mechanical problem prompting Kasolo and Lubega to jump off and opted to use his motorcycle and his passengers were asked to wait for the problem on Kalyango’s motorbike to be rectified and then follow them later.
“They asked me to take them to Lungujja. We rode and shortly after Kibumbiro trading centre, they asked me to stop at a murram road that was branching off. They told me they had to wait for their colleagues who were coming on the other motorbike. They said my colleague Kalyango had my money. I left them,”Mpanga said.
The group is accused of kidnaping Nagirinya and her driver, Ronald Kitayimbwa as she parked at her gate in Lungujja, killed them and dumped the bodies in Mukono.
Mpanga told court that later, Kalyango paid him shs25000 for transporting the two people.
The 27 year old told court that a few days later, as he went to his brother for some money to help him take his sick son to hospital, he was called by one of his customers who asked that he goes to Nakuwadde he gives him some money and it is from here that security operatives arrested him.
“As I reached his home in Nakuwadde, security personnel in plan clothes arrested me. They beat me saying I had participating in the kidnap and murder of people. I denied this but they continued beating me and took me to an unknown detention facility.”
Mpanga said he was again beaten,kicked and boxed while at the detention centre as they demanded from him whether he knew Copriyam Kasolo, Johnson Lubega and Isaac Ssenabulya.
“I insisted I didn’t know them and they continued torturing me. It was until they showed me photos for Kasolo, Lubega and Ssenabulya that I admitted I had transported them on my boda boda and dropped them at some place on the road in Lungujja.”
He however accused security personnel of forcing him to admit that he had dropped Kasolo and Lubega near Nagirinya’s gate after seeing the vehicle she was being driven in by Kitayimbwa.
“Security officers including the investigating officer Baraza threatened to take me back to the detention centre and be tortured again if I didn’t say I had dropped them after seeing Nagirinya’s vehicle. In fact even what I told the officer who was taking my statement is not what was written. I was told if I didn’t accept I would be taken back for torture. They asked me to write my name at the end,” he said.
During cross examination by Chief State Attorney, Jonathan Muwaganya, Mpanga insisted he is innocent and that he is only a victim of circumstances.
Asked why he abandoned his motorcycle at home and at the time of arrest he didn’t have it, Mpanga said he was arrested as he went to his customer to get money to take his sick son to hospital and on that day he had opted to travel in a taxi.
The state prosecutor accused Mpanga of being part of the Kasolo’s gang and to this he said they had called him more than twice that fateful night after dropping them at Lungujja.
The 27 year old boda rider however admitted that he was called by one of the three accused on a certain number he didn’t know later that night and asked him to pick them from Namanve where they said they had gone to have pleasure from.
“I told them I had a customer I was taking but that I would go pick them later. I later rode up to Bweyogerere from where they called back to say I shouldn’t bother since they had already got another boda boda to take them. I had been promised to be paid shs20,000,” Mpanga said.
However, the state prosecutor expressed surprise that a motorist would ride for over 20kms deep at night with strangers for a mere shs20,000.
“Haven’t you ever made a loss in your life? As boda boda riders, we always make losses as some times the passengers jump off and run away without paying. When they called me while at Bweyogerere to say they had got another boda boda to take them, I counted this journey as a loss. However, I got another passenger that I brought to the city,” Mpanga said.
Asked why he accepted to go pick strangers from a place(Namanve) that he had said he didn’t know and was far.
“I am a boda boda rider who wakes up to make money for my family and my boss. I therefore ride everyone who comes and take them wherever they want, even if it is Masaka as long as it is on the main road because I fear being hit on the head and my motorbike stolen.”
Exchanges with prosecutor
There were moments during the hearing when Mpanga exchanged words with the state prosecutor Jonathan Muwaganya whom he accused of spitting words in his mouth.
He insisted he was only a boda boda rider who was caught in circumstances due to his nature of job that entails transporting whoever asks him to do so.
“I don’t ask my passengers what they are going to do,”Mpanga said.
However, in response, the state prosecutor calmed Mpanga down, telling him that he is only interested in bringing justice.
The case has been adjourned to June, 12 for further hearing.