Unscrupulous people extort Shs60m from farmers for plots in wetland banned by Museveni

Unscrupulous people extort Shs60m from farmers for plots in wetland banned by Museveni
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Barely a year after several farmers were evicted from the Namasuka wetland in Tororo district following a presidential directive, unscrupulous people have irregularly sent them back to the wetland according to the office of the Resident District Commissioner (RDC).

Speaking to Nile Post on Tuesday evening, Albert Amula the Deputy RDC Tororo accused unscrupulous persons of orchestrating the unlawful return of Paddy Rice farmers back to the swamp at a fee.

"We received reports from members of the community recently that there is a team of people collecting money from the local population to get back to the wetland charging them between 100,000 to 200,000 from each individual depending on the size of land one wishes to use" Amula says.

John Odoi the Secretary of Production and Natural Resources, Tororo district local government confirms the allegations saying the culprits behind the dubious deals have been identified and summoned.

"When we met them, we got to realize that immediately the community learnt of wetland being a government facility, everyone wanted to flock and cultivate yet the land wasn't enough. So, they were pushed to introduce some costs to eliminate others" Odoi reveals

Simon Peter Obbo a Resident of Naweyo village in the Sop-Sop sub-county is one of the victims of this scam. Obbo says he and his family were told to pay over Shs1 million in exchange for wetland plots but they later ended up missing. To date, they haven't received their money back.

" They told us that the money was meant for surveying the land in order to own it and for that case, I, my father and other two brothers contributed a total of one million shillings, unfortunately, we were left out at the time of distribution" Obbo claims.

Obbo also confirms the allegation that a section of political leaders and civil servants could be collaborating with these unscrupulous persons to make a kill from them.

"Ever since these people took our monies and denied us even a potion to land, we have tried to reach out several offices right from LC1 to 5 including police but instead get threats" Obbo alleges.

John Martin Odoi who is accused of spearheading the illicit transaction and self-proclaimed chairperson of the wetland management team, admits receipt of people's monies claiming that its meant for running wetland activities.

"Part of the money is taking care of irrigation while some will be used in surveying the land to help us own it" John Martin confirms

He also reveals that after picking millions of shillings from over 350 farmers, his committee encountered challenges when it came to allocating wetland plots something that pushed them to refund back some of these monies to a section of individuals to go and hire land elsewhere.

"Because of the overwhelming number of rice farmers the available plots became limited since we could only accommodate 155 people. So we were left with no option but to give back money to the owners to get plots elsewhere, " John Martin adds.

With millions of shillings Said to have been extorted from farmers, district security heads insist the perpetrators must pay for their sins warning individuals against taking laws into their hands.

" As security, we have tasked police and the office of the DISO to ascertain facts on the issue and report back to us for action. It's illegal to collect monies from public land because all swamps belong to government" Amula adds.

President Museveni's executive order last year aimed to prevent cultivation in wetlands to combat climate-related disasters. However, due to lax enforcement, opportunists have exploited the situation to exploit the desperate farmers.

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