Busoga Forestry Company (BFC) was Friday afternoon given an ultimatum of 48 hours within which to release motorcycles and bicycles they impounded from the locals.
In the recent months, BFC enforcement team has been carrying out operations in which they could arrest people found in possession of firewood suspected to have been got from the government forest reserve in Mayuge district.
BFC is among the private companies contracted by the National Forestry Authority to carry out tree planting and management of the forest reserve.
A group of residents led by the LCIII chairman of Bukatube Sub County, William Atube last week stormed the office of the Deputy Resident District Commissioner (DRDC), Trevor Solomon Baleke to petition him.
They alleged in their petition that BFC had become a big problem to them and some went as far as threatening to take the law into their hands if nothing is done.
Atube told the Deputy RDC that his communities were having sleepless nights as BFC could mount illegal roadblocks along their roads and beat whoever was found in possession of firewood even if it was from the people’s bushes.
The more than twenty men who met Baleke reported that once a motorcycle is impounded, the BFC charges them between 80,000/= and 500,000 for it to be released.
In response, the Deputy RDC called for a meeting between the BFC officials, the local leaders and the the residents so that he would listen to both parties for an informed action.
During the joint meeting, the locals reiterated what they reported to the DRDC at his office.
Overwhelmed by the accusations, the new BFC manager, Aurthur Nanguyo apologized to the residents on behalf of his staff.
“Mr. RDC, I promise that we shall not go beyond our boundaries. We shall only deal with those found violating our rules within our territory,” he said.
Shakira Mirembe, the BFC Community Liaisons Officer explained that those found carrying big logs were the only ones whose motorcycles are impounded.
“We arrest them as a preventative measure. But I am learning it from this meeting that some of our staff have been making errors while doing their work,” she said.
In response to all the concerns, the Deputy RDC called for harmony and coexistence.
He said both parties needed each other.
“Our OC is here,” said Baleke while introducing the OC Bukatube, Annet Nangobi to BFC officials and added that “report all your grievances to her other than illegally holding people’s items because you feel they have offended you.”
“You cannot be the investigator, State Attorney and judge in a case where you are the complainant. I know our people sometime break the law and they run very fast run to us to cover up their mistakes but when you make good use of the police, no one shall complain about your operations. Therefore all the motorcycles impounded and parked at your offices without the involvement of either the police or local authorities should he released within 48 hours from now,” ordered Baleke, attracting cheers from the audiance.
Baleke warned that it was illegal for the company to singularly carryout operations in villages without the involvement of the police and the local leaders.
“And even when you work with Nangobi (the police), please don’t torture wanainchi. Whoever has a case to answer should be handed over to police for proper management.”
Earlier on, Fredrick Muwanika a resident of Buwolomera had pinned BFC for torture. He cited an incident in which an elderly man was assaulted by the company enforcement team to an extent of being unable to walk because his limbs were severely injured.
“This old man is still bedridden,” he said.
The locals thanked the Deputy RDC for paying attention to their problems.
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