Busoga East police have embarked on a crackdown to burst criminals within the fuel dealer’s network along the eastern corridor highways. The joint security team comprising of the army and Police have concentrated their operations on the main bases of fuel dealers in Busesa, Magamaga and Musita.
At least 20 youth were arrested on Wednesday and paraded at Busoga East Regional police headquarters awaiting screening. Several youths along the Iganga-Busia and Mbale-Tirinyi highways derive their livelihoods from siphoning fuel from long distance trucks.
They station their jerrycans and basins at the different points along the highways as a signal for interested truckers to stopover and sale the fuel at an agreeable price. Although the trade is considered illegal, drivers continue to mint money from the business to supplement their meagre earnings.
The siphoned fuel is later sold to small scale vendors at relatively cheaper prices compared to the real market prices. However, since the nationwide lockdown started and tight restrictions imposed on truck drivers, who the main source of Uganda’s first COVID-19 cases, some youths started intercepting truck drivers to forceful siphon fuel from their trucks for free.
Even when the government relaxed the lockdown in July, the overzealous fuel dealers continued ambushing the truckers, who normally park within the trading centers along the highways and force them to create intentional accidents and speed off with unspecified amounts of fuel.
Joseph Mulwana, a fuel dealer from Bugweri district, says the criminals target new drivers without knowledge on how to protect themselves during attacks. “Old truck drivers always contact us during suspicious situations. But these new ones usually stop in the black spots where criminals attack them and steal both their valuables and fuel then speed off unchallenged,” he said.
A fuel dealer who spoke to URN on condition of anonymity claims that the criminals are highly connected and are never reprimanded even when incriminating evidence is adduced. “We have received several complaints from these truck drivers and availed evidence pining some of the suspects. But security agents are reluctant to arrest them living the vice to triumph unstopped,” he said.
Shafic Musubo, a fuel dealer from Mayuge district told URN that the operation was long overdue. “Our business has been infiltrated with real criminals many of whom joined us during the lockdown and it’s high time that security operatives reinstate highway patrols, which were the only safeguards of protecting truck drivers against such attacks along the highways,” Musubo said.
Anatolli Katungwesi, the Busoga East Regional police commander says inquiries are underway and a detailed report will be released after investigations.