Police Officers on Spot for Abetting Illegal Charcoal Trade In Agago

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Police officers in Agago District are on the spot for allegedly aiding illegal charcoal trade.  This follows reports on the thriving commercial charcoal trade in the district despite the ban on commercial production and transportation of charcoal.

The ban instituted during a full council meeting last month followed the surge in commercial charcoal production in Lelakadera, Obulu Ayita, and Lacekoto in Labwa Parish, Adilang Sub-county. The vice also attracted the intervention of the Environmental Protection Police Unit, which raided several illegal charcoal production camps resulting in the arrest of suspects and the destruction of hundreds of bags of charcoal.

But Santos Sans Oryem, the Adilang Sub-county LC V Councilor says that commercial charcoal trade in his area has resumed to a full-scale and faulted police for failing to act. Oryem notes that on two occasions, five trucks fully loaded with bags of charcoal exited the district from Adilang Sub-county minus the intervention of the police even after they were informed.

According to Oryem, a truck loaded with charcoal that was impounded on Sunday night from Adilang Sub-county and briefly kept at Adilang Police post and later Patongo Central Police station has mysteriously disappeared. Agago Resident District Commissioner, Andrew Onyuk pointed a finger at police officers in the district whom he claims are siding with charcoal dealers.

Onyuk notes that sometimes Police officers are sent to apprehend the culprits behind the charcoal trade but they don’t surface with them, saying there could have been possible collusion.

Onyuk says the growing rate of illegal charcoal trade in the district needs serious intervention backed by a team of investigators to ensure the vice is permanently brought to an end and the culprits are taken to the courts of law. Last month’s full council meeting also resolved to ban the payment of revenue by commercial charcoal dealers to the sub-county and District to obtain movement permits.

Each commercial charcoal dealer was paying Shillings 500,000 at the sub-county and another Shillings 500,000 at the district and later issued a permit for transporting charcoal. Leonard Opio Ojok, the Agago District Chairperson, says with the scrapping of the revenue payment at both sub-county and district, the commercial trade-in charcoal became illegal.

He says the current traders sneaking out of the district with the help of some security personnel are conducting the trade illegally. Ojok threatened that if the vice doesn’t stop, an alternative action that may include the burning of trucks loaded with charcoal may be justified.

The Officer In-charge of Patongo Police Station, Yunus Sebirumbi counter accuses some district officials of meddling in the police fight against illegal charcoal trade. Sebirumbi alleges that there are instances where some district leaders, he declined to name call their officers to release impounded trucks loaded with charcoal even after the recent ban.

He notes that the police are continuing to impound the trucks loaded with charcoal, arguing that over 100 bags of charcoal were recently impounded and auctioned by court bailiffs from Gulu.

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