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Gulu court orders auction of 1,800 bags of impounded charcoal

Some of the impounded charcoal in Amuru

Some of the impounded charcoal in Amuru

Gulu Chief Magistrate's court has ordered the auctioning of 1,877 bags of charcoal that were impounded from eight businessmen in Acholi sub-region.

The charcoal was impounded by the National Forestry Authority (NFA) personnel and the Environmental Police Protection Unit (EPPU) at checkpoints in Akurukwe in Amuru district, Layibi in Gulu city, and Bobi in Omoro district on June 27.

The suspects appeared before Gulu chief magistrate Said Barigye on Monday and were charged with three counts of illegal transportation of forest produce contrary to sections 32(1),(a), and sections 34(1)&(2) of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act 2003 before being remanded to Gulu Main Prison. 

The other charges are illegal transportation and trade in forest products (charcoal) contrary to executive order No 3 issued by President Yoweri Museveni and failure to comply with orders of an authorized person contrary to section 81(F) of the National Forestry Act.

The suspects are Peace Nsamba Buhlance, 30, a resident of Kijujuba sub-county in Masindi district, Hamidu Ssenyondo, 54, from Nansana Municipality in Wakiso district, Josepth Baliira, 50, from Kayonza village in Nakaseke district. Others are Jessica Nabatanzi, 34, Stephen Bakabulinde, Rose Nasazi, Innocent Ntinihera, and Yonasan Sebuguze all residents of Wakiso municipality. 

In his ruling on Wednesday, Barigye ordered NFA to dispose off the impounded charcoal through auctioning and deposit the proceeds in the consolidated fund. He also ordered each of the suspects who pleaded guilty to their offences to pay a fine of Shs 1.1 million or serve a default 3-year prison. 

He directed the release of the impounded trucks upon verification of their authentic owners. James Kamugisha, the defense lawyer in an earlier submission asked court to issue a lighter sentence preferably a fine to the accused persons, arguing that they are first-time offenders and persons with responsibilities. 

He also asked court to allow the accused persons to participate among other bidders in buying the charcoal during auctioning once they are released from prison. 

Barigye rejected the request on the grounds that it is illegal for suspects charged with the illegal movement and trade in forest products to participate in buying the products impounded from them. David Toskin Chebet, the state prosecutor said the sentence will be a deterrent to others intending to engage in the same illegal trade.

Former Aruu County MP turned environmental activist Samuel Odonga Otto welcomed the ruling saying it’s a victory for the region owing to the declining forest cover. He however raised concerns that the charges were much lighter compared to the damage the dealers have caused in facilitating the cutting down of trees for charcoal production.

On May 19, President Museveni signed executive order No 3 banning tree cutting for commercial charcoal production in northern Uganda. The order follows complaints from local leaders in the region over the rising commercial charcoal production that has left natural forests degraded.

According to the Global Forest Watch report, Gulu district alone lost 38.7kha of tree cover, equivalent to a 6.2 per cent decrease in tree cover from 2001 to 2021, with the largest portion of the forest cover destroyed for charcoal production and timber.


+4 #1 Lysol 2023-07-14 05:37
Northern Uganda is turning into a desert. That part of the country has been exploited and neglected for a very long time by the corrupt tribal regime of Museveni.

It's only now the regime is paying attention just to score cheap political points.
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+3 #2 Lakwena 2023-07-14 08:58
The James Kamugisha of this country should give us a break with defending obvious wrongdoers.

Mr. Kamugisha even had the audacity to plead on behalf of the the offenders to bid and buy off the impounded charcoal to be auctioned.

Otherwise, Bravo to Hon Odonga Otto and Vigilantes.These culprits are not "... first-time offenders and persons with responsibilities". Until they were finally caught red-handed; they are the environmentally irresponsible, ruthless and hardcore multiple offenders, backed by Godfathers such as those in the Uganda Police (see/read Police truck intercepted [impounded] loading banned charcoal in Nakapiripiri).
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0 #3 apollo 2023-07-14 10:43
This whole matter is rushed, reckless and haphazard. By quoting an executive order, and misaligned sections of the NFA act, this matter has a questionable legal basis.

Clearly, the culprits were under duress and the legal representation is hapless to say the least.

This matter has serious constitutional implications and needs to be pursued to its proper conclusion.
It should not come as a surprise if this very matter returns to a competent court.
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+1 #4 kabayekka 2023-07-14 23:18
One wonders why the NFA does not farm new forests so that nature is sustained?

It seems that most of these politicians do not know that much more world forests were destroyed by some sort of earth upheaval thousands of years past. Crude Oil was formed underground!
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0 #5 Akot 2023-07-15 11:19
Quoting Lysol:

Northern Uganda is turning into a desert. That part of the country has been exploited and neglected for a very long time by the corrupt tribal regime of Museveni.


This destruction of land that worsens climate condition MUST be STOPPED, before the entire area turns into desert, just as Western Uganda will be when Total builds the oil pipeline!
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0 #6 Akot 2023-07-15 11:32
kabayekka, understood.

The use of charcoal is a danger to climate as it destroys forests, especially when trees plantation isn't done! There will finally be less & less rain in Amuru & the entire region, knowing Karamoja is also drying so so fast!

Ugandans should by now have real housing with the clean electricity they produce, yet, only elites are served while +70% of Ugandans have to destroy wet lands, trees, grass for domestic use!

Europe is suffocating with heat due to climate change!

Africans MUST stop destroying their lands, if they want to save themselves from continued climate change as the earth will fight to survive by all means!
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