UGX40 BN Apac Aquaculture Project Contractor Abandons Site as Locals Fight over Cash

Residents accused the district leadership of swindling money meant for their compensation and threatened not to pave way for the work, as long as their demands are not met.
Residents fence-off the fish project site in Teboke Village, Tarogali Parish in Apac District Photo by Solomon Okabo

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The construction of dams in Apac district under the Aquaculture Project has stalled, and contractors abandoned the site as residents’ bicker over land compensation.

In 2018, residents in the four Villages of Onekgwok, Teboke, Rwakicaja and Abongokere in Trogali parish, Ibuje Sub County offered 556 acres of Community land to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to pave way for the implementation of the project.

Residents accused the district leadership of swindling money meant for their compensation. They threatened not to pave way for the work, as long as their demands are not met.

On Tuesday angry residents went to the site and fenced off part of the land having learnt that Hardscreen Logistics Ltd, the contractor undertaking the multi-billion project had cleared the land for building their store.

Walter Obang, a resident of Teboke Village, says the contested community land is customary by ownership and they are disappointment over failure to receive their due compensation.

He said in May, last year residents petitioned the Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon Rabecca Kadaga who directed that the community be compensated before the commencement of the project; a decision he said prompted them to put the project on hold.

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Another resident Catherine Tino of Onekgwok Village says that they have been using the land in question for grazing their animals. But when the government requested for the land, they accepted and the compensation money was released but some few individuals stole the money.

The Apac district Speaker, Peter Obong Acuda says, the district is not concerned with the issue of the compensation. Obong however acknowledged that the contractor has abandoned the site.

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Obong expressed fear that the project could cease and leave a big service delivery gap in the community and the district as a whole. He however asked the residents to consider taking legal proceedings to handle the matter amicably and pave way for the project.

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Reports obtained by Uganda Radio Network indicate that the affected persons were compensated with Shs4.1 billion, however the money ended up in the wrong hands. Some Shs1.1 billion was allegedly traced to the personal account of Tarogali parish chairperson Constantino Okao and that of Ogora clan community, with Rev Nelson Okello Ocen as the signatory.

Rev Ocen and Consantion Okao have vehemently denied the allegations.

Emma Ngabiriano, the Apac Resident District Commissioner -RDC, warned complainants against sabotaging the government programme, adding that the issue of compensation is being handled.  

The RDC said a committee of 14 members was formed to handle the issue, he said the issue will be sorted out within a period of two weeks. Joyce Ikwaput Nyeko, the acting commissioner aquaculture management and development, dismissed reports of delayed land compensation.

“We may have made mistakes in the past but this time I want to assure you once again that we are going to get it correct, and all relevant stakeholders will play their role,” she said in a telephone interview.

The five years aquaculture Project was planned to be implemented in phases, and under the first phase, 81 fish ponds, ice plants and hatcheries will be constructed.

One fish pond will be one acre or the size of a football pitch and others will be 0.2 acres. The project is expected to employ more than 2,000 both skilled and unskilled youths.