At least six National Resistance Movement [NRM] party supporters in Lango were arrested on Monday morning in a botched demonstration targeting Lira Municipal council officials.
Those in police custody are Patrick Okwir alias Kampala, a resident of Bar sub-county ,Solomon Loro, from Loro in Oyam district, Mike Ogwang, a councilor representing Kakoge parish at Lira Municipal council and Jonan Okot, the youth councilor of Kakoge parish in Ojwina division. The quartets, unlike others also in detention are somewhat ‘organic’ NRM party supporters.
Their demonstration follows the most recent fraud scandal at Lira municipal council where shillings 20million were deposited into the account of one Jimmy Otim, the estate manger of Uganda Technical College Lira.
Now the NRM carders who claimed to be aggrieved by the skyrocketing corruption tendencies at LMC on top of their Monday demonstration also wanted to lock up the offices of the mayor, Mike Ogwang Olwa Veve and that of the town clerk, Assy Abirebe.
But their demonstration was foiled by the anti-riot police unit under the command of the district Police Commander Lira, Joel Tubanone.
Police was heavily deployed at Lira mayor’s garden and around the offices of Lira municipal council.
As soon as Okwir Kampala and his group approached the municipal yard, they were intercepted and whisked to the nearby Lira Central Police station and their case of holding unlawful assembly entered as CRB 44/2018.
Speaking shortly after containing the demonstrators, Lira DPC Joel Tubanone said more charges could be preferred on the ‘purported NRM carders’.
“What they are doing is illegal, we could not under any circumstance allow Okwir and his group to disrupt municipal business, besides the issue of 20m shillings is already being handled,” Tubanone told reporters.
He adds that holding such illegal demonstration is equally a security threat and warned that police would not sit and watch anyone disrupt normal business operations in Lira town.
Mayor VEVE castigates NRM carders
Moments after the demonstration was quelled, Mike Ogwang Olwa Veve, businessman cum politician and Lira municipality mayor who subscribes to the aged opposition political party, UPC blasted the demonstrators, calling their actions ‘unwarranted’.
“Why would they want to lock my office?” Ogwang wondered adding that: “As mayor, I am only a political head of the municipality, I don’t hold money.”
Last week, Mr Ogwang, while reacting to the same allegation said those attacking his regime for breeding corruption have lost touch with the realities on the ground and argued that he has instead made it very risky for civil servants to steal funds.
Emammnauel Ebong Opeto, the Ojwina division LC3 Chairperson also talked to the press Monday morning lambasting the NRM carders and said their actions is a threat to technocrats’ lives in Lira municipality.
According to Ebong Opeto, if it is true that shillings 20m went missing from Lira Municipal coffers, then there are better mechanisms to ensure the indicted civil servants are punished.
How the fraud was busted
The alleged disappearance of shillings 20m which to many appears to be a syndicated fraud executed by technical mafias who control fiancés at Lira municipal council came to the lime light just after the celebrations to mark Uganda’s 56th Independence.
This was after Jimmy Otim, the estate manager at UTC Lira raised a red flag after realizing that colossal sum of money that he was not expecting found its way to his bank account.
Otim in his own narrative to the local media in Lango said around 8th of October 2018, he went to the Standbic bank branch in Lira to withdraw about 32,000 shillings and the only amount he was sure was on his bank account, but realized the figures on his account were in multiple of numbers.
“I was confused when I saw the amount on my account, for a moment I thought it was my arrears for my March 2018 salary which I missed,” Otim narrates.
Otim then withdrew shillings 700,000 and the ATM did not issue him a receipt so he could not ‘tell how much was left on his bank account’.
But as if his account was wired to some number at the fiancé control center at Lira Municipal council because according to Otim, he immediately received a call from someone at LMC asking him about the money he has withdrawn and he was eventually summoned.
While there [to those who summoned him], he was told that the money does not belong to him and that a balance of about shillings 19m was inactive on his account and they asked him to withdraw the money and hand over to them.
But after smelling a dead rat, Otim decided to bring the issue to the notice of the bank officials who then summoned the LMC officials to explain how the money ended up on Otim’s account.
Otim says the technocrats at Lira Municipal council claim the money erroneously entered Otim’s account, a notion that has since been trashed by seasoned bankers and economist who have talked to TND News Uganda in confidentiality.
This is not the first time that Lira Municipal council has come to the lime light on graft.
In August this year, there was a case of theft of cement from the municipal stores and some technocrats were made to record statements.
Now activists are calling for the sacking of town clerk Assy Abire and the Principal Finance Officer Patrick Awio, who they say oversee the financial transactions of Lira Municipal council.