Lira airfield scandal: IGG report ready

The manner in which part of Lira airfield in Railway division, Lira municipality, was sold by a section of leaders made the headlines between 2015 and 2016. It soon went mute during political campaigns in 2016 and to date.

The investigations instituted by Inspectorate of Government (IGG) in 2017 following the fraudulent sale of a piece of land belonging to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – Lira airfield is almost ready.

In 2015, Lira municipality authorities, under the then Mayor Morris Odung Omara, reportedly sold the airfield land to ‘local investors’ and subsequently relocated timber dealers to trade from there.

This was after municipal authorities said their operations from town centre, especially Baala road was causing annoying traffic, reckless parking, and move was meant to “beautify the town”.

While the decision taken to decongest town was a wise one, some leaders said then, relocating the development (businesses) ‘to the airfield’ or near it was “treasonous” considering the fact that the main user of the airfield is President Museveni Yoweri – whose helicopter lands there.

Considering the risk to landing aircraft and President’s helicopter, investigations were launched by different security organs and the IGG.

For IGG, it has been investigating who played what role in the fraudulent sale, how much was realized, and where the money has gone.

Numerous allegations pinned leaders both at the municipality, Lira district and individuals to have hatched the plan and eaten “too much monies”.

Wonekha Samuel, general manager of regional airports, told TND News in May this year that: “CAA handed over the investigation to IGG and we are yet to read a report.”

In an interview with this contemporary online newspaper last week, Ali Munira, Public Relations Officer at the Inspectorate of Government said: “We do have a complaint registered in 2017 regarding irregular sale of land near the airfield. The report is being compiled.”

Asked why it has taken long for the Inspectorate to release its finding, she said most of their investigations take long because “we don’t have capacity”, adding, “we have less staff handling like 500 cases.”

Ms Munira further says both work and case back logs are hindering investigations – noting that some cases are complicated and needs time.

Without hinting on leaders implicated, what next after, she said the report will be made public soon.

Almost five years ago, Morris Odung Omara, the then mayor, told journalists that “those complaining want to hike pressure on them (leaders) for the decision.”

“They only want to call it an airfield to raise dust to cause confusion. We had planned it (airfield) for an industrial park, it’s no longer an airfield,” Daily Monitor quoted Mr. Odung, then.

Mr Odung, widely known as “Apakaca“, loosely translated as a servant, could not say a word when phoned.

Why Lango must worry?

With government committed to reviving air transport, a commitment seen after the arrival of two bombardiers (regional planes) months ago, and focusing on the upgrade of regional airports (airfields), Lira airfield or its shift to Anai village, Lira sub county, Lira district where over 15 acres of land has been earmarked for the cause is not in government’s budget.

In this ending fiscal year and the incoming one, government (Ministry of Works and Transport) will work and focus on Arua, Gulu airfields, among others.

TND News understands that some of these regional airfields, like Arua has been tendered to Survey Consult to carryout extra land acquisition.

Read more: Proposed Anai airfield construction, mere talks or pledge?

In the NRM Manifesto 2016-2021, President Museveni Yoweri had directed and pledged to Ugandans that his government would bring back Uganda Airlines, develop and upgrade other (regional) airfields.

The Ministry of Works and Transport that is directly responsible for this task, in its NRM Manifesto Commitments 2016-2021 under Air Transport, highlighted the upgrade of Arua, Gulu, Jinja, Kasese, and Soroti airfields, leaving out Lira airfield or what has been done so far to move it to a 15 acres of land in Anai village, Lira sub-county in Lira district.

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