UGANDA: CO-OPERATIVE UNION MEMBERS FIGHT OVER $6 MILLION ASSETS OF BAT

Elshadai Primay School

Pupils of El-Shaddai Nursery & Primary School play on the School compound located in the contested former BAT headquarters.

“As I speak now, the Union account has negative balance of fifty thousand shillings (about twenty dollars). I don’t know where they put all the money collected from the sales of the Union land or what those renting like El-Shaddai”-Secretary Manager Denis Obwot.

GULU-UGANDA: It is ten-thirty in the morning, local time (07.30 GMT) on Wednesday July 27, 2016 and is already break time at El-Shaddai Nursery & Primary School, located at the former British American Tobacco (BAT) Co-operative Union premise in Gulu Municipality in Northern Uganda. One of the pupils here is Edmond Lubangakene, a primary one pupil I found standing by the school fence looking at the journalists who had just started taking pictures and shooting videos as soon as they disembarked from a pickup truck in the school premise.

When the National Resistance Army/Movement (NRA/M) of President Museveni took over government in Uganda in January 1986, it ran down Co-operative Unions across the country and BAT was no exception. When the Co-operative bank was closed in May 1999 the Union had 20 million shillings (US$6000) debt to pay the bank.

BAT wound up business in Uganda on December 30, 2006, and its assets, worth six million dollars, are scattered all over the northern Uganda. These assets were taken over by Middle North Tobacco Co-operative Union Limited (MNTCUL), which has since grounded business to a halt and the account run down to negative twenty dollars. By that time, the total debt of the Union had accumulated up to 50 million shillings (US$15000).

According to Mr. Denis Ochira-Obwot, the Secretary Manager of Middle North Tobacco Co-operative Union, members decided to sell off two prime plots of the nine hectares piece of land of the Union to pay off the debt. He says instead of selling only two plots to pay off the debts, Executive Members embarked on massive sales and hiring out the land to El-Shaddai School at undisclosed amount of money, but which money is not being banked in the Union account in the bank.

“As I speak now, the Union account has negative balance of fifty thousand shillings (about twenty dollars). I don’t know where they put all the money collected from the sales of the Union land or what those renting like El-Shaddai”, says Ochira-Obwot.

Mr. Obwot says the problem of the Union started way back to 1986 when the NRM government came to power and the Union ran broke and in 2008, the members resolved to sell part of its assets to individuals to clear out the debts, under its chairman, Ignatius Latigo. He says instead of selling assets to cover only the debts, Executive members decided to sell off assets worth UGX500 million ($148,280) and misappropriated the proceeds.

“The Union did not carry out any business since 1986 when Museveni came to power and war broke out in the region. That is how we accumulated the debts. Instead of selling our assets to pay off the debts, Latigo’s Executive went overboard and sold assets worth five hundred million and misappropriated the proceeds”, says Obwot.

He says, when new Executive headed by one Christopher Okot took over from Latigo in 2012, there has been no money remitted in the Union account but withdrawals only, leaving negative balance of 20 dollars. Another Executive was elected in 2014 to replace Okot’s Executive headed by one Peter Oweka, but Okot has since refused to leave office or carry out audit of the Union.

“I think they fear to audit the Union and call Annual General Meeting (AGM) because they have sold out the Union’s land to private developers like El-Shaddai. How can someone who is renting your land construct permanent structures on your land?” says Obwot.

The new chairman, Mr. Peter Oweka says his Executive has already approached the offices of the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) and the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) to intervene and force Okot’s Executive to hand over office and land title to his Executive by August 15, 2016.

In another development however, the Principal Co-operative Officer in the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Co-operatives, Mr. Egos Opolot-Amunyo, visited the Union on August 3, 2016 and declared that the ministry had taken over the management of the Union with immediate effect and ordered for Annual General Meeting (AGM) on October 14, 2016.

“He came on hearing the wrangles. Okot should be out of office because of his inability to issue audit report and call AGM according to Section 22 (7) of the Co-operative Act.; and it leaves Oweka powerless. At the moment government is in control until October when the annual general meeting will be convened”, says Julius Ochungi, the Daily Monitor reporter, who covered the August 3, 2016 meeting.

According to the Secretary Manager, Mr. Denis Obwot, it is illegal for government to dissolve the Oweka Executive and vowed that the new Executive will enter office after the August 15, 2016 date line issued to Mr. Okot to hand over expires.

Whatever will happen, pupils of El-Shaddai like Lubangakene, will not be affected much by fear of displacement from the Union premise as proprietors of the School is constructing a permanent home in Koro sub-county just outside Gulu town in the new Omoro district.

“As I speak now, the Union account has negative balance of fifty thousand shillings (about twenty dollars). I don’t know where they put all the money collected from the sales of the Union land or what those renting like El-Shaddai”-Secretary Manager Denis Obwot.

GULU-UGANDA: It is ten-thirty in the morning, local time (07.30 GMT) on Wednesday July 27, 2016 and is already break time at El-Shaddai Nursery & Primary School, located at the former British American Tobacco (BAT) Co-operative Union premise in Gulu Municipality in Northern Uganda. One of the pupils here is Edmond Lubangakene, a primary one pupil I found standing by the school fence looking at the journalists who had just started taking pictures and shooting videos as soon as they disembarked from a pickup truck in the school premise.

When the National Resistance Army/Movement (NRA/M) of President Museveni took over government in Uganda in January 1986, it ran down Co-operative Unions across the country and BAT was no exception. When the Co-operative bank was closed in May 1999 the Union had 20 million shillings (US$6000) debt to pay the bank.

BAT wound up business in Uganda on December 30, 2006, and its assets, worth six million dollars, are scattered all over the northern Uganda. These assets were taken over by Middle North Tobacco Co-operative Union Limited (MNTCUL), which has since grounded business to a halt and the account run down to negative twenty dollars. By that time, the total debt of the Union had accumulated up to 50 million shillings (US$15000).

According to Mr. Denis Ochira-Obwot, the Secretary Manager of Middle North Tobacco Co-operative Union, members decided to sell off two prime plots of the nine hectares piece of land of the Union to pay off the debt. He says instead of selling only two plots to pay off the debts, Executive Members embarked on massive sales and hiring out the land to El-Shaddai School at undisclosed amount of money, but which money is not being banked in the Union account in the bank.

“As I speak now, the Union account has negative balance of fifty thousand shillings (about twenty dollars). I don’t know where they put all the money collected from the sales of the Union land or what those renting like El-Shaddai”, says Ochira-Obwot.

Mr. Obwot says the problem of the Union started way back to 1986 when the NRM government came to power and the Union ran broke and in 2008, the members resolved to sell part of its assets to individuals to clear out the debts, under its chairman, Ignatius Latigo. He says instead of selling assets to cover only the debts, Executive members decided to sell off assets worth UGX500 million ($148,280) and misappropriated the proceeds.

“The Union did not carry out any business since 1986 when Museveni came to power and war broke out in the region. That is how we accumulated the debts. Instead of selling our assets to pay off the debts, Latigo’s Executive went overboard and sold assets worth five hundred million and misappropriated the proceeds”, says Obwot.

He says, when new Executive headed by one Christopher Okot took over from Latigo in 2012, there has been no money remitted in the Union account but withdrawals only, leaving negative balance of 20 dollars. Another Executive was elected in 2014 to replace Okot’s Executive headed by one Peter Oweka, but Okot has since refused to leave office or carry out audit of the Union.

“I think they fear to audit the Union and call Annual General Meeting (AGM) because they have sold out the Union’s land to private developers like El-Shaddai. How can someone who is renting your land construct permanent structures on your land?” says Obwot.

The new chairman, Mr. Peter Oweka says his Executive has already approached the offices of the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) and the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) to intervene and force Okot’s Executive to hand over office and land title to his Executive by August 15, 2016.

In another development however, the Principal Co-operative Officer in the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Co-operatives, Mr. Egos Opolot-Amunyo, visited the Union on August 3, 2016 and declared that the ministry had taken over the management of the Union with immediate effect and ordered for Annual General Meeting (AGM) on October 14, 2016.

“He came on hearing the wrangles. Okot should be out of office because of his inability to issue audit report and call AGM according to Section 22 (7) of the Co-operative Act.; and it leaves Oweka powerless. At the moment government is in control until October when the annual general meeting will be convened”, says Julius Ochungi, the Daily Monitor reporter, who covered the August 3, 2016 meeting.

According to the Secretary Manager, Mr. Denis Obwot, it is illegal for government to dissolve the Oweka Executive and vowed that the new Executive will enter office after the August 15, 2016 date line issued to Mr. Okot to hand over expires.

Whatever will happen, pupils of El-Shaddai like Lubangakene, will not be affected much by fear of displacement from the Union premise as proprietors of the School is constructing a permanent home in Koro sub-county just outside Gulu town in the new Omoro district.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s