Adjumani Police, NFA officials on spot for releasing Zoka forest illegal loggers

 

By Andrew Cohen Amvesi       

ADJUMANI. The National Forestry Authority (NFA) officials and the police in Adjumani have been blamed for releasing four loggers who were on Monday arrested while plundering Zoka Forest reserve.

The suspects were arrested by NFA officials with the help of vigilantes on hearing the sound of the machines they were using in the forest.

The suspects are residents of Kamuli, Gulu, Kiboga and the other is a resident of Apaa. In the process of their arrest, machines and the timbers found in their possession were also impounded by the NFA officials and brought to the neighboring Ajeri police post where the suspects were detained.

However, the public was later shocked on Wednesday when reports emerged that police released the suspects the previous day on the orders of the same NFA officials who arrested them.

This is after William Gabriel Isadru, the councilor representing Itirikwa sub-county to Adjumani district local government released an audio in which he was bitter at a police officer who released the suspects.

The officer, in his submission, confirmed that he was ordered by the NFA bosses to have the suspects released before being produced in court.

However, Zema Okuni, the NFA supervisor for Zoka central forest reserve denied the allegations, saying he can’t arrest suspects, bring them to police and at the same time release them himself.

“I also don’t know how those people were released. The only people we allowed to go back were the relatives of the culprits who had come to see them. For us we go by the law, what we got from the forest is what we take to court. I also need to find out whether the main suspects were released or not,” Okuni said.

“I have seen a lot of things on social media which are not right. I can’t release anybody, I can’t arrest somebody from the forest and bring him up to the police and at the same time release the person,” Okuni stressed.

Meanwhile, Simon Peter Kidega, the NFA Manager Moyo sector confirmed the arrest of the suspects but refused to comment about their alleged release and referred this reporter to his bosses for more details.

“Yeah, we did an operation and arrested some people from Zoka forest and we took them to Ajeri police post. Their tools were also confiscated and brought to the same police post. That is the information which I have now. It is true the tools were recovered and the people are detained at Ajeri police post for further management,” Kidega said.

“I have given you my time and briefing on what has happened, but for more information and details, you can reach the PRO of NFA,” Kidega added.

However, efforts to get comments from police yielded no tangible fruit as Adjumani DPC, Benon Byamukama couldn’t answer our calls. Similarly, Josephine Angucia, the West Nile police spokesperson couldn’t respond to our message on the same matter.

When contacted on phone, Peter Data Taban, the Adjumani RDC couldn’t speak to this reporter on grounds that he was attending a funeral and later, the RDC said he was in a meeting.

But William Amanzuru, the team leader Friends of Zoka said: “What happened is that there were suspects arrested on Monday in Zoka central forest reserve. They had cut timbers and logs worth millions of shillings but then to our dismay when the suspects were taken to police, we were told by the OC Ajeri police post that he got instructions from Zoka central forest supervisor to release the suspects.”

“Now as a community and activists, what we don’t know is why NFA officials could connive with police to release such suspects caught with power saws and with timbers and logs they have been destroying in the center of Zoka forest. I think this raises a lot of questions,” Amanzuru observed.

He alleged that this is how the system has been playing around with loggers who are all out there to plunder Zoka central forest reserve.

Ends

 

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