BY ANDREW COHEN AMVESI
ARUA. The hotel owners in Arua Central Division of Arua City have cried out to authorities for better services.
Speaking during a meeting with the Central Division leadership at the Division offices on Wednesday, the hotel owners said services such as water, street lights and the road network to their hotels are not good and as a result, they are losing out on customers.
Ivan Bongo, the manager of Desert Breeze hotel who represented Michael Oluma, the owner of the hotel said the power blackout in town always affects their business.
“In town there is always no power, then being that it is now a dry season, there is no water which is a problem also. The roads leading to our hotels are in a bad state and so many hotels have also been locked because of local taxes. Aware that people are yet recovering from Covid, there is no business. You can find that most of the hotels stay for a week or two without customers and this is a big challenge to us,” Bongo noted.
He, however, said for the Division, they expect to be paid taxes, a reason the meeting was convened to try to address such problems and forge a way forward.
During the meeting, Jackson Atima Lee Buti, the Arua Central Division MP acknowledged the challenges the hotel owners are facing but still encouraged them to be tax compliant.
“I want to urge the hotel owners to support the Division in terms of paying taxes. It is through paying taxes that certain amenities can be put in place. The challenges you are facing can be addressed nationally or locally when you pay taxes and I would want you to be tax compliant including me and it is by the Constitution that we pay taxes to develop our country,” Atima said.
“But Town Clerk (TC) and Your Worship the Mayor, you need to support these people. I’m a hotelier and I’m now 12 years old in this hotel business, and I know the challenges they go through. They were talking about when you feed your cow well, it will give you good milk and if you don’t feed your cow well, you have nowhere to milk, so you need to support the hotel owners in so many aspects,” Atima added.
He said visitors who come to Arua City and West Nile are first received by the hotel owners before they even go to different places.
“These hotels are the face of the city but most of them go through a lot of challenges and some of the challenges are what they have raised here especially poor street lighting which is not their issue but a major issue we are fighting at the national level. So, we are fighting for connectivity to the national grid which will address the challenge of blackspots where customers are robbed, phones are picked, people are threatened and they end up not going to those hotels,” Atima remarked.
Atima appealed to the Division technical leadership to ensure that there are street lights on the roads that lead to hotels in the Division as they wait for the bulk power connectivity by the government of Uganda.
“The taxes these people pay, why don’t you ensure that street lights are on? Actually, two weeks ago, Arua City was completely dark but when people heard that the President was coming, when I came back from Kampala, I found when all the streets are lit and when the President goes back, they will go off. What are we doing TC? This is bad, it is unfair. You are lighting the streets because the President is coming but the moment he goes back, I don’t know whether you remove those solar panels, you remove the batteries, what do you people do, I think this must stop!” Atima warned.
On the issues of bad roads, Atima said the government continues to inject money for road maintenance in Arua city which money is not reflecting on ground.
“As I talk now, we have shs500m lying idle. This is the money that should have been used to maintain these roads that go to hotels but TC, you have a lot to do. I’m just putting this to you, I know you are new, but know that some of your predecessors didn’t do certain things. This is money for this financial year, but the money which was sent for road maintenance in the previous quarter is almost shs800m and we don’t know where it went,” Atima wondered.
Despite the challenges, the MP urged Malik Drakuma, the new Arua Central Division Town Clerk to try his best to fight corruption in his docket and ensure that there is a uniform system in place to assess hotel businesses besides putting on a human face when it comes to tax collection.
In his remarks, Drakuma commended the MP for the guidance and said he has been successful in the Local Government for the last 20 years by working with people regardless of their status, a principle he vowed to continue chasing.
“I will also support you Hon. MP Atima because it is all about how we are going to transform our city, how are we going to make our city better than talking about Gulu. To me that is it, so I have pledged my total support to work with you and everyone,” Drakuma said.