Arua | Joel Leku, the Terego West County Member of Parliament (MP) has asked the government to consider paying West Nile and Bunyoro tobacco farmers at the same time.
Leku’s appeal follows the government’s decision to release funds for Bunyoro farmers, leaving out those in West Nile who have equally not been paid by Continental Tobacco Company.
At least 1, 500 tobacco farmers affiliated to West Nile Cooperative Union Limited are demanding for UGX9.7billion worth of tobacco leaves they sold to the Company in 2018.
After years of waiting, the farmers on Monday protested against the Continental Tobacco Company’s decision to sit on their money.
But in a telephone interview with this reporter on Tuesday, Leku said they have so far tabled the matter on the floor of Parliament three times.
“It is true the government had planned to pay Bunyoro tobacco farmers alone. We brought this issue to a number of stakeholders; to the government, even in Kyankwanzi, we presented it to the President and in Parliament, this issue has at least been tabled on the floor for three times,” Leku said.
As a result, he said the Deputy Speaker of Parliament directed them (MPs from West Nile region) to meet the Minister for Trade and discuss how to expedite the process of paying the farmers in the region.
“The budget has only been for paying Bunyoro tobacco farmers this financial year 2020/2021. West Nile farmers and any other farmer in Uganda under the same company are being left out. We strongly believe as Members of Parliament hailing from West Nile that our tobacco farmers must be considered and they must be paid at the same time with the Bunyoro farmers,” Leku recommended.
Leku argued that when Continental Tobacco Company came to Uganda, it was given one operational license to conduct business in the country and thus they are not supposed to isolate some farmers based on their region.
Besides, the MP said they have already submitted documents to the Attorney General’s Office and the Minister of Trade demanding UGX11billion for paying the aggrieved farmers.
He urged the tobacco farmers in West Nile to remain calm, adding that the facts about their delayed pay are already with the government.
While addressing the farmers during their protest on Monday, Peter Waigera, the Continental Tobacco Company Area Manager for West Nile region apologized for the delay in remitting their pay and said the delay was as a result of no business.
He, however, promised that the company is trying to get some money and see whether all the farmers can be cleared very soon.