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Apac: Shs 40 bn Aquaculture Project stalls over land row

The construction of dams in Apac district under the Aquaculture project has stalled, and the site been abandoned by contractors as locals bicker over land compensation, theCooperator has learned.

In 2018, residents of Onekgwok and Teboke villages in Ibuje Sub County, offered 556 acres of land to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) to pave way for the implementation of the project.

However, some residents of the area later accused the district leadership of swindling money meant for their compensation and threatened to block works on-site if they did not receive it.

The land under contention measures 197 acres and is part of the total 556-acre area originally offered by residents to the government.

The Shs 44 bn project, which is financed by the government of Uganda and the European Union, is aimed at improving fish production. A local contractor, Hardscreen Logistics Ltd, was hired to design and build the aquaculture park.

But some local leaders theCooperator spoke to insist that the affected persons received Shs 4.1 bn in compensation, although they admit that Shs 1.1 bn of that money ended up in the wrong hands.

The money was allegedly deposited to two accounts; one a personal account of the area parish chairperson Constantino Okao, while the other belonged to Ogora clan community, with Rev. Nelson Okello Ocen as a signatory.

Rev. Ocen is accused of sharing the money with some individuals who are part of the account despite not owning any part of the contested land, an allegation he vehemently denies.

Residents cry foul

On Wednesday, drama ensued when angry residents stormed the site and fenced off part of the land after learning that the contractor had cleared the land to construct a store.

Catherine Tino, a resident of Teboke Village, said they are demarcating the boundary of their land until they received their compensation.

“We have been using this land for grazing our animals. When the government requested land, we accepted and they released money for our compensation, but a few embezzled it. When you ask for the money, they are so aggressive. No one is going to use this land until we are paid,” she vowed.

William Ogwang, also project affected person, said the land is customary, and so the compensation should be shared equitably.

“This is our land and it was said that the surrounding community would share the compensation package but I did not receive any money, yet part of my grandparents’ land is here.”  

Leaders respond

Joyce Ikwaput Nyeko, the Acting Commissioner of Aquaculture Management, and Development dismissed reports of delayed land compensation.

 “We may have made mistakes in the past but I want to assure you that we are going to get it correct this time, and all relevant stakeholders will play their role,” she said in a telephone interview.

The Apac Resident District Commissioner, Emmy Ngabirano, called for calm, saying that the issue of compensation is being handled.

“A committee of 14 members was formed to handle that issue and last week we held a meeting with them and we agreed that they give that committee two weeks to settle the issue,” he said, warning the complainants against sabotaging the government program.

The five-year project, which is expected to promote environmentally sustainable commercial aquaculture, is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries.

The Project Coordinator, Paul Omanyi, said the project will be implemented in phases, adding that under the first phase, 81 fish ponds, ice plants, and hatcheries will be constructed.

“One fish pond will be one acre in the area- about the size of a football pitch- and others will cover 0.2 acres each. The project will create more than 2,000 jobs for both skilled and unskilled youth, and for Cooperatives,” he said.

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