Leaders of West Nile Cooperative Union Limited (WNCU) have asked that the government compensates them for property that the Union lost during the insurgency period between 1979 to 1986 war.
Tom Anguyo, the WNCU chairperson told thecooperator that during the tumultuous period between the overthrow of Idi Amin and later the 1981-86 war that saw the NRM come to power, the Union had its structures ruined, lost a fuel station, and several of its trucks. He said that since then, the Union has struggled to recover, and is now demanding compensation to the tune of Shs.1trillion.
Anguyo made the remarks on Friday, while addressing the State Minister of Investment and Privatization, Evelyn Anite, who was in Arua to preside over the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the leaders of WNCU and the officials of Gloveg – Agri, an agricultural extension services company at the union headquarters in Wandi trading center, Katrini sub-county, Arua district.
WNCU is the latest cooperative Union to decry delayed compensation for war losses suffered during the NRA/M bush-war. In April this year, theCooperator reported how over 10 cooperative unions were still demanding compensation accrued from the same war, amounting to over shs.162billion.
Anguyo said that WNCU had submitted its own request for compensation in 2007, but have yet to hear from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, twelve years later. He said that during that period, cooperatives from other regions like Bugisu have received their compensation, and wondered why those from West Nile had not been tended to.
Last month, the Ministry of Trade officials were summoned before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee over the same issue of delayed compensation for cooperatives. According to the Auditor General’s Report of 2017/2018, the government had allocated shs.2billion for compensations, yet no payments had so far been affected.
Responding to queries from MPs, the Ministry’s acting Permanent Secretary Grace Adong told the committee that the ministry was already processing requests for compensation from 22 cooperative unions, with 7 of those already endorsed for compensation while 17 remained under verification by the inter-ministerial verification committee. When contacted, the Ministry of Trade was reluctant to confirm whether WNCU was part of the already verified ones or those still under consideration.
But Anguyo says they’re running out of patience. “When you factor in inflation, our debt is now worth about shs.1trillion. Today, we are kindly requesting that our President hears our voice,” he pleaded to Anite.
Speaking after Anguyo, Anite said she was not aware that WNCU had a demand to be fulfilled by the government, but promised to follow it up now that it had been brought to her attention. “I believe that President Museveni is going to support this cooperative union and fulfill your compensation. Shs.1trillion is little money compared to what he has given out,” Anite said.
She applauded the cooperators for progressively heeding the President’s call to grow commercial food crops in addition to tobacco, noting that by doing so, they were insuring themselves against famine, and the dangers of over-relying on a single agricultural product. “The President has been moving in all the districts in West Nile asking you to diversify your farming. Thanks to you(WNCU), farmers are now growing commercial food crops, instead of Tobacco alone, ” Anite said.
She pledged to support the union and ensure that the government gives it tractors and trucks to boost the commercialization of food crop production.
The 30-year partnership with Agloveg-Agri is targeted to progressively shift the over 20,000 farmers affiliated to the union from the production of tobacco under the monopoly of the British American Tobacco (BAT) to growing food crops like Soya beans, sim-sim, sorghum, maize and groundnuts on a commercial scale. Under the partnership, Agloveg-Agri will be responsible for finding market both locally and internationally for the new food-crops in addition to training farmers in modern farming methods, and availing quality seeds and inputs like fertilizers to the farmers.
Joel Aita, the Managing Director of Gloveg-Agri said that based on results, they will in the near future also consider adding sunflower and chia on the list of crops to be planted by the farmers.