Traders, leaders decry URA killings in West Nile
By Andrew Cohen Amvesi
ARUA. The business community and local leaders in West Nile have decried the rate at which Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) enforcement officers are killing people in the region.
This follows the loss of two lives in a period of four days in Koboko and Arua city due to the tax collectors’ action.
Over the weekend, URA enforcers allegedly shot and killed a suspected smuggler along the Uganda – DR Congo border in Koboko district.
The deceased was identified as Jackson Amori, 24, a resident of Ponura Parish, Lobule sub-county in Koboko district.
The situation worsened on Tuesday evening when a 70-year-old woman who had just withdrawn her Parish Development Model (PDM) money from the bank was killed in an accident involving URA vehicles.
Margaret Ondiria, a resident of Ayuu village, Offaka sub-county in Madi Okollo died on spot during the accident which occurred at about 4:50pm along Arua-Nebbi Road next to Rhema hospital on Tuesday.
Two other people aboard the same motorcycle number UFP 940T sustained serious fractures and are now receiving treatment at Arua regional referral hospital.
The two were identified as Patrick Bulea and Beatrice Candiru, the only biological children of the deceased.
Silivio Wama, the husband of the deceased said the children had accompanied their mother to receive her PDM money from the bank in Arua and they were on their way back home at the time of the incident.
The matter forced Ham Muzamil Ezama, the Deputy Arua Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Central Division to summon a meeting in his office on Wednesday morning.
During the meeting, the leadership of the business community and local leaders decried the manner in which URA officials are killing people in the West Nile region.
“Some of us are totally traumatized. In the last three years, this is going to be the sixth body we are burying after being killed by URA. We had agreed in Koboko on the way forward, there was a road map which has been abused by URA. When we talk about the management of human life, it is beyond money, we have seen money and we have left it. Why do you kill us because of this little money here, it is you (the government) who is killing us,” Moses Obeta, the chairperson of Arua business community said.
“You don’t see our value, one day you will kill all of us. It is not far from now, one day you will kill all of us. URA, you know you are here because of the human beings who are doing business, who are making money that you must get tax out of. If you don’t see the value of the little tax that we pay, you will see it one day when you kill all of us and nobody will be there to bury us but you,” Obeta warned.
Dr. Ronald Debo, the Arua city chamber of commerce chairperson noted that the business community is under attack and that the attack is from URA.
“You know, when you see us, the business community, we pay tax, all of us are paying tax directly and indirectly. This motorcycle rider who has fractured a tumor is lying down, today he is not working, his bike is parked outside and that means he is not fueling. If he was fueling from the petrol stations, he is already paying tax. So, URA should see that tax is not all about number plates, we are paying tax every day,” Debo stated.
Debo said as traders, they don’t refuse to pay tax but URA should make it simple and easy for people.
He said the issue of motorcycle tax in West Nile is so high and prohibitive, adding that the method of paying it is also difficult.
Debo urged URA to come up with ways of collecting taxes from people without using uniformed people.
“You can use your intelligence. Time them when they have parked, go and pick the motorcycles. You have ever done it, they will follow you up to pay the money. All road users are now at risk. This woman who has died was not a Boda Boda person, she was not smuggling but she has died. So, we are all at risk,” Debo said.
However, Jackson Atima Lee Buti, the Arua Central Division MP said he doesn’t want people to put the institution of URA into disrepute because this has ever happened.
“The last time a victim was shot in Arivu using a PK Machine gun, we had a meeting in URA office but the Colonel who came that time in the meeting was arrogant, defending URA and we almost walked out of the meeting and you would imagine the aftermath of us leaders walking away from such a meeting. So, we don’t expect arrogance from any URA official in handling matters where we have lost the lives of innocent people,” Atima said.
He further warned that one person’s act should not be defended to cover the entire institution.
In his remarks, Deogratius Kaleebi, the URA regional supervisor customs West Nile gave an account of the accident and said it was an unfortunate incident which police are now investigating.
As part of the resolutions, Ezama temporarily suspended the routine field operations of the URA enforcement team in the city and its surrounding areas until a bigger meeting with the URA Commissioner General is held this coming on Saturday.
After a two-day battle over burial expenses, URA later on Thursday released shs10m to the family of the deceased to help in her sendoff.