Rehabilitation works at Agoro irrigation scheme worry farmers

LAMWO – The slow pace at which the rehabilitation works at Agoro Irrigation Scheme is moving is worrying farmers.

They argue that as the dry season sets in next month, many are likely to be affected since the water at the scheme will not be reaching their farmlands.

Farmers within Agoro Irrigation Scheme, under Agoro Self-help Irrigation Cooperative Society Limited, in Agoro sub-county, Lamwo district total about 600.

They grow crops like sorghum, millet, rice and vegetables, mostly for commercial purpose.

In 2013, Ministry of Water and Environment injected Shs 27 billion into the rehabilitation of Agoro irrigation scheme in its bid to boost farming productivity among the community.

However, due to shoddy work, the facility has not helped members of the cooperative to realize their expectations.

In August this year, the Ministry of Water and Environment reached out to a contractor to carry out rehabilitation works to the tune of Shs 1.7 billion and it is expected to be finished by April next year.

However, the works have not been to expectations, looking at its slow pace.

Farmers argue that they are at cross- roads, as the canals at the scheme are too deep thereby failing the water to reach their farmlands.

The irrigation scheme has three sections; the water collection point, where water is pumped to the dam before it reaches the drainage where the water is channeled through the canals before it reaches the gardens.

However, the farmers argue that the dam is not appropriate to the drainage, something that makes it difficult for the water to reach the canals that supply water to the gardens.

The LC III Chairperson, Agoro sub-county Denis Onyon, argues that the Ministry of Water was duped when it got a contractor who also subcontracted another company that has failed to do the works to its expectations.

“Imagine from August 10th, this year, to date, it’s 2% of work done. It will soon be dry season, but we have nothing in place.”

The farmers have reached out to us leaders, but we cannot help much since several meetings called to meet the contractor have not yielded any positive result.

Allan Ocaya, Chairperson of the cooperative, tasked Ministry of Water officials to task the contractor to speed up with the works otherwise farmers are losing hope.

“If you are to look at the works on the ground and the part payment of Shs 300 million given to the contractor, the work is too small,” he said.

Ms Brenda Okao, Communications Officer, Northern region in Ministry of Water and Environment acknowledged that the rehabilitation works are moving at a slow pace.

“The contractor is on the ground working but he needs to be pushed and that is what we are doing as the ministry,” he said.

One of the farmers at the scheme, Joyce Lakaraber, who deals in cabbage growing said, the Ministry of Water should consider sourcing contractors within the district for effective supervision.

“If the contractor is from within, we can put them to task for speedy works,” she said.

Many of the members are considering pulling out, yet they feel working under a cooperative has been key in improving their livelihood at household level.

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Prime Minister Nabanja accuses Minister Onek of indiscipline.

KAMPALA – The Prime Minister Robinah Nabanja has accused the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hillary Onek of indiscipline.

This was after Minister Hillary Onek wrote a letter trending on social media and copied the president accusing her of usurping his roles and that of his deputy as Ministers of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees.

“I have not seen the letter but if the minister decided to write to me that is different. It is indiscipline because his office is next to my office so if he felt something bad was going on he would have come to my office and we harmonize,” says Nabbanja.

“You want to tell me that people should steal money when you are seated and I fail to come in. Fellow Ugandans things have changed, so I ask my fellow ministers to come and we walk together because we have little time. We are not going to blow off,” she added.

This all started after assuming her office, the Prime Minister immediately started visiting disaster affected areas such as the Kasese floods where she delivered several relief items such as blankets, meals and soap.

In a letter circulating on social media dated October 29, 2021, signed by Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hilary Onek complained about Nabbanja’s conduct of not involving his office while executing duties related to his docket.

“From the time of your appointment, I have been observing with total displeasure the fact that my role and that of my deputy as the ministers in charge of refugees and disaster and the lead policy makers on matters of refugee and disaster management have been totally usurped by your office,” the letter reads in part.

Onek also adds that the Prime Minister has been side-lining the top officials and only considering his juniors while visiting refugee camps.

“You have been calling for meetings, going to disaster affected places and visiting refugee settlements without informing either my office or that of my deputy. To my shock, my staff who I supervise are the ones being called for a meeting with the local leadership of Bududa without involving my office or even the area Members of Parliament, which may lead to decisions being made that contradicts earlier and official cabinet position

Hon Onek adds that using such approaches will duplicate his efforts in the office of disaster and preparedness.

The letter also compels the Prime Minister to restrain herself from using excessive force while pinning corrupt leaders holding government positions without making further investigations.

“You have also purged the department of disaster management, taken over the distribution of relief items and causing interdiction of staff members without proper investigation. The interdicted staff were accused of causing a financial loss without conducting a forensic audit by involving office of the auditor general,” reads in part.

“On 5th October 2021, you wrote to my office halting the settlement of refugees in Kyangwali over land ownership, this decision was arrived at without involving either me or my deputy or any technical staff from the department of refugees” the letter further reads.

Onek further advised Nabbanja that her constitutional powers stop at coordinating legislative agenda, leading government business in parliament and monitoring all ministries and government programs but not involving in micro management of other ministries.

“If you decide to micromanage other ministries, what then is the role of the senior ministers who are supposed to plan, make policies and deliver on the manifestoes of H.E the president,” Onek asked in a letter.

The letter was copied to President Y.K Tubuhaburwa Museveni, Speaker of Parliament, Deputy speaker of parliament and to the PPS to H.E the President.

Onek further threatened to withdraw from the ministry responsible for disasters and preparedness should the prime minister continue working in isolation.

“If you have decided to carry on working like this and rendering my docket irrelevant, kindly put it in writing to H.E the president who is the appointing authority and I will relieve myself on my responsibilities and allow you carry on with your duties, “reads the letter.

In a media briefing on Tuesday, prime minister Nabbanja vowed not to withdraw her operational methods but insisted to keep working with only government officials willing to change the face of Uganda in terms of service delivery.

Most legislators supported Nabbanja’s way of doing government works claiming that it will awaken ministers who have been sleeping on government positions for long.

Others claimed that Nabbanja’s business of doing things will undermine powers of her junior ministers in government.

“Nabbanja wants to show off to the president that she is hardworking but in turn she is undermining her junior ministers,” says MP Paul Semakula Rutamaguza representing Nakaseke South.

Our correspondent tried to reach Minister Onek to respond to this accusation but his renowned phone numbers were off.

Robinah Nabbanja was appointed as Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business in Parliament in June 2021 replacing Rt Hon. Dr Ruhakana Rugunda.

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No cabinet position yet on bail – Attorney General

KAMPALA – The Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka has said cabinet is yet to adopt a position on the issue of scrapping bail on certain cases as advocated for by the President.

Mr. Kiryowa Kiwanuka, while attending an engagement meeting between the Government Chief Whip and the media at Parliament put it clear that cabinet has not taken any position yet on the issue of bail.

Kiryowa’s reaction follows multiple media reports that a position had already been taken, and soon it will be an issue on the floor of Parliament.

The Attorney General said, the issue was brought in cabinet, and discussions are still on-going before a position is adopted.

“It is an issue in cabinet, and discussions are still on going. You will all know once a position is adopted,” he told the media.

Kiryowa Kiwanuka also called on the media to always invest in research while on duty to have informed positions.

President Museveni has revived the bail debate with intent to have it scraped off on certain of crimes.

Politicians and other political observers have remarked that the move is intended to target political dissent and clamping on politicians.

In his opinion, President Museveni thinks capital offenders should be denied bail, or the constitutional pre-trial release until after at least six months on remand.

The Constitution Article 23, Clause 6 grants offenders a right to pre-trial release with a basis in Article 28 of the same constitution which states that an accused person is innocent until proved or pleads guilty.

Cabinet is set to introduce a range of reforms, among them amendments to the Constitution and the Police Act, to tighten the hands of judicial officers in exercising the discretion to grant or deny bail.

The Attorney General calls for calmness as work on the proposed reforms proceed.

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