The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has left approximately 7,000 bags of impounded charcoal to deteriorate because of difficulties in securing an auctioning firm. The NFA manager of Aswa River Range, Mr. George Giribo, explained that procurement irregularities and delays have hindered the auctioning process.
In July, the Gulu Chief Magistrate’s Court dealt with eight suspects charged with illegal removal and transportation of forest produce (charcoal), offenses that contravene sections 12(1)(a) and section 34 (1) & (2) of the National Forestry and The Planting Act 2003. These suspects also faced charges for disobeying the Presidential Order regarding illegal charcoal trading.
The court learned that on June 27, 2022, the suspects were intercepted at the Akurukwe traffic checkpoint in Amuru District with forest produce that they had allegedly harvested from Apaa in Itirikwa Sub-county, Adjumani District.
The NFA had impounded the bags of charcoal, arrested the individuals involved, and obtained a court order for the charcoal’s offloading and subsequent auction. However, the lengthy procurement process for auctioning services, which includes advertising for potential auctioneers, caused significant delays in disposing of the impounded charcoal.
To address this issue, the NFA is in the process of engaging the services of Intrepid Recovery Associates Ltd as the auctioneer to facilitate the disposal of the charcoal. These bags of charcoal need to be repackaged due to the deterioration of the existing bags, which has led to a decrease in their value.
Mr. Giribo expressed concerns about the limited funding available, which has hindered their efforts to enforce the Executive Order on charcoal business in the region. He cited receiving only 400 liters of fuel, making it challenging to conduct operations across Lango and Acholi for an entire month.
Since the implementation of the Executive Order banning commercial charcoal trade in May, more than 50 suspects have been arrested and charged in connection to illegal charcoal trade in the districts of Amuru and Gulu. The ban applies to regions including Karamoja, Teso, Lango, Acholi, and West Nile, where security forces, including UPDF commanders, have faced accusations of aiding environmental destruction by cooperating with charcoal harvesters and transporters.
Recently, Ms. Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny, the State Minister for Northern Uganda, expressed frustration over the delayed auctioning of impounded charcoal, emphasizing the need for a more prompt process following court rulings.