BY POLYCAP KALOKWERA
AMURU. As plans to compensate locals for their land to set up Madhvani Sugar Factory in Amuru district is under way; a section of land owners are accusing the leadership in the district of delayed payment.
Madhvani Group of Companies halted its quest for land since 2007, following the protest by the land owners who accused Madhvani Group of Companies and government of having plans to grab 40,000 hectares of land belonging to them without their knowledge.
However, last year land belonging to a total of 174 owners were surveyed in the areas of Bombay, Akado, Barolam, Kololo, Lujoro, Ndir, Oforo, Orego Payot and Tetugu all in Amuru sub-county covering 10,000 hectares and compensation of the land owners is in its final stages.
The forceful land survey was spearhead by Minister of Land Housing and Urban Development Ms Betty Amongi.
Northern Era understands that the government has earmarked Shs 19 billion to compensate the land owners whose land was surveyed, but confusion among the locals and politicians is likely to delay the release of funds.
Early this week, a section of land owners in Kololo Lujoro village under their umbrella, Amuru Sugar Works Project Area Land Owners Association, held a meeting in which they accused the district political leaders of delaying government’s move to compensate them.
Association chairperson Mr Patrick Okumu, said despite a section of locals who have agreed to be compensated, some leaders in the district are blocking the process due to their selfish interest.
He accused Mr Anthony Akol, Kilak North Member of Parliament, and Mr Michael Lakony, Amuru district chairperson as people purportedly delaying government from compensating land owners.
He alleged that Mr Lakony wrote a letter to the Minister of land and Urban Development on April 3nd this year objecting the compensation of the people of Lujoro (Kololo), unless he [Mr Lakony] and his counterpart Mr Akol are paid first.
The alleged letter seen by our reporter reads in parts, “I have my land within that place and no one is talking about it, now the majority of people of Bombay are within my area, it’s about 40 people in my area and Mr Akol. Therefore their money [land owners money] must be given to us,”
But Mr Okumu said he owns 237 acres of land in Bombay where the two leaders are claiming ownership arguing that they are just fabricating documents to justify ownership.
The Lujoro Local One Chairperson Mr James Lanek Opiyo, said he has 97 acres of land in the project affected area that has been surveyed adding ever since the survey, he hasn’t received any compensation and his dreams seem stale.
“Am disappointed in Mr Akol and Mr Lakony for objecting the government from compensating us yet we have given our land willingly. As far as am concerned, the two leaders don’t have any land here; they were always here telling us to undress. I promise we shall undress in their office if we are not paid,” Mr Lanek said
However ,Mr Lakony dismissed the allegation as baseless saying the letter circulating were fabricated by the executives of the land owners association to blackmail them.
He said a copy of his earlier letter sent to the Ministry of Lands housing and urban development dated April 3nd this year was received on April 4th but his accusers who also obtained the same letter edited the letter and are now spreading it to the public.
“We are not against compensation of land owners but rather calling for verification, validation and auditing of the survey process by the selected representatives of the political, religious, and cultural leaders before effecting the payment. We want the authentic land owners to be paid not fake claimants,” Mr Lakony said
He added “Am wisely consulting on my next course of action about these “fraudsters and mafias”. Mr Okumu and his colleagues must provide the source of their fabricated letter,”
Mr Lakony said he is helping to avoid financial mismanagement of government fund on unauthentic claimants for a durable sustainability of the project.
Mr Akol on the other hand said the allegations against them are stage managed with intentions of ruining their reputation and the smooth process of compensation.
“The process of the survey was marred with numerous irregularities that included a number of fake land claimants, seemingly fraudulent actions by persons reported as security operatives and crime preventers,” he said
He added that “we are being targeted both by planned state operatives and unauthentic land claimants who want to use this opportunity to get rich quick, but we shall stand our ground and fight for the innocent authentic land owners,”
Mr Akol said “we are aware money is exchanging hands at all levels to frustrate the smooth process of compensation even when the matter is still in court pending hearing on May 24th of this month,”