Masaka — The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has suspended one of its officers for looking on, as illegal logging takes place in forest reserves under his supervision.
Mr Denis Ssebugwawo, the NFA manager in-charge of Sango Bay Range Thursday confirmed the suspension of Mr Rogers Abigaba, the NFA supervisor of Buwunga and Kyanamukaka sub counties after his arrest on December 30 over accusations of allowing illegal logging in forest reserves in the area especially in Kachuchu and Mujjjuzi forest reserves.
According to Mr Ssebugwawo, their preliminary investigations indicate that Mr Abigaba has been colluding with the local police officials to clear truck-loads of illegal timber out of the forests.
” It is true, he has been suspended to allow thorough investigations into allegations leveled against him,” Mr Ssebugwawo said by telephone, adding that “We want to avail him enough time to compile a report [defence] as we also do our own investigations into the matter and later we shall notify the public about our findings.”
Mr Abigaba was arrested together with Ben Kigenyi and Julius Higenyi, both residents of Jinja District who had been hired to cut timber in Kachuchu Forest Reserve, Buwunga Sub County.
The trio was arrested during an operation headed by the Masaka Resident District Commissioner, Mr Herman Ssentongo and police who found them cutting trees in the forest using a hand sawmill machine.
“The NFA officer [Mr Abigaba] failed to provide convincing answers on persistent deforestation and illegal logging activities in government forest reserves. We are now planning to convene a stakeholders meeting to end such illegal activities in the area,” he said.
Mr Ssentongo has also asked Brigadier Joseph Ssemwanga, the UPDF Armored Brigade Commander at Kasijjagirwa to charge two army officers with offenses of aiding criminality and neglect of duty. He said the duo have failed to do their work of protecting the forests from destruction.
During the operation, three trucks of logs and hand sawmills were confiscated as exhibits to help in investigations of and prosecution of the suspects.
Mr Robert Tumwesige, the Kyanamukaka Sub County speaker told Daily Monitor that the destruction has been going on with the knowledge of the forestry officials he accused of conniving with timber dealers.
“Such illegal activities have been happening not only in Buwunga, but also here in Kyanamukaka. Surprisingly, NFA claims they deployed enough manpower to protect the reserves, instead they harass locals who fetch firewood from them [forest reserves],” Mr Tumwesigye said.
Over time, some of the residents and local leaders in Buwunga, Kyannamukaaka and Kyesiiga sub-counties, have been calling on government to halt the massive destruction of natural forests and wetlands especially by pineapple growers.
Recent data estimates Uganda’s current forest cover to be at 10 percent which is worrying and NFA recently revealed that the depletion level had reached 120,000 hectares up from 90,000 in the recent past.
Statistics from Masaka District forestry department indicate that the district has 34,822 hectares of gazetted forest reserves, of which 30 percent had been depleted by July 2017.
Masaka sub -region has 29 government forest reserves but five of them, including Jubia, Mujuzi, Manwa in Bukakata Sub-county, Minziro and Namalala forest reserves, both in Rakai District have been degraded.
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Publish date : 2019-01-04 13:53:41