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Mr Stephen Sserubula, the Lugazi Municipality MP, said the resultant outcomes from the alleged discriminatory issuance of licences will be low revenue collections and poverty for locals.
The Agriculture minister, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, has ordered the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Maj Gen David Kasura Kyomukama, to investigate the alleged discriminatory issuance of artisanal fishing licences in the country.
His orders followed the allegations from Members of Parliament on Monday during a media briefing in Kampala, that government has sidelined the citizens in the lucrative business by only giving fishing and fish processing licences to non-Ugandans.
“The licencing process was made public at a press conference by my colleague, Ms Hellen Adoa, [the State minister for Fisheries]. We shall investigate the claims, know who is for what interests, and brief the country,” Mr Tumwebaze stated in a tweet on Tuesday.
In an interview with Daily Monitor on Tuesday, Mr Charles Tebandeke, the Bbaale County MP, said the move by the minister will not fully address the issues affecting Ugandans in the fisheries sector.
“We have the copies of the licences of foreign investors. More than 20 have been issued with processing licences and for local traders who applied for licences even before them, none of them has got any yet each of them paid the required Shs500,000 for the licence,” he said.
“Our demand is that government should issue licences to our local traders. It is not about investigations. He [Mr Tumwebaze] would have convened a meeting with the stakeholders if he wanted more clarity,” he added.
Mr Tebandeke said the local traders applied for artisanal fish maw processing licences and also artisanal fish processing licences which are prescribed under the Fish Act.
“They have all been denied the licences and now enforcement [Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) personnel] arrests them on the waters, on the way, in their market facilities and all over,” the legislator said.
He added: “Besides deployment of UPDF, the Ministry has also deployed other civilians with documents permitting them to arrest those accused of illegalities, calling them regional coordinators, a title that is not prescribed in the Fish Act. These people they employed are not paid, so they are robbing local fishermen.”
Mr Stephen Sserubula, the Lugazi Municipality MP, said the resultant outcomes from the alleged discriminatory issuance of licences will be low revenue collections and poverty for locals
“Government is putting everything in the hands of foreigners; now even fishing is being given to foreigners. Don’t Ugandans have a right to engage in any business that can give them money? Foreigners that are here are repatriating the profits. So we are calling upon the government to give leeway to Ugandans to engage in businesses that can help them to better their incomes,” Mr Sserubula said.
Statistics from the government indicate that fish exports and value have declined in the past years due to Covid-19 restrictions on movement and other fish resources.
Data from the central bank indicate that during the period between June 2020 and July 2021, at least 15,149 tonnes of fish worth $118.6m (Shs444b) were exported compared to 23,141 tonnes worth $146m (Shs547b) that were exported in similar period during the previous year.