Amuru elderly couple loses Shs 1.6m savings to termites

Monday August 02 2021

Bicentina Alal, 75, displays the damaged money notes

By U R N

An elderly couple in Amuru District is stuck with more than Shs 1.6 million in notes damaged by termites. 

Bicentina Alal, 75, and her 80-year-old husband Tito Okema, have been saving the money in a metallic case for over three years.
The couple who live with their six grandchildren in Kali-Kali village in Layima sub-county opened their savings box in June only to discover that the paper notes had been destroyed by termites.  
The damaged notes are in the denominations of Shs 20,000 (35), Shs 50,000 (10), Shs 10,000 (36) and Shs 5,000. Some of the notes are damaged beyond recognition. Ms Alal said that they have been saving their proceeds from the sale of papyrus mats, dried cassava chips, crops, mingling sticks, poultry and domestic animals. She said they would pick a part of the money once in a while for their medication or supporting their children.  
She explained that the money was in good shape until last month when they saw the metallic case covered with mud.   According to Alal, they were astonished when they opened the metallic box that was hidden under their wooden bed only to discover that the money had been eaten by termites.
Her husband, Okema, told this reporter that left without any other option, they gathered the damaged notes and are now keeping them in another metallic bowl with the hope that someone may come to their rescue.

Mr Okema explained that they neither have bank accounts, sim cards nor even subscribe to the village Saccos where they can safely keep their savings. Asked why they don't own any savings account or subscribe to any group, the couple said that they do not trust anyone with their money. 

"It was about one million shillings plus, the money was to help me with sickness and for the children. I cannot now do anything because the money is already spoiled. If it can be changed, I want to be assisted if it can be. Me, I don't have any other work, I am a farmer ever since childhood,’’ Mr Okema said.  

Their son, Mr Cosmas Apuke, was equally astonished when his parents disclosed and showed URN the damaged notes. He noted that he is yet to find out from the Bank of Uganda whether they can replace the damaged notes, whose serial numbers can be retrieved from their archives.
“We tried to reach them with advice to approach our Gulu Branch for replacement of the banknotes. We’re aware they have no phone number and we’re waiting on a good samaritan to link them, upon which they will be helped,” tweeted Bank of Uganda's director currency, Ms Christine Alupo.