Authorities move to crackdown on juvenile fuel smugglers in West Nile

Juveniles are seen trading smuggled fuel by the roadside in Kokobo Municipality in 2022. PHOTO/RASHUL ADIDI

What you need to know:

  • Uganda loses an estimated Shs3 billion daily in illegal fuel dealings, according to URA.

Authorities in West Nile have raised a red flag over the persistent illegal sale of smuggled fuel on roadsides by teenagers, saying it is a recipe for disaster. 

They say the highly inflammable good, once exposed to fire will cause death and burning of property worth millions of shillings especially in Arua City and Koboko Town that are congested with thriving businesses. 

Speaking at the weekend in Arua, area Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Alice Akello said: "We need to look for solutions and drive away these children off the streets.This is an illegal business that cannot be allowed."

Similarly, Arua City Mayor Sam Nyakua asked every fuel dealer to vacate the streets to avoid the harsh arm of law enforcement. 

"We cannot develop the city when there is serious smuggling taking place like this. Many of these children are school age going. So they should concentrate on education and not business," he noted. 

On the streets of Arua City and Koboko Town, it is common to see juveniles selling fuel on the roadsides. Some of them sell the fuel at congested market places like Awindiri market in Arua City and near storied buildings in the City Center. 

In fact, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has for over a decade battled with smuggling where the country loses an estimated Shs3 billion daily in illegal fuel dealings across Uganda, according to URA custom officer.

"We are supposed to collect Shs15 billion from all forms of fuel daily. But we only manage to collect taxes of Shs12 billion. Yet these are monies that are supposed to be used for development of this country," URA's Customs Commissioner Abel Kagumire disclosed. 

Awindiri Ward resident George Amaku described fuel smuggling as “a dangerous business especially where vehicles park and market areas.”

In September 2021, 13 year-old, Kassim Ajo, was burnt to death as he tried to rescue smuggled fuel in his burning grass-thatched house in Koboko Municipality.

Asked to comment on such developments, URA’s Kagumire said the tax body “would not be brutal in collecting taxes as it led to some deaths of smugglers and innocent civilians across West Nile Sub- region.” 

"Some civilians were killed due to stray bullets from our officers. Others were killed, but we do not want to continue with such because taxes should be paid willingly by people," he said. 

Industry experts say fuel smuggling has remained a lucrative venture in the area because dealers sell fuel cheaply as compared to major licensed filling stations in West Nile. 
 

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