Kampala — A row has erupted between the State minister for Agriculture, Mr Christopher Kibanzanga, and the Inspectorate General of Government (IGG) over fishing nets the minister ordered destroyed last July.
Sources privy to the matter told Daily Monitor that Mr Kibanzanga, who has been at the forefront of the fight against illegal fishing nets, directed a team of officials from the Directorate of Fisheries Resources to burn one ton of illegal fishing nets.
Sources said the alleged illegal fishing nets, which belonged to Uganda Fishnet Manufactures Ltd, were being used at one of the landing sites in Entebbe on Lake Victoria.
However, the Uganda Fishnet Manufacturers Ltd, the owners of the destroyed fishing nets, petitioned the IGG seeking an inquiry into the minister's directive.
On March 6, the IGG wrote to the minister, accusing him of carrying out an irregular destruction of fish nets that were seized. They demanded to record his statement to help in the investigations.
"... the purpose of this letter therefore, is to introduce to you Mr Fredrick Oketch as an Inspectorate Officer, who has been authorised to investigate this matter," reads in part the letter signed by Ms Olivia Nabatanzi Sempa, one of the officials from the IGG's office.
But the Minister reportedly defied the IGG on grounds that the destruction of the fishing nets was conducted in tandem with the law, arguing that the complainant should go to court instead of running to the IGG.
The deputy IGG, Ms Mariam Wangadya, later summoned Mr Kibanzanga on April 5 to record a statement on his role in destroying the alleged fishing nets. But sources said the meeting ended prematurely after the minister refused to record a statement, seeking to first study the case file.
When Daily Monitor contacted Mr Kibanzanga, he confirmed the Monday meeting with the IGG but said he couldn't record a statement yet his team had a valid court order which precipitated the destruction of the nets. "...The fishing industry is full of mafias who are now running to the IGG, thinking that I can be intimidated to leave them carry out fishing using illegal nets. Even if I go to prison, I will still advocate better fishing methods," he said.
The minister warned investors against using illegal fishing gear, adding that they risk losing their businesses. But he noted that government is ready to support those who are ready to carry out fishing in line with the law.
In a telephone interview, the IGG spokesperson, Ms Munira Ali, acknowledged that investigations are ongoing to get to the bottom of the matter. "There are many circumstances surrounding that issue but we shall get to the bottom to establish what exactly happened. However, the Minister has not been co-operative with us yet we just want to record his statement," she said.
Asked why the complainants chose to run to the IGG but not the court, Ms Munira said that everybody has a right to run to them as long as they have complaints against any public servant.
Mr Paul Lateza Mukanga, one of the officials at Uganda Fishnet Manufacturers Ltd, confirmed their petition to the IGG but said they were not ready to delve into details of the matter.