Iganga — Iganga Municipality residents have expressed concern over the neglect of a Shs270m market that was commissioned nine years ago.
Mutukula market, which is potentially the second biggest in the municipality, was in 2009 constructed in Northern Division as a fish market with funding from Ministry of Agriculture.
The fully equipped market, which sits on one-and-a-half acres, boasts of refrigerators and a Shs10m waterborne toilet donated by Water for Kids, a United States based non governmental organisation.
When Daily Monitor visited the area last Thursday, cattle were grazing on the abandoned piece of land.
According to residents of Mutukula Village, upon its completion, officials in Iganga Northern Division allowed more than 500 traders to erect stalls and start operations but after a week, they closed it.
Ms Jannat Mutesi, a resident, told Daily Monitor last week that traders worked for about a week before officials from Iganga Municipal Council stormed the place and closed the market, accusing them of operating illegally.
"Traders had opened makeshift stalls and customers had started coming but officials from the municipal council chased them away," she said.
Ms Mutesi said despite getting clearance from authorities in Northern Division, law enforcement officers told traders that it was the Municipal Council that yielded authority over the market.
Mr Nathan Mbago, who operated a stall, said the market was closed because of a row between Iganga Municipal Council authorities and Northern Division, over the management of the facility.
"The Iganga Municipal Council officials wanted to have full control over the market which Northern Division leaders refused," Mr Mbago said.
He added: "We were disappointed by its closure because we had spent a lot of money erecting stalls while hoping to turn the market into an income-generating venture."
Ms Fatuma Naigaga, also a resident, regretted that the market, constructed using millions of taxpayers' money, had become a grazing ground for animals.
"We don't know why our leaders have failed to operationalise this market yet some traders continue to operate on streets. I think government should intervene," she said.
Mr Hassan Muyinda, another resident, blamed the non-functionality of the market on Iganga Municipality Mayor David Balaba.
"The problem is that the mayor is weak and cannot think outside the box. What does it take to tell traders to go and occupy the market?" Mr Muyinda asked.
He said the mayor and municipality leaders need to be educated on the purpose of having a market and how it would help to fetch revenue for the entity.
Mayor speaks out
Mr Balaba, however, dismissed allegations that he is 'weak' in the execution of his duties, saying they are looking at having a modernised market with no wooden stalls.
"We are looking for a person to develop it and we want a powerful investor," he said.
The Iganga Northern Division speaker, Mr Godfrey Mutebe, said: "We had a plan for the traders to occupy the market but it was foiled by the municipal council which claimed we didn't have authority."
When contacted, the Iganga Town Clerk, Mr Joseph Kimbowa, said the powers to develop and manage a market are vested in the municipal council and not a division.
"Divisions are only meant to collect taxes and as an authority we have embarked on a systematic programme to have Mutukula market start operation," he said.
He added: "I have already set up a technical committee to establish what is required for that market to reopen."