Francis Madrama, the Kisindi Sector Manager at National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Bugoma Forest Supervisor for Kidoma, Paul Ocheng have been interdicted for participating in illegal timber cutting and abetting illegal encroachment on Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Hoima District.
In an interdiction letter seen by Community Green Radio at the sector offices in Hoima yesterday, Michael Mugisa, the NFA Executive Director indicates that between January and May 2017 Mr. Madrama conspired with the area forest supervisor for Kidoma range to carry out massive illegal lumbering in Bugoma forest.
Situart Maniraguha, the range supervisor for Budongo systems, says the administrative action against the two officers, prompted by the several complaints that were raised during the stakeholders meeting that was organized by NAPE at Kabwooya sub county headquarters on collaborative Forest Management efforts to save the endangered forest reserve.
Last month, NAPE facilitated a stakeholders’ meeting that was attended by the communities through Collaborative Forest Management groups to find out challenges, threats and sustainable solutions to the management of Bugoma forest reserve.
During the heated meeting, the charged residents blamed some NFA authorities of exposing whistleblowers which puts their life at risk.
“We believe some NFA officials especially the patrols and forest supervisors have connections with those who carry out illegal activities and sometimes the power sows belong to them. When we give information to them, they immediately alert the suspects to hide instead of taking action. This has demoralized us as communities, Mr. Madrama is good at doing that" said Annet Agaba, a resident of Kidoma village in Kiziranfumbi Sub County.
The same communities identified individuals who subsequently appeared on Community Green Radio’s government show to pin NFA officials and environmental police of frustrating community efforts to save Bugoma forest.
Maniraguha says most of these community concerns triggered NFA management to launch an independent investigation to protect the reserve that is threatened by the high rate of timber cutting and agricultural encroachment.
He says the investigations yielded results after discovering that Madrama through his Kidoma range supervisor Paul Ocheng had power sows in Kisaru and Wambabya areas. The power sows have since been impounded. “The two officers remain under our surveillance to deter any further illegal forest activities, but they are also under serious investigation by management. They face three charges that include abuse of office, participating in illegal timber cutting and abetting illegal forest activities,” noted Maniraguha.
NAPE has since taken concern about possible ways of protecting the endangered Central forest reserve in the Eco-sensitive Albertine region. Joan Akiiza, legal and Advocacy officer says NAPE will continue to collaborate with concerned communities to weed out such wrong characters who hide in the system to threaten natural forests.
Story compiled by Robert Katemburura