ARUA. The State Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr Mario Obiga Kania, his wife, Ms Natalyn Etomaru, who is a commissioner at the Electoral Commission and the National Forestry Authority (NFA) have been named in a land scam in Logiri and Arivu sub-counties, Vurra county in Arua district.
This came to light during a public hearing on land matters in Arua town on Tuesday.
But Mr Kania denied any wrong doing saying he used rightful channels to acquire the land in question.
The meeting organized by the commission of land inquiry headed by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire was aimed at getting complaints from locals on land-related issues.
During the meeting, the councilor representing Logiri sub-county in Arua district council, Mr Boniface Alioni raised a red flag claiming that Kania and Etomaru connived with NFA to take 1000 hectares of land at Kafu and Ajupani forest reserves for investment.
The forest reserves in question stretch to three parishes of Oliba, Lazebu in Logiri sub-county and part of Eceko parish in Arivu sub-county in Vurra county.
“NFA last year called for applications from private investors in forestry to apply for allocations of land in Kafu and part of Laura forest reserves. But the whole process was done in a very dubious manner,” Alioni said.
He observed that NFA ran an advert on its website and another in the New Vision newspaper hence denying the local community the opportunity to access the information through the local Fm radio stations despite numerous calls for them to do so.
“I came to discover that NFA was just strategically trying to achieve its mission of giving out this land to people of their own interest,” Alioni said.
“One of the prominent persons who appeared in this dubious deal is Minister Kania. He first applied for 500 hectares of land and his wife (Etomaru) also applied for 500 hectares, altogether 1000 hectares of the said land,” Alioni added.
According to Alioni, he later complained to the NFA Director in Kampala and afterward, the decision was revised thus bringing their hectares of land down to 300 each on grounds that the remaining 400 hectares will be given to the community.
But Alioni further alleged that later, the 400 hectares of land which NFA claimed to be giving to the community was again allocated to Kania’s relative.
Kania said “ it would have been an issue if NFA was complaining but if its not then this is a different matter, the local there is NFA, do people really understand what national forestry authority is”
The Councillor, however, used the opportunity to raise the concern before Justice Bamugemereire and her team to investigate.
And as a result, Bamugemereire assured Alioni that the commission will give a fair hearing to all the parties involved.
She said the accused parties (Minister Kania, Etomaru and NFA) will be expected to go to the office of the commission in Kampala to explain their side of the story.
In a related incident, Ms Bamugemereire directed Arua municipal council town clerk to go to the commission headquarters to answer queries into the matter of a widow, Ms Baifa Amaga of Nsambya North Cell who failed to acquire her land title for being charged by the Municipal officials to pay UGX6m in order to register the 17x30m piece of land.