YUMBE. Yumbe district Forestry department with the help of police have arrested and detained three lower local council officials in Romogi sub county for engaging in illegal cutting down of endangered tree spiecies.

The officials pursued the suspects after a tip off from the members of the community that they have fallen eight mahogany trees, one of the spiecies which is protected by an ordinance.

The three suspects arrested include a youth councillor to the sub county, an LCI chairman and his vice.

The trio were released on Wednesday after accepting to pay a fine of Shs 300,000 per person.

One of the suspects said they wanted to acquire furniture for their office for which they decided to harvest the trees.

"Since we have the problem of furniture in the village, we agreed as the LC l council with the elders of the area to cut some trees so that we sell the logs to buy plastic chairs. We followed the right procedures by writing to the sub county to authorise us but since there was no feedback, we thought our request was honoured that made us to proceed with the process", he said.

He said the letter was sent through the youth councillor but doubted why the letter didn't reach the sub county adding that they in their plan wanted to buy 50 plastic chairs.

He blamed the sub county authority for not sensitising and inducting them about their operations since they are new in the LCl system.

Mr Swaib Ayima, the youth councillor said he was arrested innocently because he never involved himself in the illegal activity.

"Truly the matter of the LCl officials and the elders plan to cut trees reached my desk but I never gave them the go ahead to cut the trees as alleged. What I told the LCl officials and the elders was to follow the right procedures if they want to cut the trees but to my dismay the leaders went ahead to cut the trees without my consent," he said.

Ayima said he was just implicated in this matter for coordinating the issue to the sub county but warned that nothing of that kind should happen again.

Mr Rasul Taban Ajobe, the LC lll chairman said there is massive destruction of the environment in the sub county and condemned the act of the leaders in cutting the trees.

Some of the logsSome of the logs that were in Romogi Sub County ready to be transported. PHOTO BY ROBERT ELEMA.

He said it's the role of the leaders to protect the environment but the punishment given to them will act as a deterrent to the rest of the people in the area.

"The decision the local council officials took was unlawful because they didn't follow the right procedures. It's not the sub county to grant permission to cut trees but it's the forestry department that does so," he said.

"The sub county officials have ever been accused by the community of giving them authority in cutting trees but some of these allegations are made verbally without any authentic documents to support it. We shall deal with such people accordingly because they are tarnishing the image of the sub county officials", he warned.

He appealed to the local officials not to take the law into their hands because they are the immediate supervisors at the lower local government level and they should play their roles as prescribed by the law.

Mr Swaib Kama, the acting district forest officer said the endangered tree species like the mahagony, Afizilia Africana and shear nut trees need to be protected.

He said the trees that the officials cut were already marked ones which are not supposed to be cut adding that the rate of destruction of the environment is rampant in the district.

"We don't allow such tree species to be cut because they are species which are out of bound. We identified Kiri village, a place where we can get mahogany trees and there is need to reserve them," he said.

He said they will strengthen their operations in arresting the charcoal dealers and those cutting endangered tree spieces in the district and produce such culprits in courts of law.

"With the current population of Yumbe district including the refugees, our population is over weighing the resources we have so if we joke with them we shall not attain the standard life of living", he added.

Yumbe district council recently passed a resolution banning the production of charcoal in bulk for sale and cutting down of the endangered tree spieces but the implementation of the ban is not proper as some of the leaders also connive with the landlords and the business persons to exploit the environment.