BUDUDA, UGANDA: A section of leaders and residents in Bududa District have petitioned President Museveni demanding for the unconditional release of their Woman MP, Ms Agnes Nandutu currently detained by police over the Karamoja iron sheets scandal.
Ms Nandutu, who is the State minister for Karamoja Affairs, was arrested on Tuesday after she handed herself to the police for questioning over her involvement in the saga.
Police confirmed that the embattled minister who had gone into hiding since last Friday had recorded a statement with its investigating officers on Tuesday over the alleged charges and is currently detained at Kira Division Police Station as her case file readies for court presentation.
Reacting to the minister’s arrest and detention, a section of leaders and residents in Bududa have asked president Museveni to pardon and release their ‘daughter’ saying she is innocent and has a clean record according to them.
The district chairperson Mr Milton Kamoti Wasuguyi said the minister’s arrest has brought a sombre mood in the area. “It’s very unfortunate but we pray for fair treatment and her release.”
Mr Bosco Wanyenya who represents Bukalasi Sub-county said the minister has a clean record, adding that the information available also suggests that she was not directly involved in the distribution of the iron sheets.
“We are very disappointed with the police for arresting our daughter. She even returned the iron sheets which were given to her, so why the arrest now,” Mr Wanyenya said.
Mr Steven Matsanga, a businessman in Bududa Town Council argued that whereas the minister could have taken the iron sheets, she only wanted to help homeless people who were displaced by landslides in Bugisu.
“Our daughter is innocent and she should be released unconditionally by the police. If she got the iron sheets it was because of her love to help homeless people back home,” Mr Matsanga said.
He, however, never acknowledged the fact that government stores must be handled in accordance with set procedures, which prohibit the diversion of items to unintended beneficiaries.
Mr James Matseketse, an elder and a resident of Bududa Town Council asked the President to intervene saying since he (Museveni) already promised political action against ministers involved in the iron sheets scandal, they should also be handled according to the criminal laws of Uganda.
Mr Steven Masiga, a researcher, said the Office of the Prime Minister has a history of mismanaging relief items meant for needy communities in the country.
“I also push the blame partly on the technical people who failed to render technical guidance to the political heads on how the iron sheets should be distributed,” Mr Masiga said.
Nandutu once arraigned in court will join two ministers; Mary Gorreti Kitutu, the minister of Karamoja and Amos Lugolobi, the state minister for finance (planning) who have been charged at the Anti-Corruption Court over corruption and for causing government loss after iron sheets meant to be relief materials for the people of Karamoja were diverted and shared among several MPs, ministers and technocrats in government.
In an April 3 letter to Nabbanja, President Museveni directed that the officials in the saga implicated must return the iron sheets or the equivalent money value, but also be handled by the police under criminal laws of the country.
Mr Museveni accused his ministers of theft, subversion, undermining national security and political corruption.
At least more than 20 ministers and about 35 legislators across the country are facing the heat over the Karamoja irons sheets, with government struggling to save face over the scandal.
A number of senior ministers, including Vice President Jessica Alupo, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, Speaker of Parliament Anita Among and Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija are among the most senior ministers to have received the iron sheets.
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