By Robert Adiga
There was a standoff between a section of fishmongers at the South Sudanese fish market in Arua city and officials of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) over the handling of the tonnage of two trailers loaded with fish imported from South Sudan.
URA officials from the head office in Kampala wanted to impound the two trailers and take them to Kampala, citing irregularities in recording the tonnage at the Weighbridge at Elegu border.
Sources indicate that a protracted meeting held at the mayor’s office in Arua city between the truck owners, fishmongers and URA officials to resolve the issue hit a snag on Friday, November 4, 2022.
This prompted protests from the fishmongers mainly women who vowed never to allow the vehicles to be taken to Kampala.
Allegation of connivance
An email written by the URA customs office at Elegu confirming receipt of payment at the weigh bridge dated October 31, 2022, a copy of which New Vision has seen, indicates that sh7.26m was paid for each truck as clearance fees for each of the 19 tonnes of fish as declared/weighed.
However, URA officials claimed, there was connivance between the URA clearing agents at Elegu border and the truck owners to under-declare the tonnage.
Under no obligation to drive back
Mathew Thon, the chairperson South Sudanese Fish Traders Association in Arua, who cleared the two trailers at the border, said he is not responsible for any mistakes made by URA officials at the weighbridge and is not under any obligation to take the vehicles to be re-weighed.
According to him, he only paid what was billed to him through the URA portal and has no idea about under declaration or any form of connivance.
My capital supports my siblings and pays tuition
Juma Onzima, a third-year student at Kyambogo University, said he invested over sh8m in the business and could not afford to lose his money.
“This is the money I use for the tuition at the university and the same money I use to support my siblings. I cannot afford to lose the money because of negligence or corruption by URA officials,” he said.
“How can a vehicle cross Elegu border without going via the weighbridge,” Anguzu said.
Some of the irate fishmongers, mainly women, vowed to strip naked if the fish they bought using their hard-earned money is taken back to Kampala.
They said, once the fish is taken to Kampala, they will go back to the streets where they have been and should not be followed for the Emyooga money they got for the businesses.
Tax body faulted
Emmanuel Rose Munduni, the secretary of the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce Arua district and city faulted the tax body for the inconveniences caused to the vendors.
He said the actions of URA officials at Elegu need to be investigated instead of punishing the vendors who operate with loans.
URA officials speak out
But a URA official in Arua who preferred anonymity says, each of the two trailers carries over 35 tonnes as opposed to the 19 tonnes cleared at the border, a reason they wanted the vehicles to be re-weighed.
He said they were looking for evidence that can be used to bring charges against the URA officials at Elegu and the truck owners.
By press time, tension was still high in Arua City between the fishmongers and the URA enforcement teams.