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Notorious Nigerian Smuggler Outwits URA, Police to Land Uganda into Huge Revenue Loss

By Our Reporter

 

NATIONAL

What you need to know

Uganda has faced tremendous revenue losses through un-cleared tax collection.

By 1986, the economy was characterized by three words; Magendo (smuggling), Kikubo (black market) and Kusamula (speculation). President explained that smuggling was the order of the day during former regimes, and as such governments were broke

Since 1986, His Excellency President Museveni has always emphasized that the NRM government’s plan, is aimed at eliminating economic malpractices, including smuggling of goods, foreign exchange black market operations and speculation practices in trade, which he observes, were the main obstacles to the national tax collection process.

Museveni has always told people to stop smuggling goods, because it denies the government revenue for delivering social services. It also undermines industrialization and job creation.

The President says smuggling is counter-productive, because social services can’t be provided without revenue from tax collection.

The government revenue has increased a thousand fold to UGX 5tn from UGX 5b in 1986.

 

GENESIS OF THE PROBLEM

Case reported by Ms. Harriet Komuhimbo and Mr. Reagan Ahabwe,

What started as a whistleblowers’ action, ended two operatives in Luzira Prison. This, all commenced when the two whistleblowers; Ms. Harriet Komuhimbo and Mr. Reagan Ahabwe, had reported a case at Wandegeya Police Station, SD REF: 105/16/11/2023, regarding an issue of contrabands.

 

Following a tip off that a dubious Nigerian businessman, Mr. Nnamdi Onwevuche, operates two stores containing contrabands in Lungujja & Kavule, on November 16, 2023, Harriet and Reagan reached to the Nigerian, upon introduction, the latter agreed to being in possession of illegal cosmetic goods.

 

Inspection was made, videos captured within the two stores, amid bribing attempts by the Nigerian, but all in vain. Onwevuche had forged URA stamps and other documentations of transactions at his Lungujja home.

 

Immediately, the two whistleblowers sought for the arrest of the Nigerian from Wandegeya Police Station. This, was for the fear of using Natete Police Station, which according to the whistleblower could have been compromised.

Court order permitting inspection of the Nigerian’s premises

Wandegeya Police offered to save the nation from this huge loss. To their dismay, by the time Wandegeya Police officers reached, the Nigerian had called in police from Natete Police Station.

 

Wandegeya Police, however, continued with professional & patriotic approach, by cordoning off the Kavule store, putting 03 officers on guard, pending the search by URA.

 

After sometime, Wandegeya Police was ordered by Natete Police to withdraw. To the surprise of many, URA, a renowned government institution in the fight against contrabands has since kept a deaf ear and a blind eye, even when court issued an order for the search (Reference 28/11/2023).

 

It’s alleged that some officers at the State House Anti-Corruption Unit also concentrated efforts on arresting and putting charges on the whistleblowers, instead of thoroughly investigating the issue, and decisively dealing with the errant Nigerian, who could have caused a revenue loss of about UGX 15b.

 

It is also alleged that previously, similar cases involving the very Nigerian businessman have been reported to URA’s Commissioner General, Mr. John Musinguzi, and Col. Kasyate Frank, but attempts to arrest the Nigerian have not yielded fruits.

Letter written to URA to provide technical personnel in the search of the Nigerian’s premises

In addition, the entire process of how the whistleblowers were apprehended by Natete Police DPC, SP Hassan Ssekalema, using an iron hand, and failing to cooperate with his Wandegeya Police counterparts, thus frustrating the search leaves a lot of questions on the professionalism of the Police.

 

It’s alleged that Onwevuche, after failing to bribe the whistleblowers, decided to blackmail them alleging that they stole his UGX 100M. Unfortunately, Natete Police took it as gospel truth, quickly framing a file, which ended in the courts of law.

 

The swiftness in arresting the whistleblowers, leaving the dubious Nigerian on the run, leaves more questions than answers.

 

What turned out to a boomerang, the whistleblowers were apprehended, detained, and charged in courts of law. They were held incommunicado for 7 days, tortured, and squeezed at Kireka safehouse, and ordered not to ever interfere in the business of the unscrupulous investor.

 

After a couple of days, they were arraigned in court on charges of criminal trespass.

 

How the dubious Nigerian brings contrabands into Uganda

 

The fake Nigerian cosmetic dealer has realised that there is a booming market of skin lightening creams in the country, leading him to think fast into quick money, not knowing he is risking lives of some Ugandans.

 

Onwevuche imports illegal cosmetic goods from France, uses the sea route to Ivory Coast, then, penetrates the Ugandan market from DRC through the Mpondwe border.

 

He prefers the DRC because it has a porous border and the weakest customs, dominated by instability in Eastern DRC and rampant corruption. He avoids the Uganda-Kenya border because it’s automated with scanners.

 

What is known so far

 

The fake cosmetic dealer has some of the banned products including, mekako, top claire plus lotion, beauty lotion, claire cream, fair & white lightening cream, lady claire soap, among others.

 

According to Uganda Standard (US EAS 377-1:2013, there shall not be any hydroquinone or mercury in cosmetics to be used for skin applications.

 

Hydroquinone and mercury are common active ingredients found in numerous skin care products, especially lightening and bleaching creams, exposing the body to cancer, causing rashes, skin discoloration & blotching.

 

Hydroquinone is a bleaching agent that inhibits melalin growth on the skin. Mercury compounds enter the human body by skin absorption and cause damage of vital organs, especially the kidney and liver leading to their failure.

 

Regular use may also lead to allergic reactions, severe headaches, insomnia, memory loss, burning sensation of the skin, among others.

 

Looming questions

Who could be wrong in this? Who can save Ugandans from dangerous cosmetics that are part of the causes of cancer? Who should the President trust?

 

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