By Andrew Cohen Amvesi
The Members of Parliament (MPs) under the West Nile Parliamentary Caucus have come out to condemn the continued killing of people in the region by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) enforcement officers.
While addressing journalists at Hill Top Hotel in Arua City on Sunday, the MPs called for an end to the killings and asked the culprits to be brought to book.
The MPs made the call following the recent incident in which URA enforcement officers shot one person dead and injured four others in the process of impounding motorcycles at Okollo trading center in Okollo Town Council, Madi Okollo district on January 3, 2024.
The deceased was identified as Moses Acidri aka DJ Mosh, a saloon operator at the trading center. The other four who sustained bullet injuries were rushed to Nebbi General Hospital for treatment.
But during the press conference, Jackson Atima Lee Buti, the Arua Central Division MP who doubles as the regional government Chief Whip cited several other incidents in which the people of West Nile have lost lives in the hands of the errant URA officers.
He observed that worst incidents of killings started in Koboko in 2009, later at Nyadri trading center in Maracha Town Council in 2010 and then spread to Yumbe where vehicles of NGOs were burnt in the process, again in Koboko, Arua city and the latest being in Madi Okollo district, all acts he said have led to loss of many innocent lives.
Atima condemned the killings by URA in strongest terms ever, and called for the prosecution of the officers involved.
Similarly, Joan Aniku Okia, the Madi Okollo district Woman MP condemned the barbaric acts of URA enforcement officers.
“We want to strongly condemn the actions that took place. This is not being seen in other regions. In other regions, there is still smuggling and so, we are saying, we strongly condemn the acts. What is the problem in West Nile? Is it the problem of training of the URA officials, if so, can they be trained? Number two, our people also need to be sensitized on the work of URA and how our roads and different things get fixed in this part of the region because they need to make a connection between paying taxes and the development coming in the area,” Okia said.
“But we want to strongly condemn these actions, we would like to ask URA to first focus on sensitizing the society; making promotions may be to help these young people. We do not condone smuggling but there are many big taxpayers, big businesses that are not paying taxes but why are they focusing so much on these small Boda Boda riders, so my task to URA would be to sensitize the population,” Okia stressed.
Denis Oguzu Lee, the Maracha County MP said they feel so sad about what has been happening to the would-be tax payers in West Nile overtime. He said unfortunately, the people who are affected are not even smugglers.
“The people who have been killed in these incidents are innocent people who were going about with their businesses and because of the behavior of URA, there is now low tax morale in the region. Let us then ask this question, should these small boys or girls be the target for URA? Where I sit, I know Uganda has double tax agreements with different countries through which we are losing a lot of money. This is something the policy makers and URA or the people in the Ministry of Finance should be able to pay attention to,” Oguzu said.
He noted that every year Uganda loses shs2.8 trillion in tax exemptions which are granted by Parliament.
Oguzu wondered why the government shouldn’t qualify the tax exemptions and try to raise money out of that rather than killing innocent people.
“As we talk now over shs2 trillion is lost in Uganda through illicit financial flows. These are activities done by multi nationals who try to avoid and evade tax. Why won’t we plug those loopholes than kill innocent people? Taxation has principles, there is a principle called the principle of tax benefit, I’m sure you don’t need to kill people to force them to pay tax, you need to let people appreciate that the tax they pay can come back in the form of services,” Oguzu remarked.
“There must be equity in taxation, why would the small people pay more than the big people, there needs to be fairness, there needs to be transparency and so long as those are not demonstrated, you are going to have a population that has low tax morale like in West Nile. We intend to pursue this matter to a logical conclusion, we will return to Parliament and require that Parliament pays specific attention to the matter,” Oguzu promised.