Gulu: Countryside Harvester’s director arrested over shs1.2b extortion claim

(Last Updated On: 12 October 2022)

The organization claimed it procured agricultural items worth shs5 billion targeting over 25,000 farmers from Acholi, Lango and west Nile sub-regions. 

By Okot Lil Romeo

Gulu – October 12, 2022: Some NGO officials of Countryside Harvester are on the run over allegations of extorting money worth shs 1.2 billion from local farmers and its suppliers. The herein-mentioned company was operating in 17 districts in Acholi, Lango, and West Nile sub-regions.

Claims are that over 1,087 local farmers in Acholi sub-region have been conned. Only 317 farmers from Pajule, Ajan in Pader and Gulu City have received one item [supply] from the organization.

Countryside Harvester has been collecting shs776, 000 for a group of three to ten farmers and individual farmers were paying shs666, 000 for the last two years. Each of them was promised three oxen, and one ox-plough to boost agricultural production. They have failed to deliver the items to the beneficiary farmers.

 Some time ago, the organization claimed it procured agricultural items worth shs5 billion targeting over 25,000 farmers from Acholi, Lango and west Nile sub-regions. 

They kept on confusing farmers and suppliers that they got support [funding] from the British Government in 2020 for agricultural production benefiting 17 districts. Each sub-region, they said, was earmarked shs300m 

However, preliminary facts-finding by suppliers and the local farmers are revealing that the organization has no linkage with the British Government and no legal documents to support its operation as a recognized NGO. 

They forged documents and they lied to the Office of the President [RCC Gulu City] to sign forged documents and launch “a propaganda project” to extort money from the local farmers.

Susan Adong is the chairperson of GAO Uganda Limited, a local company in Lira City dealing in agriculture supplies. 

 Adong revealed that in 2021 through an advert on a local radio calling for bids, they did all the background checks. Through the right legal procedure, they signed an MOU with the organization to supply 200 ox-ploughs and 200 wheelbarrows on June 7, 2022.

“In the agreement, we were to be paid after two weeks,” she said, adding “this made our company to borrow a loan from the bank worth shs118 million to buy that needed items.” 

Adong, however, is now condemning the government of Uganda for recognizing the ghost NGO to operate and con local farmers through the office of the RCC in Gulu City.

“We are going to petition the government to pay our conned money. We have moved to many offices seeking for legal support but failed.” 

Another supplier, George Ocaya of Ocayazozen Limited in Gulu City disclosed that he supplied 28 piglets each at shs400, 000 on March 18, 2022, to the farmers in Atangang sub-county in Pader district. He is now demanding shs11.2 million from the fled NGO officials. 

Naptali Okongo, the managing director of Aswah Technical Service and General Enterprise said they signed two contracts with the organization for the construction of offices, digging a septic tank, and renovation, among other works to the tune of shs75 million.

 He criticized some ignorant leaders for allowing organizations like Countryside Harvester to deceive them. “Could be someone is behind this scandal to make money out of the poor people,” he said. 

Francis Okello, the project officer at Countryside Harvester said the project has been suspended due to a financial crisis hitting the organization. In an interview, he said the donors have never injected the funds to support them. 

He revealed that they are working in “isolation”. “The organization has got people with titles and yet only one person is a signatory to bank accounts,” he added.

 Felix Omara, the operation manager confirmed the claims from the suppliers and farmers. “It is true suppliers and farmers are not paid up to now. The organization has no money to pay, the office is closed.”

Omara advised the affected people to seek legal help to claim their money.

Peter Banya, the deputy RCC of Gulu City said the director of Countryside Harvester forged the documents that were signed by the RCC. 

“Note that director Solomon Okello who has been arrested in Pader district and placed under detention was transferred to Kampala [Ministry of Internal Affairs] to answer the allegation on his organization,” Banya added.

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