By Our Senior Reporters
Youthful MP -Oguzu Lee Denis has rubbished reports that he owns Arua’s virgin Barifa forest stating that the allegations level against him were “ wild and outrageous” and without merit only intended to dissuade him from contesting for the highly convert seat of Deputy Speaker of the incoming 11th parliament .
“ In their outburst, the driver’s of the narrative asserted that I fraudulently acquired a 49 year lease in Barifa and I’m fraudulently involved in processing the lease for the same with Arua city authorities, Oguzu states adding that he has no lease in Barifa forest.
The MP explains that he lawfully acquired a license under the National Forest Tree Planting Act 2003 to plant trees and develop ecotourism in the area and that this was done in a transparent public procurement process as provided for in PPDA and cleared by Solicitor General’s office.
In 2017 , the National Forest Authority in 2017 advertised and called for bids in both print and online public for entrepreneurs and environmentalists interested in tree planting and ecotourism developers to express interest in various proposed activities in different CFRs across the country
It is on this basis as a responsible citizen , Hon. Oguzu applied to NFA as one of the tree planters and ecotourism developers to be issued with a licence to plant trees.
“After a rigorous evaluation process, based on strength of my technical proposal and uniqueness of the ideas therein (incorporating museums intended to feature West Nile’s cultural artifacts, Olympic size swimming pool capable of hosting international tournaments, an international conference center, children’s amusement park, wildlife education center, public recreational facility, innovation park etc.), my application stood out and emerged one of the best Arua CFR,” Oguzu told this Publication .
He said that after fulfilling all the offer conditions as speculated by NFA, he was given a two year probationary license within which to carry ESIA and that’s how he became a licensee and not a leaseholder in this government CFR. He says he didn’t also get his license through fraud as alleged.
Through the proposed forest park, NFA seeks to preserve the ecological value of the forest and avail other opportunities to the communities sorrounding the CFRs. Ecotourism will not only offer job and market opportunities to locals. The project will put Arua Capital City in ranks of cities like Kigali, New York, Nairobi, Addis Ababa who are now reaping big from their well development forest parks and public spaces.
Ecotourism isn’t the only activity NFA has licensed in the Barifa. There are private tree planters already planting under a license.
“Some have alluded to inadequacy of consultations and faulted me for failure to degazate Barifa. What yardstick did they use to arrive at this conclusion? Are they aware consultation of key stakeholders was a precondition for issuance of NEMA Certificate? There was input from key stakeholders including Arua Municipal authorities under whose jurisdiction the licensed area falls,” Oguzu stated .
Hon. Oguzu urged the public to ignore those undermining national development and clarified that entities like Uganda Wildlife Authority, National Forestry Authority do not confer leases or title of land ownership as being portrayed.
“NFA’s mandate under the law doesn’t extend to processing leases for people in Central Forest Reserves. The public should therefore know that no lease can be processed without an application, involvement of Area Land Committees, City or District Land Boards and Ministry of Lands. That’s why I’m calling on anyone with evidence sighting me in such a lease or fraudulent licensing process in relation to Barifa to bring it forward,” he added.