Former MP Odonga Otto dubs charcoal theft accusations ‘political‘
Former MP for Aruu County, Odonga Otto now environmental activist has said allegations of aggravated robbery brought against him are baseless and political.
Otto made the claims in a statement, hours after he voluntarily handed himself to Aswa Regional Police Headquarters over the same charges following a five-day manhunt.
According to police, Otto and his vigilantes viciously beat three victims, who had reportedly gone to buy charcoal in one of the homesteads in Laorogali village, Atanga sub-county, in Pader district on April 30, 2023.
Otto’s group is also accused of asaulting the victims using sticks and pangas, and allegedly robbing Shs1.1 million cash from one of the victims, a one, Ssemanda.
The same group is accused of stealing 380 bags of charcoal from the traders.
In his statement, Otto denied theft of charcoal, saying all the bags of charcoal were offloaded in the presence of locals and the authorities.
“The alleged theft of 380 bags of charcoal is vexatious as over 500 irate community members offloaded the charcoal all in the presence of LCV chairman of Pader district Col.(Rtd) Obwoya Fearless who was with armed police from Angagura police post. Interestingly, the charges took a political line,” Otto said.
He also denied assault and torture of charcoal traders, noting that on the day of the alleged incidents, he was not even in Pader district as alleged.
“For avoidance of doubt, the period between April 21-May 4, I was in Kampala. On the very day of the alleged incidence, I even reported another matter to Ndejje police post.” Otto noted.
Last week, police spokesperson, Fred Enanga noted that Otto and his group were facing charges of vandalising a Fuso truck carrying bags of charcoal and stealing two motor vehicle batteries, a motor vehicle radio, woofer, motor vehicle key and tarpline.
”The attackers further damaged the wind screen, the fuel tank and tyres of the Fuso truck. The victims were later released and they reported the matter at Atanga police station,” Enanga said.
Enanga also noted that the same group had earlier been accused of attacking a one Charles Olara Okello, after he was found buying firewood while in his motor vehicle registration number UAP 516D, along Lapul- Atanga road in Atanga sub-county. The attackers allegedly robbed their phones and other belongings.
Following the development, the police mouthpiece had warned Otto against taking the law in his hands and misleading other members of the public, into acts of lawlessness and impunity.
“They reported the matter at Pajule police station. Although the Hon. Odonga Otto and his vigilantes, claim they are an advocacy group, that is enforcing a ban on commercial trade (charcoal) in Acholi Sub-region, their level of physical interaction is not only reckless and dangerous, but can lead to hate crimes in society,” Enanga noted.
On Monday, Otto accused police officers of shielding the people carrying out illegal charcoal trade in the Acholi sub region after receiving bribes.
The former legislator vowed that through his environmental youth advocacy and activism group, Ribbe Pi Paco, they would continue their fight against illegal charcoal trade in Acholi.