Kayunga. A 60-year-old man in Kayunga District has gone on hunger strike protesting the confiscation of his commuter taxi.
The vehicle was confiscated in October 2017 after one of the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) informers found it carrying a box containing illegal fishing nets in the boot at Old Taxi Park in Kampala .
Mr Dius Funa, who has since 2017 been confined in a wheelchair after getting paralysed, said he is ready to die after unsuccessfully attempting to recover his car.
Ms Gladys Kamasanyu, the Buganda Road Court Chief Magistrate, had issued a court order to the FPU commandant, Lt Col James Nuwagaba, to give back Mr Funa his vehicle but it was ignored.
Mr Funa began the hunger strike on Tuesday morning at his home in Kayonza Trading Centre in Kayonza Sub-county.
Although his family and friends have advised him against the action, he has remained adamant.
“We have tried to advise him to abandon the strike, but he has refused. We are worried that since he is already weak, he will not survive for even three days,” Mr Joseph Ouma, his friend, said.
Mr Paul Wafula, who was the driver of the taxi, said he had loaded luggage in the boot when an FPU informer told him that he had information that he was carrying illegal fishing gears.
“Upon searching the luggage, illegal fishing nets were found in a box whose owner had just made an order from the sellers who brought them and we loaded them in the taxi,” Mr Wafula said.
“Since the owner of fish nets was not in the vehicle, her contact was written on it so that we contact her when we reach Kawongo Landing Site in Kayunga District on the shores of Lake Kyoga,” he said.
Mr Wafula said he was arrested together with his conductor and the vehicle taken to Kampala Central Police Station.
“We pleaded with them (FPU informers) that they call the owner of the nets using the telephone number on the box, but they declined,” Mr Wafula said.
They were charged with possession of illegal fishing gear and later granted bail in December last year.
However, Ms Peninah Kyakuhaire, police officer at Kampala CPS, who investigated the case, said she did not know anything about the taxi.
Ms Kyakuhaira also refused to explain circumstances under which Ms Margaret Namubiru, a fish dealer, who was also in the taxi, was released.
Mr Wafula said although the taxi is not among the exhibits tendered in court, FPU has refused to hand it over to them.
When contacted, Lt Col Nuwagaba said when his team finds a vehicle carrying illegal fish or fishing gear, it is seized and auctioned.
“The law is very clear on a vehicle found carrying illegal fishing gear. That court order was ignorantly issued,” he said.
Lt Col Nuwagaba termed it as “drama” the hunger strike by Mr Funa, saying he should thank God that “he is not in Luzira prison now.”
He, however, said in some cases, confiscated cars are returned to the owners if they (owners) are repentant.
“We sometimes handover the seized vehicles to the owners on humanitarian grounds, but this one (owner) seems to be big headed,” Lt Col Nuwagaba said.