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OPM supplier cons Serere traders of 650 cows

Trader goes on the run but arrested by CMI while trying to flee from the country Thomas Ndema, who has been on the run, was arrested this week to help with investigations into the suspected fraud

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SERERE–Cattle traders in Serere District are counting losses after a supplier with the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) conned them of 653 cows.

The traders, under their umbrella company Oped Contractors and Suppliers Limited, accuse Thomas Ndema, managing director of Green Village Projects, of failing to pay Shs460 million in a botched sale and distribution of cows.

Green Village Projects has been a supplier with OPM until recently when it was blacklisted.

Ndema, who has been playing hide and seek with the traders for the past two years, was arrested last week after security operatives led by Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) arrested him in Bundibujo District where he was allegedly planning to cross the boarder and flee the country.

He is being held at Serere Central Police Station.

Serere District Police Commander Umar Mugerwa confirmed to Crime24 that Ndema was under their custody but refused to divulge details, saying simply, “this is a high profile case.’’

The DPC also blocked journalists from taking pictures of Ndema, who lives around Kira Road in Kampala.

However, the traders, including 18 ‘Arrow Boys,’ Kakise Bus Company, have been camping at Serere CPS since Tuesday vowing not to leave the station before receiving full payment from Ndema.

They are also demanding compensation of Shs100 million as compensation for the resources and time wasted in looking for him.

“It is good that he has been arrested, I won’t leave this place [Serere CPS] until Ndema has cleared me up or brought my cows,” Benson Okullo said.

East Kyoga Police Spokesperson Micheal Odongo said they are holding Ndema to help in the investigation into a matter in which his company issued a bounced cheque.

“He is being investigated under case number CRB:274/18 of Serere,” Odongo said.

“We have learnt that he has paid some money to the businessmen but as police we are not letting him go until he pays all the money because of the way he has been handling this matter.”

Case background

In September 2016, Thomas Ndema met with the Serere traders at a cattle market in Kasilo (Serere District) where he informed them of an opportunity to be sub-contracted to supply cows to Adjumani District under the OPM.

“He talked sweet about the deal and we never hesitated to seize that opportunity as it had a juicy profit and a breakthrough to supply with the OPM,” Vasco da Gama, one of the aggrieved businessmen and former Arrow Boy, said.

Because of the large number of cows needed (653,) Patrick Osuku, the managing director of Oped–the company owned by over 50 traders–moved around to mobilize cows and cash from people, including local farmers, in order to fulfill the OPM quota.

Eighteen members of the defunct Arrow Boys–a group of Teso people who mobilised and armed themselves with bows and arrows to fight LRA rebel incursion into Teso two decades ago–who had just returned from Somalia then, also jointly contributed Shs30 million into the pool.

Later, a motorcade of 22 lorries transported the cows to Adjumani where Ndema distributed them under the restocking programme of the OPM.

And, as OPM guidelines stipulated, the traders and Ndema had to open a joint account on which government would later channel funds.

But to their disbelief, Ndema later allegedly went behind the back of the traders and somehow had officials at OPM change the accounts.

“They had agreed to open a joint account at Equity Bank but Ndema went back and made changes for the funds to be channeled to an account at KCB,” Odongo said.

Osuku, whom traders had trusted to follow up with the funds, says that after a long wait for the funds, they sought explanations from OPM. The traders were, however, shocked to learn that Ndema had been paid in March 2017.

Osuku said he had a torrid time calming down tempers of the irate traders who initially accused him of “conniving with a con man to defraud them.”

“Now is the chance for me to have my image cleansed ,” Osuku told this news website on Thursday.

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