University staff arrested, charged over food theft

Some of the stolen chicken

BY DOUGLAS OLUM

At least three members of staff of Uganda Christian University (UCU) have been arrested and charged with theft.

The trio, who are casual labourers at the dining hall, are: Emmanuel Mwesigwa (cook), Juma Kyaterekera (netball coach and former kitchen staff) and Joseph Banamwita (kitchen mini-store keeper).

According to security sources, Mwesigwa, Kyaterekera and Mathias Emillo were found in illegal possession of a 50-kilo bag of rice, a 20-litre jerrycan of cooking oil and 12 dressed chicken. The items are suspected to have been stolen from the kitchen mini-store at the university.

In his statement recorded at the UCU Police Station, which The Standard has seen, Patrick Mwesige, the security officer who allegedly caught the trio, on the night of September 17 at around 11:45 said that he saw Emillo, Mwesigwa and Kyaterekera carrying some items from the dining hall and putting them outside in a dark corner near the office of the catering officer.

Mwesige said he became suspicious and moved towards them but that when Mwesigwa saw him, he ran away, leaving Kyaterekera and Emillo behind.

When I approached them, they started pleading with me not to tell anyone. They wanted us to negotiate and they give me some money to let them go away with their loot,” Mwesige wrote in the  statement. “I refused their deal and instead called my supervisor who came, witnessed and had the items intercepted before calling his superiors, Mwesige’s statement continues.

In the course of interrogating them at the scene, Mwesigwa said Kyaterekera and Emillo also took off.

In his statement seen by The Standard, Mwesigwa said he was at home watching television that evening when he received a phone-call from Kyaterekera, asking him to go and meet him at the dining hall because there was some deal he wanted them to cut.

Mwesigwa said that before he could go, he called Emillo to inquire whether he knew about the deal to which he [Emillo] responded that he was not at the dining but was going there.

“I immediately went to the dinning and found Kyaterekera standing near the kitchen. He showed me a 50kg bag of rice, a 20 litre jerrycan of cooking oil and a polythene bag having chicken. He told me that he got the items abandoned around the kitchen and wanted us to look for a way of taking them outside the university,” Mwesigwa said in the statement.

He said that as they discussed, Emillo arrived with a bag on his back and Kyaterekera briefed him about the deal before they agreed to take the items to their colleagues’ residence inside the university as they planned how to sneak them out but that the security officer arrived before they could execute the deal.

Meanwhile, Kyaterekera in his statement said that he was seated outside the dining hall and chatting on phone with a colleague that evening at around 11:30pm when Emillo called him to go and see something.

“I asked Emillo what he was telling me to go and see and he requested me to just follow him behind the dining hall, which I did. When we reached, I saw one bag of rice and 20 litres of cooking oil,” Kyaterekera stated.

He added that before he asked him any question, Emillo told him that there were security officers in front of the door and that as Mwesigwa was coming, he saw them and ran away.

But in his statement, Joseph Banamwita the   storekeeper said he issued out 220 kilos of rice to be prepared for students’ supper that evening, 30 litres of cooking oil and had received 237 chicken from the supplier which was stored in the freezer before he left office at 9:00pm.

Banamwita said he left behind one Israel Odongo who was waiting for someone to collect leftovers before he could lock the entrance to the kitchen.

He said he was later called by George Okwakoro at 12:53am who informed him that some members of staff working in the dining hall had been arrested with items stolen from the mini-store.

He further stated that when he reported for work the following morning, he was instructed by David Mulondo, an acting chef, not to open the store in the absence of security and police.

Banamwita said when the security team arrived, they inspected and found that all the doors of the mini-store were not broken. They checked the stock in the stores and found everything intact except the chicken which were less by at least 19 pieces.

He also said he could not explain where the cooking oil and rice had come from, but suspected that it might have been either during the day shift or at night that the cooks used less items than what they had been given and preserved the balance.

The Standard has learnt that the three  suspects appeared for the mentioning of their case before the Mukono Grade One Magistrate, Stella Okwonga, on September 26, who remanded them to Kauga Prison. They were produced again in court on September 27 when they were charged with theft before they were granted non-cash bail of Shs500,000 each.

Banamwita was removed from the charge sheet by  the Resident State Attorney on  the ground that he had no link to the alleged theft.

Kyaterekera and Mwesigwa will return to court on October 19 to begin the hearing of their case, while Mathias Emillo remains at large.

The university Catering Officer, Richard Ekadu, said as a department, they are interested in seeing the case reach its logical conclusion and having the culprits punished accordingly.

Ekadu said it pains them that the incident is now being associated with university kitchen staff even when all the suspects are not full-time staff but casual labourers who are hired on daily basis. He commended the university security for the vigilance.

Security say theft is the leading crime within and around the university, with both staff and students involved.

In June, a South Sudanese student was arrested as security suspected him of trying to steal a projector. In July, unknown persons broke into the offices of the Director Finance and his deputy.

And in the same month some staff were nabbed at the university gate transporting out stolen food items including rice and spices in their car boot.

The University Legal Officer, Mr John Bahemuka Toa, warned that anyone caught stealing from the university would face conviction.

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