Arua District’s Member of Parliament (MP) for Vurra County, Mr. Yovan Adriko, has been incarcerated in Arua government prison in West Nile for his failure to repay a debt of Shs58 million to a money lender located in Arua City. Mr. Adriko had borrowed this sum from Jubilee Finance Limited in the year 2021, with a commitment to repay it in Shs20 million installments.
The MP’s arrest was initiated by the lender’s lawyer, Mr. Richard Bundu, due to multiple unsuccessful attempts to recover the borrowed money. Mr. Bundu described Mr. Adriko as uncooperative and untruthful when questioned about the debt, making it difficult to reach a resolution.
Upon admitting to borrowing the money, Mr. Adriko did not offer any further statements. A judgment issued by Arua High Court Deputy Registrar, Ms. Leo Karungi, specifies that the legislator will serve a six-month prison sentence if he does not settle the outstanding debt. The judgment also stipulates that Mr. Adriko owes Shs58,143,900, in addition to covering the costs of the legal proceedings.
This incident follows a recent statement made by the Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, in which she threatened to terminate Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) that numerous money lenders had with some legislators in the 11th Parliament. Her concerns were rooted in the high-interest rates charged by these lenders, and she aimed to instill discipline among them. Speaker Among asserted that MPs were frequently subjected to harassment by money lenders due to overdue payments.
To address this issue, she expressed the intention to cancel MoUs between money lenders and legislators, as Parliament could facilitate the recovery of debts more effectively. The Speaker emphasized the need for adherence to Section 90(1) of the Tier 4 Microfinance Institutions & Money Lenders Act, 2016, which outlines the maximum interest rates that money lenders can charge.
The Act empowers the Minister, in consultation with the Authority, to prescribe a maximum interest rate that money lenders can charge. Additionally, it deems any money lender charging interest rates higher than the prescribed maximum as committing an offense. Such lenders may face fines and the possibility of license cancellation, as well as refunding borrowers any excessive interest charges.
The issue was raised in Parliament by the Vice Chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Mr. Yusuf Mutembuli, who expressed concern about the non-compliance of money lenders with Section 90(1). He urged the State Minister of Finance In Charge of General Duties to take action in determining the maximum interest rates for the protection of Ugandans. In response, the Minister assured that he would investigate the matter and provide a report to the House.