Unknown thugs have dismantled and stolen at least a dozen solar street lights in the different streets in Gulu City.
The affected areas include Alokolum and Walter Opwonya roads where six solar panels and their batteries have been dismantled and stolen by the unknown thugs this year alone.
This translates to a loss worth over Shillings 50 million since each solar system is valued at six million and four hundred thousand shillings.
These are part of the 1,396 solar street lights that were installed along the different streets within Gulu City under the World Bank-funded Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructural Development -USMID program.
At least 227 of the solar street lights have been nonoperational for over two years since they breakdown and were left unrepaired by the City authorities.
Raymond Thomas Opira, the Chairperson Pabbo Quarters in Bardege-Layibi division whose area is heavily affected says that the thugs are taking advantage of the darkness to execute their missions since the majority of the solar lights are non-functional.
He added that the lack of functional solar street lights along the roads in the area has greatly led to a spike in criminal activities in his area during the evening hours, especially the suspected street goons.
One of the locals from the Industrial Area who asked not to be named said that last week in the evening she witnessed some of the street goons dismantling the solar bulb, panel, batteries, and sensor from one of the non-functional solar lights but she could not do anything for fear of her dear life
“They came with spanners and other tools, we do not know their names, they climbed up to the top to pick the parts they want, when the climber was still up others would surround him until their mission is accomplished,” says the source.
The source added that the slow response from the police to crime scenes has demoralized them from reporting the incident to security.
Jacky Akello who operates a restaurant in Lango Road which is also affected by darkness says she is now forced to close as early as 4 p.m for fear of being attacked.
Akello explains that in the late evening when it is really dark, street kids are flocking in front of her restaurant which blocks her customers from coming to eat due to the assertiveness of the street kids.
However, Christo Omara Balmoi the City engineer attributed some of the faults in solar street lights to the factors like aging of the batteries, panel burnout, faulty charge controllers, and impact of very strong wind experienced in Gulu city during the dry season, speedy vehicles knocking down the poles and theft.
He however said due to slow remittance of the locally generated revenue from the local government, the city is now financially constrained to repair over 200 vandalized solar street lights leaving them prone to being stolen by the thugs.
Alfred Okwonga the Gulu City mayor says that the most affected are the rural areas and outskirts of the City.
He disclosed that they have already budgeted for 50 million shillings to rectify 50 vandalized street solar lights.