By Patrick Jaramogi
In July last year, the Government launched the construction of the 92km Hoima-Kaiso-Tonya road amidst calls for fair compensation by the local communities. The sh314b road is expected to boost oil production in the Albertine Graben by opening up oil fi elds and facilitating the construction of a refi nery at Kabaale, in Hoima district.
But despite their calls, communities have decried what they call poor compensation and undervaluation of their property by the Government. The communities are not sure of their resettlement when their properties are mowed down by graders. The road is being upgraded from gravel to paved standards. Construction works are being undertaken by Kolin Insaat Turim Sayani Ve Tecaret, a Turkish firm.
In a field visit to the sites, Business Vision unearthed a number of anomalies in Nyamasoga parish in Buseruka subcounty, where most communities were poorly compensated. Others have not received any payment for their property that will be demolished to pave way for the road construction. The communities are bitter and desperate.
“We were called to the Gombolola to get money, but they did not tell us what the money was for. Later, they paid me sh48,000 and I was told that it was compensation for my property, which is on the road reserve,” said Grace Kantukatyo, a residence.
Kantukatyo, who has lived in Nyamasoga parish for the last 17 years, owns a three-door commercial building with a shop, a servant quarters and a piece of land. She values her property at sh45m. The LC1 chairman of Nyamasoga, Justus Balyesiima, said the residents are bitter because of the low compensation. “I was only paid sh46,000 for my property valued at about sh24m” said Balyesiima.
George Baisi, a butcher, received only sh8,050 for his property that includes a permanent house and land. Mbabazi William, 78, who owns a three-door permanent commercial building in Nyamasoga trading centre, was given only sh23,000 as compensation. “I have lived here all my life and this is all I got for my property,” a visibly disturbed Mbabazi said.
Unlike Kantukatyo, Baisi, Mbabazi and Balyesiima who got something, people like Sayuni Nyandera, 83 and Constantine Etoma got nothing. “They did not tell me anything. All they said is that they will give me only sh3,000,” Etoma said.
In Kyehoro, a landing site on Lake Albert, the residents, who depend on the lake for their livelihoods, are not sure about their future. “We have asked the Government and NGOs about our future here, but no one is telling us anything,” said Kasangaki Ofungi, the LC 1 Chairman of Kyehoro.
Ofungi said residents in Kyehoro have their own terms that they will put forward if they are told to leave.“They say if they are to leave, the Government should give them land, and construct for them houses,” Ofungi said. Kyehoro is home to about 2,500 people.
Over 70% of the residents are Luo, while the rest are Banyoro, Bakobias, Banyankole and Bagungu. Civil society organisations echoed their sentiments to the Government and the oil companies at a meeting organised by CNOOC, Total and Tullow at Protea Hotel on Tuesday.
The meeting that was called to review the land acquisition and compensation criteria recommended that the compensation in the Albertine Graben be reviewed.
The Chief Government Valuer, Moses Magala, came under attack as he tried to explain the compensation criteria. “We have been wrongly blamed and grossly misrepresented. We do the valuation with the chief government engineer. We supervise and monitor, which is the most important part of land acquisition,” said Magala.
“We are having issues in Kaiso. Mango trees that would be valued at sh150,000 are now being valued at sh400,000 because oil is coming. Is that viable?”asked Magala.
Magala highlighted issues such as unclear land holdings, poor physical planning and the escalating speculation and rampant migrations to the Graben as serious challenges to proper compensation.
“The district land board brings estimates that are 800% the cost price over the 12 months. The principal land lord is unknown. You fi nd somebody owning 1.5 of an acre and he claims to have fi ve acres,” he said.
Magala noted that due to lack of human resource at the various districts, compensation claims are forwarded to the Chief Government Valuer in Kampala for assessment, which delays the process.
“We have only 42 registered valuers in the whole country and only two are in civil service. This shows the magnitude of the work that we have,” he said. Magala also said the compensation varies from one place to another.
“A cost of a mud and wattle hut in Katakwi may not be the same as in Busoga. The one in Katakwi may go for sh12,000 per square meter, while in Busoga it will fetch sh5,000. There are social and economic issues followed when carrying out compensation,” he noted.
But Frank Tumusiime, the coordinator for Advocates for Natural Resources Governance and Development, described as “unfair” the compensation process. “It is so sad. How do you pay someone sh10,000 for a permanent house? How do you come up with that? We have cases coming up in courts of law due to these unfair compensations,” he said.
Benon Tusingwire, the executive director for Navigators of Development Association (NAVODA) in Hoima, said: “What do I say to a man who invested sh10m in his house and was only paid sh23, 000?”
Henry Bazira, the executive director for the Water Governance Institute, urged the Government to consider resettling people displaced due to mining of natural resources.
The Uganda Land Alliance executive director, Esther Obaikol, called for the harmonisation of the compensation procedures.
Zakalia Lubega, the CSR country manager Corporate Affairs CNOOC, said prior to compensation, all family members sign consent forms. “We can’t compensate unless the consent forms are signed. There are mechanisms for addressing those who do not agree with the terms,” he said.
Muhumuza Didas, the Tullow country stakeholder engagement manager, said district land boards come up with the compensation rates. “Most people who are compensated are never prepared to handle the money. There is a need to prepare them ahead of the compensation process,” said Muhumuza.