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Oil and gas hosting community threatens to sue govt

By Maria Wamala

Added 9th February 2018 10:04 AM

The Buliisa want the Speaker of Parliament to intervene in the oil and gas disputes in Buliisa, saying oil and gas exploration companies have showed no regard for the indigenous communities.

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The Buliisa want the Speaker of Parliament to intervene in the oil and gas disputes in Buliisa, saying oil and gas exploration companies have showed no regard for the indigenous communities.

PIC: Speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga (centre) chats with Bagunga community association from Buliisa after petitioning her to intervene in the oil and gas disputes in Buliisa. The group said that although 80% of oil and gas deposits have been discovered in their area, the Government and the oil companies have not only excluded them in terms of appointment. This was at parliament, February 8, 2018. (Credit: Maria Wamala)


OIL AND GAS | BENEFITS


KAMPALA - The Bagunga community in Buliisa district that hosts the oil and gas processing facility has threatened to sue the Government and the multinational companies over what they called unfair treatment and a raw deal.

“We are ready to take legal action both nationally and internationally to get a fair and mutually acceptable deal for the community members on issues of compensation, resettlement and the negative spillover effects,” Bagunga Community Association head Enoch Bigirwa said.

While petitioning the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, to intervene in the oil and gas disputes in Buliisa, Bigirwa said oil and gas exploration companies have showed no regard for the indigenous communities.

“Prospectors had the audacity to access people’s land and even houses without prior notice, denying them the right to information prior to developments on land,” he said.

Bigirwa added: “The Government wants to introduce permanent and compulsory acquisition of land for multinationals, especially Total E&P at a paltry sh3.5m (less than $800) per acre of land. This amount cannot adequately resettle a family on equivalent land acreage in Uganda.”

“With such meagre compensation rates, the cardinal principle of ensuring better living standards after compulsory acquisition shall not be achieved but will instead disrupt the clan based social-cultural set up.”

The petition read that oil and gas production is a less than a 40-year process, thus unnecessary to acquire land for its use on a permanent basis. It suggests that instead land leasing and land restoration after the period for the bulk of the developments be considered as options.

Buliisa County MP Stephen Mukitale said the processes regarding oil exploration and now production phase have been shrouded with secrecy. 

“This has led to speculators with prior knowledge of lucrative sites to grab land so that they can claim hefty fees in future.” Mukitale said, citing Francis Kahwa as one of the culprits.

Mukitale said: “After chasing pastoralists from Bulisa, Kahwa appeared. Why is it that all the kilometers where the pipeline is passing are all his? Why is it that all the 48 oil wells in Biliisa are in his land? Why is it that all the Central Processing Facility (CPF) area is in his land? Who is giving him that information? Is he in security, land ministry, oil company or in the ministry of energy?” Mukitale queried, adding that the Government has failed to clear air on the matter.

Buliisa county MP Stephen Mukitale and the patron Bagunga Community Association Enoch Bigirwa interact during a press briefing after petitioning the speaker to intervene in the oil and gas disputes in Buliisa. This was at parliament, February 8, 2018. (Credit: Maria Wamala)

“Therefore, Kahwa is proxy. He is being used. They thought we would welcome our fellow Mugungu after failing the pastoralists. That has flopped. You found us sober. We want Bagungu land back.” Mukitale said.

Bullisa Woman MP Norah Bigirwa said resistance by the indigenous people to giving away their land has resulted in costly court proceedings in which they have also been disappointed.

“We have had unfair treatment in own courts regarding this matter. We are tired. We want to be helped as Ugandans. It is not only us in Buliisa but all Ugandans.

“The poor have continuously lost cases to the rich because they have money. Why do we all in Buliisa suffer because of one person, Kahwa? It is a clear indication that he has a strong back up.”
 
The Bamugemereire land commission should intervene. The elders are there, our families are there, but you come to Buliisa and tell the people that their land is yours. Why should this go on? We are also Ugandans with the same rights.” Bigirwa said.

Speaker’s response to the petition

Kadaga said; “We do not want the situation in Nigeria to come here. Even now there is inequity between the host communities and the multinationals. There is a number of kidnaps and killing resulting from this. We would not want that kind of situation.”

“We also need to take another look at the law. When we were making these laws, I ensured that Bunyoro gets their part, but I do not know how it is distributed. So we may need to look at the law again to see how we can get an intervention for the host communities.”

On the compulsory acquisition, Kadaga said Parliament also needs to look at it.

“The Government should not just come and say that we are giving you sh2m without any basis,” Kadaga said, adding that she was going to ask her office to write to the President and the responsible ministries on the issue.



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