Residents of Nguedo Sub County in Buliisa district are threatening to block oil exploration activities on their land unless adequate compensation is given. In 2010, Total E&P took over Tullow Oilâ€™s Block I where Nguedo falls and embarked on seismic surveys during which crop gardens were destroyed.
The residents’ move follows what they say is poor compensation by Total Exploration and Production Uganda for their destroyed crops.
In 2010, Total E&P took over Tullow Oil’s Block I where Nguedo falls. After the farm down, the company embarked on seismic surveys during which crop gardens were destroyed. Seismic surveys are conducted to ascertain presence of oil beneath the earth’s surface.
Residents are bitter that despite losing valuable cassava crops to exploration activities, the money given to them as compensation is too little. They claim the company paid 700 shillings for each square metre of mature cassava and 300 shillings for immature cassava.
Thirty-four year-old Christopher Kisembo, a resident of Kigwera village, says he was given 175,000 shillings for his one-acre piece of immature cassava. Kisembo says the amount is far below the 1.5million shillings he expected to reap from the sale of his crop.
Ronald Mujuni, a resident of Nguedo trading centre says he only received 170,000 shillings for his 1.5 acre piece of immature cassava. Mujuni says considering the fact that cassava is Buliisa’s staple food, oil companies need to give them adequate compensation. He says 700 shillings is not ideal for a square metre of mature cassava.
On Thursday last week, the aggrieved residents met the Buliisa Woman Member of Parliament, Beatrice Mpairwe, and officials from Africa Institute for Energy Governance-AFIEGO to highlight their concern. During the meeting the locals with backing from the MP resolved to petition government over the matter. They did not however, rule out blocking any oil exploration activities on their land if adequate compensation is not offered.
In an interview with Uganda Radio Network, MP Beatrice Mpairwe confirmed the residents’ resolution. Mpairwe says inadequate compensation especially for cassava which is Buliisa’s staple crop, makes residents curse the oil discovery in their homeland. The legislator told her electorate not to accept signing on the compensation receipts anymore, unless they are satisfied with the amount offered.
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Mpairwe asked government to take the concern seriously or else residents may resist oil activities, as the case is with the Niger Delta in Nigeria.
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James Thopatho, the Nguedo Sub-County Chairperson, says more than 40 residents were affected by Total’s activities in the sub county. There are eight oil wells in Nguedo Sub County alone.
Doris Atwijukire, the AFIEGO Program Officer, says much as it is vital to explore such a precious mineral resource, as oil, it should not be done in a manner that abuses residents’ rights. Atwijukire pledges AFIEGO’s commitment to help the affected residents get justice.
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In a telephone interview Ahleme Friga- Noy, the Corporate Affairs Manager Total E&P, said the oil company applies rates provided by the district and approved by the chief government valuer. Ahleme reveals that mature cassava is compensated at 1.5 million shillings per acre and the immature cassava at 450,000 per acre. She did not however, give a breakdown of how much they pay per square metre.
But Godfrey Businge, the secretary Buliisa district land board, admits that the compensation is based on the 2011/2012 rates which have now expired.
Businge says his office has directed oil companies to halt any more payments awaiting the new rates, which the land board is computing now. It is not the first time Buliisa residents are querying the low compensation rates offered by oil companies.
Last year residents of Buliisa town council voiced similar concerns against Tullow Oil Company, while meeting Members of Parliament on the natural resources committee. In the neighbouring Hoima district, residents in the proposed oil refinery area of Kabaale in Buseruka Sub County are crying over poor compensation, as government moves to displace them from their ancestral land.
More than 7,000 residents are facing displacement to pave way for the oil refinery.