Lawsuit, Petitions as Oil Refinery Land Compensation Process Drags On Top story

2640 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Hangi says that the Refinery Affected Persons study was only approved in December 2012 and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development started the process for procuring the implementing consultant in March 2013. This consultant was hired in June 2013 and that is when the on-going compensation exercise started. In government’s view, the process has not taken long.

Government finds itself facing a lawsuit and several petitions from people affected by the acquisition of land in Kabaale, Hoima, for the proposed construction of an oil refinery.
 
Different groups have issued petitions seeking for their grievances to be addressed, while 86 people have chosen to go to court.
 
According to a statement from African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), signed by the Executive Director, Dickens Kamugisha, this group of people say that their land rights have been violated, since they haven’t been able to utilise their land since 2012.
 
Government set 1st June 2012 as the cut-off date, beyond which any activity or development carried out on the acquired land would not be compensated for.
 
Speaking to a group of journalists in August 2012, Irene Bateebe, the Officer in Charge of the Oil Refinery Project at the Petroleum Exploration and Production Department, said that this is because government cannot keep going back to value the land.
 
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Innocent Tumwebaze, the Spokesperson for the complainants, says that they and their families have been on the verge of food insecurity for two years.
 
Uganda Radio Network has seen a petition by a different group, about 150 people across all the affected villages, dated February 25 2014, and addressed to the President.
 
The petitioners say that they are receiving between 3.5 and 4.5 million Ushs per acre, but the price of land in the areas surrounding the refinery land is 8 million and above, per acre.
 
Their complaints single out properties on the land which they feel were unfairly valued. The petition says that a banana plant was valued at 4000 Ushs, yet on the open market, a bunch of matooke is between 10, 000 and 15, 000 Ushs. They claim that government revealed these rates to them in 2013, yet the valuing was done between 2010 and 2011, and they are thus out-dated.
 
Darlson Turyagumanawe, a resident of Nyahaira, sums their grievances up.
 
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Another group of 70 households, who chose resettlement, petitioned Kabagambe Kaliisa, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Energy and other institutions several times, with their most recent petition dated January 31st, asking to know where and when they will be resettled.
 
In the Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD)’s response to Uganda Radio Network regarding the petitions and pending lawsuit, Bashir Hangi, the Communications Officer for the department, says that a grievance-handling mechanism has been put in place for the affected people. He adds that the determination of the land and semi-permanent structure rates are the mandate of the District Land Boards (in this case Hoima District), and the PEPD has no mandate to change them.
 
Of the 7118 people across 13 villages, government is currently in the process of compensating 2473 people. That means more than half of the affected people still await their fate, even when Irene Bateebe said on record in 2012 that the compensation process would be complete by mid-2013.
 
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Hangi says that the Refinery Affected Persons study was only approved in December 2012 and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development started the process for procuring the implementing consultant in March 2013. This consultant was hired in June 2013 and that is when the on-going compensation exercise started. In government’s view, the process has not taken long.
 
He adds that government is in the process of acquiring land for the group of people that chose to be resettled.
 
In the meantime, for many of the affected people, life can be described by one word; uncertainty.