Project Affected Persons (PAPs) in oil-rich Hoima District that hosts the oil and gas processing facilities are complaining about purported unfair treatment, gross fraud and a raw deal in the compensation process.
Some of those affected by the East African Crude Oil Project (EACOP) in the district that lies in the Albertine belt now want the Government Chief Valuer (GCV) and the Inspectorate of Government (IG) to immediately audit the compensation arrangement alleging that some companies especially Infra Consulting Services Limited are taking advantage of low literacy levels and lack of information to grossly cheat the communities.
Mr Nelson Tibemanya, a resident of Kijumba village in Kigaaga parish, Kabaale sub-county in Hoima district described the compensation arrangement as fraudulent, full of irregularities and unfairness.
“We want the office of the IGG (Inspector General of Government) and GCV (Government Chief Valuer) to immediately audit this process because we’re being cheated in broad day light by the crude oil pipeline company – Infra Consulting Services Limited. We need a fair and mutually acceptable deal for the community members on issues of compensation, resettlement and the negative spillover effects,” Mr Tibemanya said.
This during the district integrity promotion of anti-corruption dialogue organised by Action Aid International Uganda in partnership with Uganda Debt Network and Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) yesterday (Tuesday), November 23, in Hoima District ahead of the Anti-Corruption Week.
Mr James Tusiime, another affected person in Kabaale sub-county said the processes regarding oil exploration and now production phase have been shrouded with secrecy with multinational companies’ top leaders allegedly conniving with multinationals to frustrate the local communities.
Critics and local communities accuse the government of bungling the entire process right from the withholding information from the public to displacing and compensating local communities through an ambiguous and unfair system, to commissioning a refinery whose economic viability is still uncertain.
“They come here and force us to sign documents. They say if we do not, we shall lose our land,” said Ms Marion Nyakato, a woman who accused the multinational firms who work on behalf of government of purportedly coercing her into signing over her property to her son and husband, disregarding her marital rights.
Mr Innocent Tumwebaze, whose land the firms also acquired for the oil project, claimed that he was arrested and beaten with a gun barrel for questioning government activities in the region.
These suggested that the IGG’s office should investigate and find discrepancies and unfairness in the compensation by different multinational firms contracted to implement a Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) for persons affected by the acquisition of land for an oil refinery in Kabaale, Hoima District.
For instance, Strategic Friends International Limited (SFI) a firm contracted by Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) to implement a RAP for persons affected by the acquisition of land for an oil refinery in Kabaale, Buseruka values each acre of land Shs12m while Infra Consulting Services, a company subcontracted by Totalenergies values each acre at less than Shs6 in the same location, according to Mr Tibemanya.
“That’s why we want the Government Chief Valuer to immediately investigate this company over this unfairness,” Mr Tibemanya demanded.
In his response, the Hoima Residential District Commissioner, Mr Yosam Tumwebaze, promised that he will personally investigate the matter and ensure all those cheated by the company get justice.
He urged local communities to always engage their leaders on such matters.
Commercial oil production in Uganda is expected to begin in 2023 and carry on for 30 years.
Dates have been changed as stakeholders iron out the bureaucracies and complications of producing this rather waxy oil.
But once production begins in earnest, revenue from the estimated 3.5 billion barrels is expected to turn around the impoverished country whose president, Yoweri Museveni, has been in power for 35 years.
Oil money is expected to bring electricity to the 90 per cent people who live without it, revive the ailing Universal Primary Education system, put beds in the dilapidated hospitals and finance an ambitious presidential initiative (Vision 2040) to put Uganda in the league of upper-middle-income countries.