The Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) denies that some Project Affected Persons (PAPs) have been prohibited from developing their land while others have been forcibly driven out without being compensated to pave way for the development of the oil and gas sector.
Mr Ali Ssekatawa, the Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs at the PAU also denies that the PAPs were made to sign compensation forms without being provided with satisfactory information in order for the government to achieve its oil production goals.
He says that the halt in field activities for land acquisition for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and the Kingfisher and Tilenga projects as a result of scaling down of project-related activities and later the Covid-19 pandemic has caused anxiety among the PAPs.
The legal officer clarifies that although there have been delays in compensation, there is no any PAP that has ever been subjected to any form of mistreatment in the guise of extracting oil.
“False reports wrongly state that PAPs have been stopped from using their land while others have been forcefully evicted without compensation. There have also been allegations that the PAPs were made to sign compensation forms without adequate information. The Petroleum Authority of Uganda acknowledges the delay in the compensation process; however, no PAP has been evicted or stopped from using their land as has been portrayed,” says Mr Ssekatawa.
The legal officer adds that since Uganda’s oil and gas resources are onshore, such an infrastructure as well pads and flowlines, crude oil pipelines, central processing facilities, a refinery, base camps and access roads among others will be developed on private land acquired from the communities and also on land belonging to government entities.
He says that whatever the ownership, such a land is acquired after prior, fair and adequate consent or compensation of the affected communities.
These facilities are being established for four projects including the Tilenga and Kingfisher projects for the development of field and production of the crude oil together with the refinery and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) commercialisation projects.
Plans are underway to construct a 1,443km EACOP that will transport Uganda’s crude oil from Kabaale in Hoima district to Tanga in Tanzania for export to the international market.
This pipeline will be buried to a depth of about one metre below the ground for all its length. In Uganda, the EACOP will cover 296km, through 10 districts including Hoima, Kikuube, Kakumiro, Kyankwanzi, Mubende, Gomba, Sembabule, Lwengo, Kyotera and Rakai.
Mr Ssekatawa says that government has already identified land for the EACOP that will be laid in a 30- metre-corridor.
The Kingfisher project covers Hoima and Kikuube districts whereas the Tilenga project covers Buliisa and Nwoya Districts.
Mr Ssekatawa says that all PAPs will be treated according to the framework of the laws of Uganda.
“All the PAPs for the projects have been identified, and the affected property assessed and valued. During the assessment and evaluation exercise, all PAPs and their spouses are required to sign on their assessment forms to confirm that what has been captured is indeed what has been taken stock of by the valuers and assessors,” he says.
Adding: “A cut-off date is announced after taking stock of the affected land and properties. The announcement is meant to inform PAPs that any and all improvements made on the land following that period would not be eligible for compensation. A cut-off date is essential for any project to progress from assessment to actual compensation”.
Following the assessment exercise, Mr Ssekatawa says that the PAPs were advised to continue with cultivation of seasonal crops, but any new permanent structures or long-term crops would not be compensated.
“The PAPs would also be allowed to harvest all their crops and salvage any materials after compensation. Each PAP is aware of the boundaries of the project land and as such free to utilise the land outside the project footprint as he/she wishes”, he says.
Mr Ssekatawa says that the PAPs are only required to vacate project land following receipt of full compensation for said land.
He clarifies that currently, the only PAPs that have been requested to vacate the project land are those in Tilenga Development Project RAP 1 and Kingfisher Development Area (KFDA) RAP 1 both of whom have been fully compensated and their resettlement houses completed.
“All PAPs that have not been compensated remain in possession of their land and are free to keep utilising it, within limits. Several livelihood restoration programmes in agriculture, business, financial literacy and skilling are also implemented as part of the package to support PAPs transition. The PAPs are therefore allowed to utilise their land post-cut-off date announcement with the understanding that new developments will not be compensated, but crops can be harvested and any materials salvaged. All land surrounding and outside the project area is however not affected by the cut off dates”.
Mr Ssekatawa informs the PAPs that nobody has been evicted from their land adding that after compensation, a notice to vacate will be issued with timelines within which the affected persons must either move or relocate from the project land.
He, therefore, encourages the PAPs to continue using their land as government fast-tracks the compensation process.
The legal officer says that the delays occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and other challenges liek absentee landlords are regrettable continuing that preparations are in high gear to resume the compensation processes within a month’s time subject to the Ministry of Health Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Mr Ssekatawa pledges that the PAU will ensure that all PAPs are compensated promptly, fairly and adequately.