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OPINION: Avoid Past Mistakes in the Buliisa Oil Compensation Processes

Doris Atwijukire

By: Doris Atwijukire

This week, sick during our field visit in Ngwedo Sub county, Buliisa district by the Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED), I noticed various posters of cut-off date announcements for the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP 1) Industrial Area.

According to the information on the posters, the final cut-off date for the area demarcated for the industrial area was 16th May 2017. The cut-off date is when the eligibility for resettlement and compensation is established and completed.

After the cut-off date, any social and economic activities put up in the demarcated industrial area are not eligible for compensation or resettlement. Any new persons that move or settle into the demarcated area will equally not be eligible for compensation or resettlement.

As government and Joint Venture Partners(CNOOC Uganda Ltd, Total E &P Uganda and Tullow Oil Uganda Ltd move in to the development phase that will lead in to the production of oil, one of the facilities to be developed is the Industrial Area.

The development of the Industrial Area which includes the Central Processing Facility (CPF), access roads, operational camps and yards will require permanent acquisition of land.

Total E&P Uganda and Tullow oil Uganda, assisted by ATACAMA Consulting in association with Synergy Global Limited and Nomad Consulting have identified and completed the  demarcation of the land required for the Industrial Area within Ngwedo Sub county, Buliisa district.

We appreciate the ongoing government’s efforts towards this milestone. This presents a tremendous opportunity for national development.

The processing of oil will generate more revenues which, if well utilized, will enable the government to provide the much needed social and economic services such as employment, quality health and education, clean water, good roads and many other amenities to improve the living standards of Ugandans.

However, while the cut-off date for RAP 1 Industrial Area was set, none of the affected people and local leaders I talked too seems to know exactly when the compensations will be paid.

People claim they were told not to build any new houses or grow crops for they will not be considered for compensation. Yet, they have not yet been communicated when they will receive their compensation.

The question is; why do the project implementers find it ok to setting the cut-off date without disclosing when affected people will be compensated?  Which of the two is more important and of interest to the affected people? The residents of Ngwedo would be interested to know when they will get compensated or resettled. Setting the cut-off date without disclosing to people when they will be compensated is similar to denying them their rights to land.

This is because you have restricted them from conducting certain activities on their own land.  That’s stopping people from using their property before compensation which is in contravention of Article 26 of the Ugandan Constitution.

Article 26 of the Constitution provides that: (1)        Every person has a right to own property, and (2)     No person shall be compulsorily deprived of property or any interest in or right over property of any description except where the following conditions are satisfied (a) the taking of possession or acquisition is necessary for public use, (b) the compulsory taking of possession or acquisition of property is made under a law which makes provision for prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation, prior to the taking of possession or acquisition of the property.

Experience from Kabaale Hoima, the refinery affected area show that, the project implementers set a cut-off date of 2nd June 2012 upon which any development made on the land was not to be compensated.

The government made the announcement for compensation of 29SKM of land (involving 7,118 people) in 2012 and the first phase of the payment was effected in 2014 that is  2 years later which resulted into a lot of grievances.

Since 2012, the 93 families have been waiting for their full resettlement package – an alternative piece of land and a modern house for each household but for now five years, they are still waiting. This is torturing mentally and emotionally as it makes it difficult for the affected people to plan for their families.

In addition to setting the cut off dates, Project implementers should  give  information regarding when people shall leave, how much they shall be paid as compensation or where they shall be resettled and work towards the set timeframe.

This way, affected people will benefit and be certain about their future. These people need to plan for their families but this will be impossible with no knowledge of when they will be compensated and relocated.

Most residents of Buliisa have grass thatched houses which requires one to keep renovating from time to time. If compensation takes longer, people’s houses will collapse on them as they wait to be compensated and resettled.

The Ngwedo affected residents need assurance that the payment would be timely and fair. Further, Government and companies should appreciate that as third parties, CSOs can play a very big role when it comes to resolution of community development challenges and problems.

They should therefore partner to organize and facilitate discussions with communities, offer capacity building programs to enable communities to have various alternative investment opportunities, verify the payment and payment procedures with the communities, resolve conflicts among others.

The author is the Programme Officer, Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED)

doratwijukire@gmail.com

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