Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
Last week the energy ministry released a draft map showing the area earmarked for the construction of an oil refinery in Buseruka Sub-county, Hoima district. As Uganda plans to build an oil refinery, we thank our government for taking the initiative and deciding well on what is good for our oil industry and our country at large.
For stance, since commercial quantities of oil were discovered in Uganda six years ago, President Museveni has insisted that the country should add value to oil production by building a refinery. The idea was to make Uganda self-sufficient in petrol, diesel and kerosene-eliminating a hefty import bill of around US$ 500 million per year-and also to export petroleum products to other countries in the region. International oil companies were less keen on the plan, preferring to export crude oil quickly and profitably.
According to the oil refinery map that was released, 13 villages in Hoima district will be affected. And that at least 8,000 people are to be evicted after being compensated.
Also according to Bashir Hangi, the refinery project communications officer, the refinery map released will help them get people’s complaints if any like the spelling errors and under or over valuation of property on their land.
However, though the refinery which is expected to begin late this year will enable value addition to the crude oil, boost employment to the locals and give the locals a chance to provide services, still there are gaps to be filled especially for the refinery process to commence and became successful.
First, there is still little access to information regarding the positive and negative impacts of the refinery and pipelines planed to be constructed from different oil wells by all stakeholders for the purposes of effective public participation.
Secondly, it is unconstitutional for the developers of the refinery to tell the local communities not to plant perennial crops in the proposed refinery land before payment of compensation to the affected people. This is affecting the capacity of household heads to sustain their families.
Further, the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) which was undertaken and aimed at establishing land ownership, properties, loss of economic activities and livelihoods through compensation or resettlement from the refinery land, did not guarantee justice because of the Minister’s failure to put in place formal regulations for the assessment and payment of compensation as required by section 20 of the Land Acquisition Act Cap 226. Instead, the RAP presented biased conclusions of consultants and government which impact on the communities negatively.
In addition, neither do the oil bills 2012 provide for a land owner an option to lease where he or she fails to agree with options of compensation or resettlement nor does it provide for compensation to include value added by the discovery of oil on the land. Leasing land will enable the land owners to continue getting rent throughout the oil production period and recover the land after oil exhaustion.
Therefore we believe that Resettlement Action Plans (RAP) should strictly be conducted in line with the Assessment and Payment of Compensation Regulations to protect the rights and interests of the affected people. This will avoid over reliance on the government valuer and districts land boards which are never independent to make reliable decisions for the affected people.
Also, In line with Article 26 of the Constitution, the communities in the proposed refinery area should not be stopped from using their land until full compensation is paid to them. And the new oil laws should make it clear that a developer/government can only acquire a right over the owner’s land after paying full and agreed compensation to the owner.
Last but not least, the new oil laws should provide an option to land owners to lease their land to oil project developers in addition to resettlement and compensation. And also ensure that the compensation value includes that of discovered oil or the value of the project to be undertaken by the developer.