Citizens in the Rwenzori sub-region are wary wildlife in the area will be disrupted with the development of the oil sector.
According to World Wildlife Fund, Uganda’s proven petroleum reserves are located within 70 per cent of its wildlife-protected areas and this includes Semuliki and Queen Elizabeth national parks in the Rwenzori sub-region, south of the Albertine graben.
“Oil sector development is taking place in the protected areas in this region, are you going to relocate the national parks elsewhere?” Prof. John Ntambirweki, the vice chancellor of Fort Portal-based Uganda Pentecostal University, asked at a dialogue to preview the Bills relevant to the oil sector regulation in Uganda.
The dialogue in Fort Portal last week was organised by Tullow Uganda where its officials and those of Chinese oil giant, CNOOC, engaged the public and other stakeholders on the progress of oil exploration in the Albertine region.
Tullow defends activities
Prof. Ntambirweki’s argument was emphasised by Prof. Edward Rugumayo, the chancellor of the Mountains of the Moon University, who expressed concern over how the oil companies would handle environmental challenges.
In response, Ms Gloria Sebikari, the communications officer at the Petroleum Exploration and Production Department under the Ministry of Energy, said: “Whatever we have done so far we do it in collaboration with Nema (National Environment Management Authority) and UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) and our work and movements in protected areas is done at a certain time when there is less movement of wild animals and we restore the sites to the original state without any harm to the environment.”
But some leaders expressed fear that many Ugandans could be left out yet they have the ability to reap big from the oil and gas sector.
“Many people have high expectations in the oil and gas sector which will not come to pass. The oil sector can be of big benefit only if leaders can move fast to help the masses know what to do,” said Mr Patrick Muzinduki of Kabarole Research and Resource Centre.
Area MP Alex Ruhunda said Ugandans need to think in an enterprising manner and strategise themselves on ways of tapping money by providing services to the oil companies.
“As a region, we need to be strategic and push people to join the oil field and embrace ways of earning from the sector. Our people need to build hotels, have quality products such as food which these people will be consuming, This is the only way where majority of our people will benefit from the oil,” Mr Ruhunda said.
But Mr Yasin Tumwine from Ntoroko District expressed fear that many people are going to lose out on service provision due to poor product standards.
The project officer of Human Rights Network-Uganda, Mr Peter Magelah, challenged leaders in the region to help manage the expectations of Ugandans and tell them how they will be able to benefit from the oil sector.
“We have to manage our expectations and stop telling people that they will get jobs, the oil companies will provide only 10,000 jobs which will see many left out,” Mr Magelah said.
He said the Petroleum (Exploration Development and Production) Bill on land rights recognises compensation for land owners but leaves out other persons with rights on land.
“The Bill does not recognise other persons with rights on land other than the owners. Bibanja holders, and customary land owners are not catered for,” Mr Magelah said.