Wednesday November 26 2014

MPs demand probe into refinery compensation

By Francis Mugerwa

Hoima. A section of MPs from Bunyoro sub-region have asked the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to investigate the irregularities that have marred compensations for people who will be displaced from a 29-square kilometre piece of land where government intends to set up an oil refinery.
MPs under the Parliamentary Forum on Oil and Gas visited Hoima last Friday on a trip organised by Global Rights Alert (GRA), an NGO involved in oil and gas advocacy. The MPs interfaced with communities in Kabaale Parish,Bueruka Sub-county, who are affected by the proposed refinery project.
Bukona-A village chairperson Lazaro Chombe said several residents are in shock because they have been served eviction notice before being compensated.
The Buseruka Sub-county councillor, Mr Geoffrey Komakech, informed the MPs that some residents have been waiting to be compensated for their land and properties since 2012 but to date they have never been paid.
The GRA executive director, Ms Winnie Ngabiirwe, asked government to expedite compensation.
Ms Ngabiirwe said there are also families that opted to be relocated but to date they have never been resettled.
Buhaguzi County MP Julius Junjura Bigirwa wondered why the Energy ministry has never finalised compensating the affected residents much as Parliament approved the funds allocated for the exercise.
Mr Bigirwa, who sits on the parliamentary Natural Resources Committee, said the committee would write to the Energy minister demanding explanation for the delay in compensating residents and why some properties of affected residents were omitted during valuation and compensation.
Buliisa County MP Stephen Mukitale Biraahwa said the MPs were touched by the suffering, uncertainty and anxiety among the affected residents yet some government officials have been informing Parliament that all is fine.
The Ministry of Energy’s land officer, Mr Francis Elungat, said out of about 2,700 property owners in the proposed refinery site, government has already paid 1,836 and government had acquired a 533 acre piece of land in Kyakabooga village to relocate families that opted for resettlement.
“The last batch of those awaiting compensation will be paid in the next two to three weeks and all those who registered complaints will get redress” Mr Elungat said.
He said negotiations with 42 residents, who rejected compensations claiming that rates were low, are ongoing.