Tuesday June 26 2018

Bunyoro residents turn to oil firms for jobs, water

Skills development.  Students of the metal

Skills development. Students of the metal fabrication class at St Simon Vocational Training Institute in Hoima on May 25. Photo by Moses Kyeyune  

By Moses kyeyune

Some residents in the Albertine Graben have cast doubt on the much-promised benefits, especially jobs for residents.
Whereas several early impact projects such as learning institutions to skill the population are being undertaken by the oil companies and other partners, many people from the region have failed to feel the impact.
The overriding reason is that the projects have not yet addressed unemployment and basic services such as health and clean water provision.

Buseruka Sub-county in Hoima District has been identified for the construction of the refinery and the government has acquired 29square kilometres of land.
In turn, locals expect to be given good schools for their children as well as improved health facilities.
The population survives on the only Buseruka HCIII which is aided by the government.

Ms Peruth Mbabazi,47, a resident, thinks more should be done for the community. “They come and promise us schools and water, but they are yet to come,” she says.
Nyamasoga Village has only one primary school. This means that many of the children can only study up to Primary Seven.
Like Ms Mbabazi, many parents have placed their hope in the oil companies to change the situation.
The population wants water, both for drinking and other household purposes.

A 20-litre jerrycan of clean water costs between Shs500 and Shs1,000, which is high given the low standard of living in the area.
A similar disappointment has been expressed by the children born in the area, especially those that have attained some level of education.
Mr Godfrey Murungi,27, another resident, says his dream of getting employed has faded.
“The youth of this place do not have jobs yet those from other parts of the country come and take up the jobs,” he says.
“When we go to the airport, we are told there are no jobs yet, but we see others working there,” adds Murungi.

Mr Murungi studied up to Senior Four and dropped out of school. He then pursued vocational training in carpentry and masonry.
Like Murungi, Gilbert Aculeera dropped out of school after Senior Four and enrolled for the same training.
He too, has kept walking back and forth in search of a job but in vain.
“You are made to line up all day long, only to be sent away in the evening after making it to the receiving table,” says Aculeera.
He says; “It hurts when we see other people taking up the jobs meant for us; when you are lucky to get a job, they will give you a task you cannot handle such that you eliminate yourself.”

Buseruka Secondary School, the only secondary school in the sub-county operates only an O-Level section. Residents are hoping that the exploration companies can help have it cover A-Level studies as well.
In the neighbourhood there is St Simon Peter Vocational Training Institute, which offers skills in welding and metal fabrication, carpentry and electric engineering.
The institute charges between Shs400,000 and Shs800,000 in tuition, which is way high for many locals.
Ms Jolly Kyomuhendo,27, a resident of Kasingo Cell in Hoima Municipality, is one of the lucky few.
She has attained skills in welding at St Simon.

“I can do welding and any other activity such as basic welding, simple welding and that of oil and gas,” she narrates.
A Senior Four dropout, Ms Kyomuhendo says she was inspired into welding after realising that many of her colleagues that had gone for business courses remained unemployed.
Her lifelong hope is that she will be given a job when the construction of the refinery starts.
In 2012, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) partnered with Nile Vocational Institute in Hoima to train 70 youth in welding, carpentry, joinery, masonry, plumbing, electric installation and hair dressing.

Mr Zakalia Lubega, the corporate social responsibility manager at CNOOC, says it is not a guarantee that all trainees will be employed by the company.
“We were doing that as part of the corporate social responsibility this is not a cost that we are going to recover from the government,” he says.
“If we need masons, we can be able to get them from within this region, the same to carpenters.”

Fate of those trained
Mr Lubega explains that when the youth are trained, it is desirable they get the job within the oil and gas industry but what matters most is they have been equipped with life skills, which they can take to other parts of the country and the world to earn a living.
But for the aspect of local content, Mr Lubega says it would be better for early preparation.
“If you don’t support the communities here to get some of the skills, at least at the minimum to be recruited as semi-skilled individuals then those opportunities will go somewhere else,” he says.
None the less, in the KingFisher area, where CNOOC operates, people’s welfare has greatly been improved.

Teachers and medical officers in Buhuka Primary School and Buhuka HC II, have had their incomes enhanced by the company, which tops up their allowances.
Mr Bernard Atwooki Barugahara, the Buliisa District community development officer, explains that projects of this nature started when Tullow Oil was the lead company in the area.

For every project, Mr Barugahara says, the community leaders sit with the companies and share ideas. He says negotiations by political leaders have birthed good projects for the community.
One of such benefits is the Hoima District hospital, which was constructed in partnership with Tullow Oil.
“The company wanted to rehabilitate the HC IV but we saw the space was not enough; we came to an agreement that we provide the land and they put up the hospital,” says Mr Barugahara.

What residents want

Despite some undertakings, many locals feel detached from the projects and believe more can be done. Mr Geoffrey Komakech, the Buseruka Sub-county councillor, Hoima District, says oil companies should engage residents more on local content.

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