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Bunyoro yet to tap into oil opportunities

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Hoima Enterprise Centre that trains residents in opportunities created by the oil

Hoima Enterprise Centre that trains residents in opportunities created by the oil and gas sector in Bunyoro sub-region. Despite the many opportunities created by the oil sector, many residents have not benefitted from the sector. Photo by Stephen Wandera 

By  Francis Mugerwa

Posted  Tuesday, December 17  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

Bunyoro Kingdom residents are still dogged by lack of skills to take advantage of the lucrative sector that has so far spent more than seven years in operation.

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Hoima/Buliisa- When oil was discovered in Bunyoro sub-region, residents had many expectations.
“We hoped that we would get subsidized kerosene,” says Mr Angalia Mukonda, the chairperson Buliisa Elders Forum in Buliisa Town Council.

To others like John Byaruhanga, 54, vegetable farmer in Buswekera Village in Hoima Municipality, the discovery of oil deposits would not have come at a better time.

He says in July last year, Tullow Oil contracted him to supply agricultural products to oil workers.
“I supply between 50 and 80 bundles of vegetables per week to oil workers. In the past two weeks, I have so far earned more than Shs700,000,” Byaruhanga says.

Byaruhanga’s case notwithstanding, many residents expected the sub-region, lagging behind in economic development, to experience a turnaround in fortunes.

However, with production yet to begin, many are still yearning to benefit from the oil sector.
So, what has prevented the sub-region from tapping into the opportunities accruing from the oil sector?
Mr George Muhuruzi, a businessman who is also the head of Bunyoro Kingdom’s regalia, says: “We are unable to meet the employment standards created by the sector. We, therefore, require a special programme to empower us to tap into those opportunities.”

As a result, Bunyoro leaders have demanded for special initiatives that will enable them tap social-economic benefits that are accruing from oil and gas operations in the region.

Bunyoro admits
“The need for communities hosting oil to benefit from jobs and businesses cannot be overemphasised. People hosting oil operations need to be primary beneficiaries in oil activities,” says Mr Fred Lukumu, the Buliisa District chairperson.
However, oil companies argue that residents can access opportunities in the sector when they meet the international standards required of all suppliers and contractors.

Tullow Oil’s national content manager Nelson Ofwono says the company prioritises making use of labour, goods and services by Ugandans because it lowers operational costs which would be incurred by getting goods and services from international suppliers.

For specialised skills which Ugandans cannot supply to the industry, Mr Ofwono says with government approval, Tullow hires experts who are usually encouraged to nurture Ugandans.

“We also follow procurement procedures in line with international practices established in consultation with the government,” Mr Ofwono says. Ms Catherine Bekunda, a communication officer in the ministry of Energy’s Petroleum Exploration and Production Department, says the government regulates oil firms and requires them to employ expatriates in senior management or highly technical positions where skills cannot be found locally.

She adds that each oil company is required to provide proof that there is no Ugandan with the qualifications required for the job that is offered to expatriates.

Tullow Oil’s stakeholder engagement manager Didas Muhumuza says the company prioritises supporting local businesses, individuals and enterprises in its operations.

Bunyoro Affairs minister Ernest Kiiza says the government has a deliberate strategy of supporting Ugandans to benefit from the oil sector as guided by relevant laws and policies.
“The challenge is for us leaders to sensitise communities to seize the opportunities of the sector. Parents should encourage their children to pursue science courses that are relevant in the sector,” Mr Kiiza says.

Refinery compensations begin

Government has started compensating residents of 13 villages in Hoima District where it intends to set up a refinery.
More than 7,000 individuals of Kabaale Parish in Buseruka Sub-county are to be affected. Their property was valued last year by Strategic Friends International, the firm contracted to implement RAP.

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