Tuesday March 25 2014

Fishing communities in despair over oil drilling

Pupils at Nyawaiga Primary School point to the

Pupils at Nyawaiga Primary School point to the dilapidated borehole donated to the school by Tullow Oil. PHOTO BY FREDERIC MUSISI 



Aids kills. Aids has no cure. Stay Safe. Be Polite. Love God. Avoid early Sex. Avoid early marriage.
Seen from a distance, these words in bold-black plastered over the face wall of the six-roomed rickety structure which houses classes from Primary One to Six; welcome you to Nyawaiga Primary School.

The school has a population of approximately 300 pupils from the Rift Valley villages of Nyawaiga, Ssebagoro and Kyavuda, Kabwoya Sub-county in Hoima District.

The pupils on completion here have to decide on two options; Continue to primary seven at a school in the nearby village 2-3 kilo meters away or keep off the education thing altogether; boys join fathers to comb the lake for fish and girls get married.

Nyawaiga Primary School has six teachers but none has reported for duty since schools, countrywide, opened on February 3; reason being, their salaries for the last three months have not been paid.

The head teacher, Severias Kabandore, who is also new in the area, says: “I have just been transferred here, and I cannot force them to classes.”
The best student, the school prides in, save for being shy, can only confidently utter three English sentences; “My name is David Okello and I am in P.6. I come from Congo. When I grow up I want to be a teacher.”

The other pupils except for the usual greeting “How are you? I am fine” stare puzzled at the English-speaking strangers without comprehension.
But to many parents, this education is the only path to a better future for their children, and perhaps getting a chance to secure jobs in the budding oil industry.

Tullow helped the village by constructing a new modern school, a kilometre away, early last year but is yet to be commissioned.
The sense of unpleasantness at Nyawaiga is a representation of limited hope amidst a long list of demands and mixed reactions harboured by the fishing communities along Lake Albert in whose backyard oil was discovered.

The oil companies, Tullow Oil PLC and Cnooc, operating in the area, have coined the term “Oil Cities” to refer to the villages.
But even with the ongoing construction of the 92-km Kaiso-Tonya road which winds up South East of Lake Albert, the oil cities are still hard to reach; more than an hour’s drive off the main road.

A return journey from Ssebagoro to Hoima in an ostensibly death stinking car in pitiable mechanical condition owned by some wily villagers costs the locals between Shs30, 000 to Shs40,000.

The locals appreciate the fact that oil is yet to be pumped out of the ground but all they ask is a little bit of improved service delivery—good roads, health centres, clean water and good schools.

“If our children must get oil jobs they must study hard but we don’t even have a secondary school here,” said Mr Robert Garang, the general secretary Ssebagoro village, “We have seven primary schools but no secondary school.”

The nearest secondary school is close to 50kms away. Although the locals are happy with the project, they say they were denied jobs, especially those of casual labourers.

“We have never seen anyone in government to tell these problems. Residents have to channel their problems to councils which sit once in six months, then travel to Hoima” where the district is headquartered, he notes.
We know we are a fishing community but we just need better lives ahead for our children and grandchildren.”

Residents though happy with ongoing projects, claim they have been deliberately turned away by companies, even for casual jobs.

Talk of fishing, not Oil
Ssebagoro has close to 4,000 people and Nyaiwaiga approximately 3,000. Majority, both men and women make ends meet through fishing.
A quick walk around the village, making inquiries about oil, did not yield much enthusiasm about the subject.

Problem is, residents claim fish stocks have declined since drillingwas intensified.
This is the only worry and the populace is convinced oil drilling “has chased fish away.”

Actually, Garang and several villagers this newspaper spoke with: “don’t mind about oil as long it does not take away our life and off our land.”
Five kilometres away from Ssebagoro, is Nkondo; another village stained with poverty, a strong stench of fish, children of school-going age lounging on porches of grass thatched shops listening to lingala music.
Older men some sipping on local brew and others playing the local mancala board game (Omweso).

The area LC2 Eric Kamanyire, is quick to brag: “Basically this is where oil is located. We don’t know how much will come out of it but all we want to see are benefits come down here.”

He adds: “Government has abandoned us for long but we hope that with oil at least we’ll get something. We don’t intend to leave fishing because it’ our way of life but we want good and services.”

Seven oil cities rely on one health centre (3) in Ssebagoro which both residents and health attendants say, is very “overwhelming.”
One nurse, Agnes Ayebazibwe Agnes, describes health service provision here “as very tough.”

“We usually receive between 30 t0 40 patients against medical staff of 7 and on days like Wednesdays (a market day) when people can move a long distance, in large numbers; we usually receive up to 80 patients.”
Problem is, the health centre is a one container room with multiple uses—patient examination and emergency; labor ward; antenatal and clerking.

“We last received drugs from government in December,” she adds, “Tullow was constructing for us a bigger health center but because of regular earthquakes, the building kept developing cracks and they did not finish it. Doctors don’t have houses; we sleep in a container that Tullow donated.”

Residents of Kaiso village, which is 20 kilometres away from here, with a population of 12,000 people; have to travel another 15 kilometres to the nearest Tonya village for health assistance.

Unlike other oil cities, Kaiso and Tonya villages are a major hub for oil activities—South East of the Albert Graben.
In fact, the villages have progressively graduated and are easily visible on Uganda’ geographical map.

Tales of despair from Kaiso-Tonya
Kaiso is another shanty centre with inhabitants wallowing in poverty and starvation due to drought; but well versed with presence of oil in their backyard and are looking forward for a bigger share.

The area LC1 chairperson, Henry Irumba, says residents have stopped at knowing oil exploration happening in their backyard “and that is all” because everything is shrouded in secrecy.

“They are constructing a road through our land but not even one of our sons from the village works there as a porter—even the few who can speak some little English,

“We were never told of the job opportunities there. They came with their own engineers from Kampala; porters from Hoima, and left us here,” he recounts, “Fishing has been our way of life for generations but we don’t want our sons to be fishmongers too.”

Taking us around to witness the poverty in the Kaiso city polluted by fish smell, he adds: “The only modern primary school we have here was construed by Tullow, which has brought clean water. But what about government? The only time you’ll see politicians here is during elections.”

For the women, their concern is only the hard access to clean water.
The Oil Cities have are a mixed population of A lur, Acholi, Baggungu, Lugbara, Banyoro, a few Baganda and dwellers from neighbouring DR. Congo.
Their settlements are not too large, but rather an amalgamation of mostly squalid mud and wattle house clustered in one area, usually 10-20 minutes-walk from one end to another.

““Government has abandoned us for a very long time but now that we have oil we want to see some things change, otherwise…..! One elder, Joseph Opas explained, “We know the oil sector needs educated people but at least they would have given our sons jobs of lifting bricks and directing traffic.

But even for such simple jobs, they brought people from Kampala.”
Majority inhabitants of the villages on Lake Albert shores seldom engage in farming. But with fish stocks waning some are starting to think otherwise yet on the other hand drought is biting hard.

Residents say, none of their elected MPs has ever stepped foot there since the 2011 election, leaving development issues in the hands of NGOs and the civil society.

companies shortlisted for refining
Early this month government held a conference with the six firms/consortia short listed to submit proposals for the development of the 60,000 barrels per day (BPD) oil refinery and related downstream infrastructure

1. China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau (CPPB): It was established in 1973, as pipeline engineering company under the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

The Company’s net worth was about USD 2.1 Bn in 2013.
2. Marubeni Corporation: Marubeni Corporation has invested in power projects, refineries, petrochemical plants, upstream asset and gas infrastructure, logistics, and construction. The Company’s net worth stands at 12.64 Bn USD as of March 2013.

3. Petrofac led Consortium: PETROFAC is a Tier 1 international company that has a track record of success in delivering multibillion projects in oil and gas. PETROFAC operates in the

UK, Middle East, North Africa, West Africa, Central America and Asia.
Glencore Xstrata Plc, a global diversified natural resource companies and is one of the biggest companies within the FTSE 100 Index

• Springwood Capital LLP, an investment advisory firm that specializes in emerging African markets to offer the best opportunities for growth.

4. RT – Global Resources led consortium: RT Global resources, a subsidiary of Rostec which is one of Russia’s national oil companies.

5. SK Energy led consortium: SK Energy is a South Korean company engaged in oil refinery operation and marketing, exploration and production (E&P), petrochemicals, lubricants and coal business and trading. The company’s net worth was 7.8 bn USD as of 2013.

6. Vitol SA led consortium: VITOL S.A is part of the Vitol Group of Companies, one of the world’s largest independent energy trading companies. It’s net worth was 2.2 bn USD in 2013.