Wednesday August 21 2013

Oil compensation splits Hoima residents

Residents in Hoima who are to be evicted to pave way for a refinery ponder their next move.

Residents in Hoima who are to be evicted to pave way for a refinery ponder their next move. PHOTO by Francis Mugerwa. 

By Francis Mugerwa

Hoima

Residents, meant to be evicted from Kabaale parish where government plans to set up an oil refinery plant, are split over the proposed compensations that government intends to pay them for the land and property.

Early July, Strategic Friends International, a Ugandan firm contracted by the Energy ministry to implement the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) begun disbanding compensations to individual property owners in the area.

The Daily Monitor has learnt that whereas some residents have welcomed the compensations, others have strongly objected and have refused to sign compensation acceptance forms. Abdu Rashid Aheehwa, a resident of Nyakasenene LCI, has accepted the compensation. He said he had 2.9 acres of land in an area earmarked for a refinery. He had planted mangoes, bananas, yams, cassava and maize. He claims he was given a compensation of Shs3.5 million per acre.

“I just accepted the money because I know I have to leave this area to enable government to set up a refinery. I, however, thought I would get atleast Shs 15 million per acre to help us also have a startup fund for relocation,” Aheebwa whose family is comprised of nine people, said.
He said he signed for a total compensation value of Shs 20 million much as he had anticipated more than Shs70 million.

Evelyn Atugonza, who owns 10 acres of land with food crops said whereas her land is in Bukona A LCI, the resettlement action map indicates that her land is in Kayera LCI. “I have refused to sign. Besides the Shs3.5 million that government has proposed to pay for each of my acres is low. It may not enable me to purchase alternative land near the proposed refinery,” Atugonza, a mother of three, said.

Stella Keihangwe,a resident of Nyahaira LCI in Buseruka subcounty said the proposed compensations have resulted into a bitter domestic wrangle with her husband. “We have disagreed on how our land will be subdivided and how we shall share the compensation money,” she said.

During the social economic survey that was conducted by Strategic Friends International, the 19 acres of land were registered in Keihangwe’s names. “The husband was away in Kampala for work. When he returned, he was annoyed that the land was registered in my names. He dragged me to police. It took the intervention of the RDC for me to survive jail,” she said.

Security and local leaders mediated between the warring couple and they agreed to share the property between her husband, children and her co-wife. “Each of the eight children got two acres, my husband and I got an acre each. My co-wife also got an acre,” she said.

Ms Winnie Ngabiirwe, an executive director of Global Rights Alert, an NGO that is equipping communities living adjacent to oil with advocacy skills said, women have complained of alleged marginalisation whenever oil related compensations are paid. “Women should be involved in decision making about compensation money received in their homes. They should be able to sustain themselves and their respective families before, during and after oil production,” Ngabiirwe said.

Ngabiirwe who has mobilised women affected by oil compensations to petition Parliament, said men and women in oil areas should have space to discuss their shared concerns and consider the uniqueness of each gender.
Several residents who have rejected the compensations claim that the compensation rates offered to them are inadequate. Others claim that their properties were omitted during the valuation of all properties in the proposed refinery area. Others cite errors in recording their assets, names, villages and age.

The Hoima community Development officer, Mr Stanley Mboineki, said residents have complained about alleged poor compensation values while others suspect that there could be a ploy to cheat them. He said compensation money has already caused domestic instability as men desert their homes after realising that they will soon receive millions in such compensations. “Others are opting to marry young girls and abandoning their wives,” Mboineki said.

The refinery communication officer, Mr Bashir Hangi, however, said the exercise is going on well, much as local pressure groups and some NGOs are trying to incite people to shun the exercise. “They are agents of foreign elements that want to sabotage Uganda’s refinery project,” Hangi claimed, without specifying which foreign interests.

At compensation disclosure centres which are stationed in each of the 13 villages, the consultants implementing the RAP identify the resident; they take the photo of the person who is coded with a number. The person is shown his or her registered properties and the corresponding monetary values of each of the properties.
For those that agree with the registered properties and proposed compensation values, they are given a payment receipt.

“Much as it is a receipt, it is not a basis upon which government will pay the person. The consultant will not handle cash for the affected people. Government will use the compensation acceptance forms to wire the money direct on the respective recipient’s bank account,” Hangi said. The consultants then register complaints, if any. Daily Monitor has learnt.

Guidance required
Asked about government’s response to people who have rejected the compensations, Mr Hangi said consultants and Petroleum Exploration and Production Department officials will seek guidance from higher authorities on how to address the complaints.

Mr David Besigye, a 75-year old resident of Nyahaira LCI said he wants government to relocate him and his family of over 50 people. “I have friends and relatives in this village. I have food crops and over 40 cows.I fear that I may be relocated to a place that is not as good as Nyahaira. I want to be given an opportunity to negotiate about the compensation that I will receive and where I will be relocated to,” Besigye said.

Mr Hangi said government is in a process of identifying land where people who chose to relocate will be resettled and representatives of the people to be relocated will first inspect the proposed relocation sites and give feed back to the community.

Besigye who owns 50 acres of land in the area said government should be prepared to negotiate with him because he did not advertise for his land to be acquired by government. “I was enjoying my livelihood. I did not invite government to buy my land. It should be ready to pay me adequately for the inconvenience” he said.

According to Mr Hangi, government is compensating people for their lost properties and a 30 per cent of the total valued assets as a disturbance allowance. “Government is not buying the assets of those residents. It is only compensating. Residents should mark that clearly” he told this newspaper in an interview on Saturday.

fmugerwa@ug.nationmedia.com

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