Players in Uganda’s emerging oil and gas sector should pursue the goal of extraction and production by involving young people in aspects like information sharing to prevent likely misconceptions that could trigger conflicts in future.
Mr Nathan Isingoma, the Speaker of Hoima District Council says ever since commercially viable oil and gas deposits were discovered in the Albertine Region, all stakeholders have not adequately involved young people, yet they will be Uganda’s decision makers in the future .
“If you don’t involve the youth in this sector, we are sitting on a time bomb,” he said.
He was speaking during the Inter Secondary School Debating Competition in Hoima town on Thursday.
He said if young people are not involved, they will either have a lot of hope in the sector yet there are numerous opportunities that can feed into it.
“Oil workers and other players will not come with food to the region. This means that if young people are guided to produce food, they will indirectly benefit financially,” he said.
The debate that attracted eight schools focussed on opportunities and challenges in the Albartine region due to oil and gas extraction and processing activities.
The schools that participated were St Thomas More SSS, Kitara SSS, Buseruka SSS, Mandera SSS, Premier SSS, Strive SSS, Daystar SSS and St Cyprian SSS.
Uganda has 6.5 billion barrels of oil of which 1.4 billion is recoverable while an estimated 170 billion cubic feet of gas reservoirs were confirmed.
Mr Dida Muhumuza, the coordinator of Oil in Uganda project at Action Aid Uganda said involving the youth, who make more than 70 percent of Uganda’s population is prudent.
“Oil became a curse in Nigeria because young people were never involved in the process. By the time they started asking questions, it was too late and that led to the arrest and hanging of people like Ken Saro-Wiwa,” he said.
Saro-Wiwa led a peaceful movement for the environmental and human rights of Nigeria’s Ogoni people whose oil-rich land has been exploited by multinational oil companies. The Nigerian government executed him in 1995. The crime of Saro-Wiwa and his eight co-defendants was to demand sound environmental practices and to ask for compensation for the devastation of Ogoni territories.
At that time, an estimated $30 billion worth of oil had been extracted. In return the Ogoni, a group of 550,000 farmers and fishermen inhabiting this coastal land, received little except a ravaged environment. Farmland that was once fertile turned to contaminated fields from oil spills and acid rain.
Mr Muhumuza asked the students to debate and challenge leaders at all levels on how such issues will be handled in Uganda.
Students debated how threats and opportunities presented by the discovery of oil and gas will be handled to create a win-win situation for local people, oil and gas companies and the country at large.
Students from Mandera SSS emerged winners followed by Kitara SSS. All participating schools received certificates while the best individual debaters were also awarded.