Buliisa residents caught up in land-oil compensation storms

The land in Buliisa District has become a hot item after oil companies pitched camp. FILE PHOTO

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Bickering. Since the discovery of oil in Bunyoro region, the dust has not yet settled on the issues such as compensation and ownership of land.

On August 28, irate residents blocked Tullow Oil officials from passing through their road in Uribo Village in Buliisa Sub-county.The road connects Kigogole oil well to the camp which the oil firm set up.

Acting Buliisa District Police Commander, Christopher Bigirwenkya said police rushed to the scene to quell the crowd from attacking the officials. 10 people were arrested.

“There was no damage caused on the oil machines. Farmers thought that oil workers will not compensate them when trucks destroy their crops” Bigirwenkya said.

This reflects what many people especially in Buliisa district face since the discovery of oil in western Uganda about four years ago.

The findings caused excitement among the people of Bunyoro as many anticipated jobs, contracts, access to cheap fuel and quick revenues from the oil exploration.

Tullow Oil is carrying out seismic operations in the area but residents are concerned at the rate at which they are losing land to prominent business tycoons and the destruction of their crops. They claim they are given low compensation which they take long to get.

“Many people are unhappy about the small compensation for their destroyed crops,” Mr Isaac Nkuba, the chairperson of Buliisa NGO Forum said.

He said oil firms and government land valuers assessed the damages of properties destroyed in January and February but they have not yet received their compensation.

“This injustice is unacceptable. We have to engage government to resolve this urgently,” Mr Nkuba adds.

Mr Nkuba said he is overwhelmed by the number of people who come to his office seeking his intervention on land disputes. The Buliisa County member of Parliament, Mr Stephen Mukitale, said his constituents should not be victimised.
“The problem is the district leadership and the government valuers who are not helping them to get adequate compensation,” Mr Mukitale said.

Four people were killed on August 25 over a land wrangle in Hoima. Two families were bickering over the ownership of a two-acre piece of land.

The number of land disputes has been steadily increasing in Hoima since the discovery of oil. Police records over 10 land related cases every week in the district.

Fees reduced
The district land board chairman, Mr John Tundulu, says the evaluations for compensation were done early this year by government valuers.

Ms Joyce Kandogoli, a representative of the town council in the district says compensation fees were recently reduced from Shs9,000 to only Shs2,000 per square metre of cassava destroyed.

The Kigwera Parish chairman, Mr Kalisa Bamuturaki, says a mature cassava plant is valued at Shs1,500, a mango tree at Shs15,000 while an orange tree is valued at Shs40,000.

“The compensation is too little because each of our fruit yields are worth over Shs70,000 per season,” Mr Bamuturaki says.
Mr Tundulu, however, acknowledged that many people are rushing to acquire land in the district but said his office will not tolerate illegal land dealings.

“Where there is a dispute, we shall not process a title,” he said.

He added that although land is communally owned, some members have sold it to a willing buyer- willing seller basis.
Tullow oil has reportedly been compensating families whose property was destroyed during oil activities and claim the rates are determined by government valuers.

“The determination of district compensation rates is a mandate of the district land boards. Tullow has to abide by the availed rates and uses the same to compensate damaged crops and property affected by operations,” Tullow Oil’s spokesperson, Mr Jimmy Kiberu says.

The area member of Parliament claims that there is a clique of mafias who are grabbing Buliisa land, strategically targeting oil sites.
Lt. Col. Joram Kagezi, the commander of the UPDF reserve force in Bunyoro, says government plans to set up a military base in Kyangwali Sub-county in Hoima District.

The Hoima deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr Abdu Swamadu Wantimba, says the land in question is owned by the government.

However, not all is lost for Buliisa residents since many of them have started sharing the benefits that have come with oil discovery.

Tullow oil through its corporate social responsibility programme has put up some infrastructures, health, education, enterprise development and natural resource management.

“Upgraded murram roads have provided access to commercial markets, allowing fishermen to obtain better prices for their fish. Access to government aid workers and medical education advisors also been improved,” Mr Kiberu added.
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