The Bagungu Community Association in Buliisa district has petitioned the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, imploring her to intervene in the current oil and gas exploration disputes in the district.
Led by the area Woman MP, Hon. Norah Nyendwoha, the Bagungu complained of unfair land compensation by government, which they said was being done without consultations.
Dr. Enoch Bigirwa, the Chairperson of the Association said they were prompted to petition the Speaker when government decided to compensate locals at Ushs 3.5 million per acre of land.
“This cannot adequately resettle a family on equivalent land acreage anywhere in Uganda,” said Dr. Bigirwa.
The petitioners argued that oil has a time bound of 30 to 40 years, which does not merit permanent land acquisition. “We do not see why government wants to do permanent and compulsory land acquisition especially when we know oil is time bound,” said Bigirwa.
He noted that government should instead make provisions for land leases and restoration after the exploration period.
Bagungu expressed fear of land grabbing as their land has never been registered.
“Government tells us they have applied for a World Bank loan in order to demarcate and title our land but our fear is that this land might be titled without Bagungu,” Bigirwa says.
The petitioners also faulted government for failure to disclose and create awareness on environmental and health hazards of oil spills, which is a convention for government and multinationals in any extractive industry.
Speaker Kadaga pledged to write to the President and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development on the plight of Bagungu community.
“We need to work carefully so that we don’t make the same mistakes other countries made, for instance in Nigeria there is still iniquity between host communities and multinationals, a number of people have been kidnapped and killed,” Kadaga said.
She further recommended review of laws governing oil exploration in Uganda, to protect the community from unfair compensation, resettlement and environmental and health hazards.