Turkana council raises red flag on land deals

March 30, 2012
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Their demands came only a few days after the government announced the discovery of crude oil in Ngamia-1/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 30 – The Turkana County Council is now demanding to be involved in future deals surrounding exploration and drilling in the area.

The council’s chairman Eliud Long’acha told a press briefing in Nairobi on Friday that their participation as well as that of the community is crucial to ensure that they benefit from their resources.

Their demands came only a few days after the government announced the discovery of the light, waxy crude oil in Ngamia-1 exploration well in Turkana County.

“As the true custodians of the land where the oil has been found, we need to be involved in these processes. We will engage the relevant authorities with a view to ensuring the matter of oil drilling and exploration is done in accordance with the laws, regulations and with blessings of the people of Turkana County,” the chairman observed.

The area, he believed, is also endowed with other resources such as gold and natural gas hence the need to ensure that residents are not left in the dark in extraction related discussions.

This would particularly be crucial for the residents who for decades have borne the biggest blunt of poverty and marginalisation, he added.

Long’acha alleged that they were bypassed in the sale of land where oil was recently struck raising questions about the transparency of the deal.

“Being the Trustees of all land in Turkana County, we would like to know how the land in Ngamia 1 area where oil has been discovered was sold without the consent and involvement of the County Council of Turkana,” the chair charged.

While disclosing that they had instructed their lawyers to examine how the block where oil was struck was sold for Sh800 million, the council also called on the Lands Ministry to audit all title deeds in the county to determine how many such transactions have taken place.

In addition, lawyer Ekuru Aukot, who hails from the area called on the government to make public information on blocks allocation and extraction contracts so as to enhance transparency of the process.

“We want to know how many blocks for oil exploration are there in the County; what is the area in size of each block? Who was given the initial hydrocarbon exploration licensee for each of the respective blocs and how much did the initial licensee pay as fees to the government?” the officials challenged.

However, the council was quick to add that they have no intention of stopping the exploration, which portends great benefits for not only the Turkana people but the whole country as well.

“We welcome all the investors but they must follow the right channels to get to what they are up to,” the council’s Finance Chairman Nicholas Ewoi stressed.

The council spoke out even as calls for the government to initialise an Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative as a sign of commitment to transparency and best practice continue to intensify.

On Thursday presidential aspirant and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua urged for a transparent system that ensures that the oil discovered in the area is well managed to avert the ‘oil curse’.

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