NAIROBI, Kenya, May 2 – The Ministry of Energy has denied allegations that it is privatising several blocks of land for oil exploration in Turkana.
Energy Permanent Secretary Patrick Nyoike said the ministry can only negotiate with the locals on how to use the land and has no mandate to sell off the land to oil explorers including the Anglo-Irish firm Tullow Oil which is drilling the oil in various parts of the country including Turkana where it has struck oil at Ngamia I exploration well.
Nyoike who appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Energy, discounted claims that a few people were to benefit from the oil exploration in Turkana as the members of the local community are not being involved in the whole project by the ministry.
‘’We do not sell land. What we do is to grant what they call Production Sharing Contract. And those are licenses for oil and gas exploration. It is clear the land as it is belongs to the owners,’’ Nyoike said.
On his part, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi said the ministry was working on a framework to ensure that the current law on oil exploration is changed saying it is outdated.
‘’We want to review our framework to make sure that there are tangible benefits for the local community. I see the oil resource in the country far from being a curse, but a blessing to this country. I see the oil resources in Turkana and elsewhere we are searching being at the centre for our war against poverty, ‘’ he said.
The ministry is planning a major conference by the end of the year here in Nairobi that will include the oil producing countries in Africa to come up with measures to deal with challenges that are always experienced in those oil producing countries.
Rarieda Member of Parliament Nicholas Gumbo who is also a member of the committee put the ministry to task over why it had earlier involved many companies to drill the oil.
Murungi however said the ministry had all along been working on a trial and error method and is looking forward to continued partnership with Tullow Oil due to its high technology and experience.
Kenyans are expected to start reaping the profits from oil production in four to five years from now.
Energy Committee chairman James Rege called on the ministry to partner with the local universities and train young Kenyans on petroleum exploration.
He expressed fears that if all the professionals involved in the project are from outside the country, it will lose – its essence of – being a local community project.