, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 2 – Pressure is mounting for the government to make public details of the contractual agreement it entered into with companies prospecting for oil in Turkana.
Members of Parliament from the area say Kenyans need to know what the contracts entail and what the country stands to gain should commercially viable oil be found.
Turkana South MP Josephat Nanok argued that transparency and accountability in both the oil exploration and production are crucial to avert possible scandals now and in the future.
“The license exploration contracts have never been shared with anyone. What we are still insisting on, is that the Energy Minister (Kiraitu Murungi) should declare publicly what is in the contract they have signed with the exploration companies,” he emphasised.
Such disclosure would for instance provide information on which companies are involved; the directors in those firms and the size of the areas allocated for exploration.
It is alleged that some land and mining rights were sold by senior government officials and politically connected individuals at Sh3 billion with none of the proceeds going to the local community.
At the centre of the controversy is four blocks among them Block 10BB where oil was discovered and which measures about 8,000 square kilometres.
The Turkana County Council was the first to raise the red flag on Friday last week when it complained that the land in Ngamia 1 was sold without their consent and involvement.
Nanok, in whose constituency oil was found, added that theirs is community land and the residents have a right to know how it will be utilised so as to guarantee a positive effect on their lives.
“A lot more could be in the offing if we do not execute the matter in a more transparent and accountable manner to the people of this country and residents of Turkana who must be the first beneficiaries,” he cautioned.
While maintaining that they have no intention of stopping the exploration activities, the leaders have threatened to take legal action to force the government to disclose all the oil information, which so far they claimed has been shrouded in mystery.
“We welcome investors of a positive mind to the locals and who are ready to add value to Turkana people and the economy of Kenya,” Turkana Central legislator Ekwe Ethuro told a press briefing.
He further called for the fast tracking of the review of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Act and the Mineral Exploration Act to ensure that resources are managed properly and that there’s a trickledown effect to the grass root level.
The two pieces of legislations are geared towards ensuring the need to promote and accelerate the exploration of minerals across the country but should also be in line with the constitution that calls for equitable allocation of resources and public participation.
And given that the oil was found in an area that has long being marginalised, the lawmakers called for the development of infrastructure that will aid in the extraction of not just oil but the other minerals such as gold that they believe the zone is endowed with.
“Further, Environmental Impact Assessment needs to be conducted to evaluate the impact of exploration and how best it can be done to avoid creating environmental loopholes,” Ethuro added.
Kenya is believed to have substantial quantities of minerals such as coal, Tiomin, goal and iron ore which if exploited have the potential to drive industrial development and enable the country to quickly realise the goals outlined in its development blueprint, Vision 2030.