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Man drags Total to court over UGX65M in rent dispute

One of the Total Petrol stations. The company has been sued over rental fees. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – Total E&P oil company has been dragged to court for allegedly not paying rental fees for the land it hired from Mr Francis Kahwa, a resident of Buliisa District, in 2016 for oil drilling activities.

Appearing before Masindi Chief Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, Mr Kahwa said Total hired part of his 100-acre land in Kirama village, Ngwedo Sub County in Buliisa district in 2016 but that he has never been paid to date. He is demanding over Shs65 million.

In their defense, Total E&P Oil Company said the said land is being claimed by other people and therefore cannot make payments since the land is still contested.

The case was adjourned to August 17 for further hearing.

The incident comes as the oil company struggles to ward off concerns by activists over its decision to invest in the major oil project also known as Tilenga.

After 10 months of evaluation by Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Total E&P was early this year given the green light to explore area. However, Tilenga’s location at the heart of Murchison Falls National Park, one of Uganda’s leading tourist destinations and home to endangered species of animals, birds, insects and reptiles, has made conservationists nervous.

The Tilenga oil project constitutes License Areas 1 and 2 which are currently operated by Total E&P Uganda B.V and Tullow Uganda Operations Pty Ltd and is found in the north of Lake Albert closer to the Uganda-DR Congo border.

It includes; six oil fields, an industrial area, buried infield pipelines and supporting infrastructure, including camps most of which are within or near the ecologically fragile Murchison Falls National Park and the Nile Delta.

Mr Dickens Kamugisha, the head of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) a Kampala-based non-profit body, is worried about the fact that the environmental body approved the project without taking into account the views of over 2000 people who turned up for the public hearings last year.

“People expressed their views with regards to the project violating their cultural rights; the people also asked NEMA to ensure that management plans for noise, dust and water pollution are in place before any approval is done,” Mr Kamugisha said recently.

“We are planning to take NEMA to court for breach of the law because we feel that if the procedures have not been followed, we should challenge these institutions in the courts of law, otherwise, these public hearings are just a formality,” he added.

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