HOIMA – The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP)-affected persons in Hoima district say they were cheated and intimidated to sign compensation papers of their land and properties.
The EACOP, Tilenga and Kingfisher oil projects are operated by TotalEnergies E&P, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and the Ugandan government.
Mr. Tibemanya Nelson, a resident of Kijumba village, Kigaga parish, Kabaale sub-county, Hoima district is the only EACOP project-affected person who has so far declined to sign papers.
He narrates that when the project officials approached them in 2018 for sensitization, they were told that they are lucky and were going to become rich.
“But it was 2019 when they carried out a valuation of our properties and we realized that our properties were undervalued. An acre of land was valued at shs6 million which was very little money because we couldn’t purchase an equivalent land elsewhere.”
“Our plants like eucalyptus trees were valued as building poles (shs15,000 each) and yet they were telephone poles (shs80,000 each),” he added.
Mr. Tibemanya says most of the people had refused the “little compensation” but bowed to intimidation.
“They could say if you don’t sign for your compensation, your money will be taken to court, you’ll not win the case against the Government and the locals can’t afford such stress,” he said New Plan, the TotalEnergies sub-contractors threatened them.
He says that much as he hasn’t been compensated, he was stopped from using his land since March 15, 2019. “But when we realized that we were going to die of hunger, we used our land forcefully, however, we can only plant seasonal crops.”
Ms. Miria Musiimenta says she had 0.03 acres and was only given shs204000 (about $60).
“The biggest thing I could use that money was to buy bread for my children,” she says.
Also, Musiimenta is worried about her house developing cracks since it is too close to the demarcations for the pipeline.
“Won’t my house, either way, be buried or develop cracks during the pipeline construction?” she wondered.
She also wants the EACOP to fulfill the promise of feeding them for six months “We are starving.”
Another project-affected person, Ms. Tugume Racheal complained about the demarcations which she says were never clear.
“They never showed us exactly where they are passing in our plots. We are scared that in the end, they might take the whole piece of our plots with the little money they gave us.”
Also, she wants a revaluation of her plot and be given more money which is equivalent to her taken land.
“I accepted that money (sh550,000) because I was intimidated.”
Ms. Arinda Fiona decried climate change caused by the project.
“Since the pipeline began we have experienced a harsh climate. For this season, since November and now it’s coming to April, we haven’t received anything resembling rain.”
Commenting on the allegations, Ms. Gloria Sebikari, the Corporate Affairs Manager – Petroleum Authority of Uganda dismissed the claims of under-compensation and intimidation, noting that anyone who felt like was given little money should have refused.
“We appreciate the concerns raised by the PAPs [but] it’s really funny for someone to pocket money and then come out and say I was under-compensated. We have people who have not yet signed because they fill the terms are not fair.”
If anyone was intimidated to sign, she says, they would have raised concerns to the authorities.
Ms. Sebikari notes that the communities were fairly compensated but are being misled by organisations.
“Some organisations come and confuse them that you know what, you were underpaid,” she said.
She added, “It is important to understand that the compensation values are determined in line with the district compensation matrix (which is updated annually). This matrix is developed by the district land board, and approved by the Chief Government Valuer, based on known and agreed principles to ensure fairness and equity to all parties.”
“All districts in Uganda have such matrices, and, therefore, the projects don’t determine compensation values. In addition, all PAPs are given a 30% disturbance allowance, and a 15% per year additional uplift, over and above the approved values,” she noted.
Ms. Diana Nabiruma – Communications Officer at Africa Institute for Energy Governance – AFIEGO, an organisation fighting for victims’ justice, wants EACOP to fulfill its tagline of creating lasting value.
She urged the Government in collaboration with TotalEnergies to relocate those who want to move away, noting that the challenges are just starting.
AFIEGO also wants a revaluation of the properties of those who already accepted the [less] compensation, noting that the majority were tricked into signing since they could hardly read or write, but also others were intimidated.
“A company that prides itself on creating value for a country should not be under-compensating communities. So they should hold discussions with the people and pay them the right amount of compensation.”
Otherwise, Ms. Nabiruma says people are worse off than they were before.
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