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Govt, Buliisa Land Owners Strike Deal on Compensation

Sources that attended the meeting say land owners have finally agreed to be paid 3.5 million shillings for an acre of land after hours of haggling. It appears, however, that political leaders from Buliisa had wanted the rates not below 20 million shillings.
Energy Minister, Irene Muloni with the Joint Venture Partners, Tullow, Total and CNOOC. The three are expected to make a final investment decision before end of this year. Land in Buliisa will be crucial for Total.
Ministers, politicians and land owners were since Friday been locked in a meeting over compensation rates for land in Buliisa where the oil Central Processing facility is to be constructed.

Now the stakes and possible resolutions to this standoff are becoming clearer as both sides agree to allow French Oil giant Total E&P to resume its operations in the northern part of the Albertine Graben.

The fight has been over what government was willing to pay for an acre of land in Kasenyi village in Ngedwo Sub County and what the land owners backed by their political leaders were willing to take.  

Sources that attended the meeting say land owners have finally agreed to be paid 3.5 million shillings for an acre of land after hours of haggling. It appears, however, that political leaders from Buliisa had wanted the rates not below 20 million shillings.

Sources say Buliisa County MP Stephen Mukitale Biraahwa had put up a spirited fight for higher compensation rates to the extent that some ministers and the energy ministry officials accused him of inciting the project affected persons not to accept the government rates.

The government, according to sources, had through the Chief Government Valuer suggested 2.5 million shillings for an acre. 

The project affected persons will have two options: to accept the money in cash or for government to buy alternative land for them.

Both sides have agreed on two things: to allow Total E$P to resume its operations and that an acre of land will go for 3.5 million shillings for the land whose exact spot had been concealed to avoid more speculations.

Some of the land owners had reportedly insisted on 21 million shillings. 

Lands Minister Betty Amongi finally announced that the energy Ministry and Total E&P will begin disclosing to the persons to be affected about the areas to be covered by the Oil Central Processing Facility.

The Central Processing Facility will be used to extract associated gas, water, sand and impurities such as additives used to enhance petroleum production.

The two sides also agreed on compensation rates for crops like cassava. An acre of Cassava will fetch close to 4.5 million shillings while structures such as houses will be valued and owners offered valuation figures. A dispute resolution mechanism was also announced to look into grievances that could arise from the compensation process.  

The team of ministers present in Buliisa included Amongi, as head of the government side. Others are State Minister For Defence, Charles Okello Engola, State Minister For Minerals, Peter Lokeris, Local government state Minister Jennifer Namuyangu and Bunyoro Affairs Minister Earnest Kiiza.  

The project is expected to affect 816 households in a project area expected to cover 728 acres of land. 

Sources said the negotiations nearly collapsed after a government official suggested that the government would seek alternative land in Bugungu wildlife reserve if the land owners continued to object to the offer. 

Dickens Kamugisha, Chief Executive Officer of Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), welcomed the fact that government negotiated with the land owners. He said the people of Buliisa deserved higher compensation rates because studies showed that it has the highest concentration of oil and gas.  

Kamugisha said it would have been counterproductive for government to take the project to Bugungu protected area because it would meet resistance from conservationists and some of the financing agencies like the World Bank and European Investment Bank, whose policies are increasingly being sensitive about wildlife protection and conservation.  

Kamugisha challenges the Ministry of Energy to ensure that the persons to be affected get their adequate compensation in time as required by the constitution.  

Total, Oil and Gas Police and Buliisa Resident District Commander were by Saturday afternoon set to begin registering some of the persons to be affected. Meanwhile Total E&P was also expected to carry out some more surveys in preparation for the project.

Crude oil produced from Exploration Area 1 and Exploration Area 2 will be moved by feeder pipelines to the refinery in Kabaale in Hoima after extracting from it water and associated gas as well as other impurities.

There are also plans to construct another Central Processing facility in Buhuka in Hoima district to process crude from the Kingfisher Development Area to the refinery.