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Government urged to audit firms exploring oil in Turkana

The  government has been urged to audit and regulate firms exploring for oil in Turkana County to ensure the local community is not cheated out of their right.

Stakeholders now say the over Sh.220 billion that Tullow Oil is said to have used in drilling oil and gas in Turkana must be audited to ascertain that all that money was actually invested in the project.

The  Kenya Civil Society Organisations Coordinator, Charles  Wanguhu noted that it was only through such checks and balances that those carrying out perceived developments could be held to account.

He  was speaking  on Wednesday during a media round table discussion on “Championing Africa’s economic growth through sustainable oil and gas mining held in Nairobi.

Wanguhu  who is also a social activist observed that the 600 million barrels of oil currently being tapped must be beneficial to all stakeholders especially the community otherwise the exploration of the said oil will not be useful.

“There’s need for increased civil vigilance so as to hold leaders to account on issues that directly concern the people,” noted Wahungu.

The  Kenya Land Alliance Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Odenda Lumumba on his part stated that the government must intensify public participation of the Turkana  communities to ensure that they do not sabotage the project.

Lumumba said that the constitution recognizes the right to own community land and as such the government must adequately engage the community and give due compensation as well as simplify the contractual engagement so that the community understands.

“This particular displacement and relocation is on a heavily priced land. The government should not have done the gazettement in Nairobi without the knowledge of the communities. Engage the community if this process is to succeed,” he noted.

Lumumba further said that issues of land are emotive and ought to be handled in the right way that brings the community together to move on the same track with government plans and investors.

The  Friends of  Lake Turkana Executive Director, Ikal  Ang’elei on her part observed that there must be a deliberate move to talk about the sovereignty of the people to ensure sustainability of a project of such a magnitude.

Ang’elei stated that this will build trust doctrines as well as ensure that contractual time frames are known to all relevant stakeholders, community being key, as failure to engage can be very “destructive”.

The Turkana leaders led by Governor Josphat Nanok have called for transparency in the way the national government handles Tullow Oil’s petroleum activities as one way of guaranteeing smooth operations, further questioning the “quick” gazetment of land in oil fields in preparation for compulsory acquisition.

Nanok said the “County Public Participation Guidelines”, published in 2015 by the Ministry of Devolution and Planning in partnership with the Council of Governors, lists five broad benefits of public participation. Among them is better decisions.

Public participation ensures that development programmes and interventions address the needs and wishes of communities.

By  Alice  Gworo

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