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Leaders resist land acquisition plan

Turkana leaders have asked residents living within the oil fields area to resist a plan by National Land Commission to acquire 15, 600 acres in oil fields for petroleum projects.
The land which has been gazetted will see 516 people compensated, a plan that will be subjected to a court process.
Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, Deputy Governor Peter Lotethiro, Senator Malachy Ekal, MPs James Lomenen (Turkana South), Mohammed Ali Lokiru (Turkana East) and Jeremiah Lomorukai (Loima) and several MCAs said the county government was not consulted in the plan and they were now calling for urgent negotiations and consultations between the relevant parties.
Addressing community representatives at Uhuru Girls High School in Lokichar town on Saturday, Governor Nanok said that Community Land issues were still in court courtesy of Council of Governors, and therefore there were no legal grounds to back the NLC’s February 15 gazette notice to acquire land on behalf of the Ministry of Petroleum.
“Governors through Council of Governors went to court in relation to the Community Lands Act where we protested that we could not allow the management of community land to be transferred to Ministry of Land instead of county government and the court is yet to decide. The law is what NLC should bank on,” Governor Nanok said.
He said that the leaders would wish to lease the land as mining of oil would only take less than 30 years.
He cited examples such as Kericho and Bomet Counties where the community land that was acquired long time ago was later given to private investors dealing with tea.
“There was a court case when the investors wanted to remain with the land but the court now has decided that the land be returned to the owners through county governments. We don’t want to go that way until we consult with whoever wants the land,” the governor said.
He said that the reason why the Ministry of Petroleum and Tullow Oil want the land is for the period in which the oil would be mined and exported and nothing else.
The leaders said that they were sensing fishy deals on the land and observed that after all oil has been mined, they don’t know what other activity would be done on it or where those who would be forced out of their land would go to.
He added that the county government, which was the custodian of the community land, must be properly involved and made aware of the procedure of settling on the number of landowners to be compensated.
The Governor said the Turkana County Grievances Committee constituted by the Cabinet Secretary for Petroleum and Mining could not be relied on to handle fresh dispute over land and was only mandated to handle conflicts on oil.
“As custodians of community land, all discussions on acquisition of community land have to involve the County Government. It is our mandate and we cannot cede that mandate to an amorphous committee,” Nanok said.
Senator Ekal and the MPs said that they would also be seeking a second option where they would petition for suspension of the NLC Gazette notice through the National Assembly.
Mr. Lotethiro assured residents that leaders had resolved to ensure that all residents should get their share of benefits from development on their land and natural resources found in the county.
Lomenen said matters of land were emotive and too weighty to be left to the Grievances Committee and assured that only courts could be trusted to rule on the matter.
Mr. Lokiru called for vigilance and warned residents from signing documents whose contents they were not conversant with.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lomurukai urged leaders and the community to speak in one voice on the matter.
By Peter Gitonga

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