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Bunyoro appeals for special treatment and share of oil revenue

The Minister for Information in the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom has urged government to give special consideration to people in the oil producing areas as compensation for losses they may incur once oil production begins.

“Our people are going to face the effects of environmental degradation, social and political problems. They deserve additional benefits over and above other Ugandans,” said Moses Kirungi.  “How can you hunt an animal on my land, slaughter it and take away all the meat without leaving some of the kill for the owner?”

He was speaking at a public dialogue, organised by Nature Uganda, to discuss the effectiveness of the petroleum bills tabled before parliament in February, in securing the environment, society, and economy during the development of Uganda’s petroleum resources.

Local content

Kirungi called for clearer guidelines on what goods and services should be supplied exclusively by Ugandans. He observed that, in its current form, the draft law lumps all goods and services together without protecting local entrepreneurs by prohibiting oil operators from importing certain goods and services.

He further dismissed the claim that Ugandans lack skills to work in the oil industry, noting that there are jobs that some educated Ugandans could qualify for. “Ugandans can work as lawyers, accountants, administrators, procurement officers, etc.  It is just a matter of receiving some little additional training,” he said.

Inadequate compensation

He also criticised the draft law’s clauses on compensation for people in Bunyoro who will be displaced by the planned oil refinery in Hoima District’s Kabaale and Kyapaloni parishes. Noting that the bills provide for compensation only to the “full extent of the market value of the land,” he argued that this was inadequate. “Some of these people have ancestral attachments to their land because it is where their loved ones are buried. Ordinarily, they have no intention to move from their land. They should be compensated way above the market value in order to take care of such sentiments which are actually intangible.”

The law, he added, should specifically state that people will be compensated before they move.

Revenue sharing

Kirungi told the meeting that the entire Bunyoro region has been marginalised since the days of King Kabalega, as punishment for resisting the colonialists. He called for affirmative action from government in establishing the necessary infrastructure for better service delivery. For this to happen, he said, the Kingdom must be given due consideration in oil revenue sharing arrangements so that some of the money goes directly to its coffers.

A draft Public Finance Bill, part of which deals with petroleum revenue management, currently proposes allocating 7 percent of oil royalties to local governments in the oil producing areas.

In a brief on the oil revenue management aspects of the Bill, the Revenue Watch Institute has pointed out that “The lack of transparency over the fiscal terms of the oil contracts makes it difficult to determine whether royalties will form a significant portion of the all revenues.  However, royalties are just one revenue stream and are typically not as large as profit oil, corporate income taxes, withholding taxes and other types of revenue combined.”

The total share that would go to localities under the proposed arrangement might, therefore, disappoint Bunyoro expectations.

The Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom was an important economic and military power in the Great Lakes region prior to British colonisation.  The kingdom resisted colonial occupation but was overwhelmed in a military campaign that coincided with–and perhaps caused–a catastrophic epidemic of sleeping sickness  in the area.  Today, in common with other pre-colonial states incorporated into Uganda, the kingdom is officially classified as a ‘cultural institution’ rather than a political or administrative unit.

Moses Kirungi appeared as a guest speaker at the public dialogue, which was held on May 24 at the Uganda Museum in Kampala.  It attracted more than seventy participants who included Members of Parliament, representatives from government, civil society, cultural institutions, oil companies and students.

The meeting was also addressed by Shem Byakagaba, a legal expert from the Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas, who presented an analysis of the petroleum bills.

Report by CM