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Plans to complete refinery compensation underway

A woman sitting outside her resettlement home in Chunga-Jembe, Hoima

Government plans to complete compensation of the people displaced to make way for the construction of the oil refinery by next year, according to the National Budget Framework Paper for the next financial year 2015/2016.

The framework paper indicates that the budget for the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, from which the money for compensation will be got, is projected to remain almost the same, at Shs 1.8 trillion.

In February this year, government selected RT Global Resources, a consortium of mostly Russian companies, as a preferred bidder for the construction of the oil refinery. Negotiations with the company are ongoing. Since December 2013, the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, through a private consultancy firm, has been compensating the oil refinery project-affected persons.

“Out of 2,615 property owners who opted for cash compensation, a total of 1,945 have so far been paid as at December 2014,” the framework paper reads in part. The framework paper adds that this leaves a balance of 670 project-affected persons to be paid in the next financial year.

Not all refinery-affected people may be compensated in the next financial year due to one barrier; a total of 42 property owners, out of the remaining 670 owners, raised a dispute contesting the rates. Payment will only come after the disputes have been resolved.

According to the budget framework paper, most of the affected residents who were compensated have already vacated the land. For the 93 refinery-affected persons who opted for relocation, government has so far purchased a 533-acre piece of land to relocate and resettle them.

Kosea Wambaka, the head of programs at Strategic Friends International, the company carrying out the relocation exercise, says the land for relocation has been purchased. He added that the affected families have already toured the land.

“Physical planning of the land and construction of the houses and social infrastructure is to commence soon,” the framework paper notes.

It is unlikely government will complete the relocation exercise as it has promised.  Already, there is a disagreement on the houses government is going to build for the 93 families. According to Tophase Kaahwa, one of those who opted for relocation, locals have disagreed on the size of houses government intends to construct.

Government proposes to construct standard two bed-roomed houses, something the intended beneficiaries and local leaders have objected to. The locals want modern houses with more than two bedrooms due to the size of their families.

KABAALE AIRPORT

The framework paper also reveals that government plans to begin the development of an airport in Kabaale parish (refinery site) in Hoima district next financial year to ease transportation of equipment and labour to the refinery site during construction of the refinery and its attendant infrastructures.

The planning for the airport is being done in consultation with Civil Aviation Authority, the ministry of Works and Transport and ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

“International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) from Canada worked with the government to identify a consultant who will develop a Master Plan study and detailed engineering design for the airport,” according to the paper.

In addition to the airport, government plans to develop a master plan for the Kabaale industrial park around the refinery complex area. In the next financial year, government further plans to undertake a detailed route survey for a products pipeline from the refinery to the Buloba terminal. This will include undertaking the resettlement action plan for the project-affected persons of the Hoima-Buloba pipeline.

In the next financial year, government will also establish the Petroleum Authority, directorate of petroleum and the national oil company.

ssekika@observer.ug

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