By Samuel Ouma
Oil extraction in Turkana, Northern part of Kenya, is hanging in the balance following protests staged by the residents demanding employment, tenders and the community’s share of proceed from the oil.
On Sunday one of the area leaders was heckled when he mentioned that oil belongs to the Government. The locals responded with chants, ‘oil is ours’ which forced him to assure the residents that they are the government.
Petroleum and Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes pleaded with them not to block the transportation of the oil while noting that it will lead to economic sabotage and blackmail.
“I don’t advise my people to block trucks of oil for the sake of the nation. Kenya is growing in petroleum and oil proceeds. We want to be an oil exporter by 2021,” he said.
He further promised them that the Government is working with the local leaders to restore peace in the region.
The irate residents had barricaded roads paralyzing transportation of oil to Mombasa by Tullow oil. They decried insecurity threat imposed by their neighbours which has claim several lives.
They are demanding to be given the first priority when opportunities arise. They accused the Government and Tullow Oil for denying them tenders to supply fuel for oil operations.
“We want to ensure that drivers in the region get a good share of jobs,” one of the resident reiterated.
Pre-oil extraction pacts states that the public will get 75 percent through the national government, the county 20 percent and the local community 5 percent. They have opposed some leaders’ suggestion that the 5 percent be it directed to development and instead they want it be channeled to their bank accounts.
Meanwhile, Moses Wetangula, one of the opposition principals, has reminded President Kenyatta woes associated with oil exploration. He urged him to visit Turkana and address the grievances of residents.
“Oil is a curse in Africa. Countries with oil have many problems. Nigeria is a good example. We should not fall into the same trap. We need to handle the matter very carefully,” he said.
He also noted the area need good roads, clean water, security, better schools and adequate health centers. Turkana is the poorest county in Kenya; research says that 88 percent of the people live below the poverty level.
Oil was discovered in Turkana in 2012.