Saturday, 18 June 2011

Laws that govern oil and gas in Uganda are outdated

Laws that govern oil and gas in Uganda are outdated
By Hope Mafaranga June 18, 2011
In Kabarole
The laws that govern the oil sector in Uganda are too weak and out dated, experts have said.
The manager of International Alert Uganda, Richard Businge criticized the oil bill saying that it is not clear on the issue of the oil and gas sector and how it will be contributing to the national development.
He added that Ugandan legal framework in the bill should form a bed rock for sustainable utilization of Uganda oil and gas resource.
“The bill should show how much our oil brings to our coffers and how it contributes to other sectors, which is not clear as per now,” Businge said.
Businge who was speaking during a regional dialogue series on oil and gas at Mountains of the Moon hotel in Fort Portal on Friday tasked the government to focus on benefiting the community around the oil areas so as avoid conflicts like in many African countries.
 Businge also lashed out at the parliament the law making body saying that they are “too green and ignorant” on issues that concerns oil and gas.
“We shall invite members of parliament and make them understand oil issues so  that  they can articulate issues from an informed point of view before debating and passing laws to do with oil,” Businge added.
He said that social issues like the percentage of local people who will be employed or participating in the exploration of oil should be clearly spelled out in the bill in terms of permissible levels of Ugandan citizen and company participation in each category of technical service provision.
“The local community is the one that carry the burden of oil exploration but are left out living them to object poverty,” he said.
On environment, Businge called for clear guidelines to be put in place establishing areas that cannot be directly accessed for oil development due to their environmental sensitivity.
“Areas which are habitants for birds that fly from Europe for summer, should not be directly drilled,” he noted.
Businge urged that the bill should prohibit companies from entering into private arrangement with land owners for the disposal of toxic waste and other pollutants.
He also accused the national environment watchdog, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for failed to monitor the environment where it is dealing with locals only, they have failed to chase people from wetlands and have left wetlands to investors.
Alex Ruhunda the MP for  Fort Portal municipality urged Ugandans to focus on bridging the gap between Community Based Organizations and the government on issues pertaining Oil. 
Ruhunda said this will help the government to be checked on issues pertaining transparency and accountability in the Oil industry which he said will help to foster development.
However he said that oil being a very vital resource it does not mean Uganda has overcome the problem of poverty which is haunting many Ugandans.
“The discovery of oil is not the solution to poverty, and unemployment, we must work hard to fight it,” Ruhunda said. 
Ruhunda encouraged the people of Uganda to pick interest in the oil discovery and take the duty of advising the government on what they want it to for them.
Julius Mwanga the director Kabarole Research and Resource Center, a non governmental organizational operating in Kabarole urged the public to stop codenaming the discovery of oil in Uganda as a curse.
“Oil discovery is a blessing to Ugandans if well managed by all stakeholders. All we need is accountability and transparency and involve the locals,” Mwanga said.
However Rev Canon Nason Baluku wondered why information around the oil more confidential in Uganda compared to other discoveries.

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