Turkana Residents Doubt Accountability in Tullow’s Oil Exploration Deal

At, a two-day consultative meeting organised, between the Ministry of Energy, Tullow Oil Plc and Turkana residents, in Lodwar, Turkana, on 23 June 2012, residents accused the two of gross malpractices and lack of transparency in the oil exploration process. The meeting hugely attended by more than 500 Turkana people from all walks of life, appeared like a defining moment for their future as Ng’Turkana, Turkana people, after the recent announcement of oil discovery in a region plunged into deepening poverty and increasing conflicts.  It was visibly clear from the attendance that, democratic participation and debates amongst the Turkana people were honest, committed and had a voice of reason to get a collective position and set their agenda as the right owners of the land on which the oil was discovered.

Unlike previous meetings where the Ministry of Energy and Tullow used to addressing frail-looking Turkana men and women, under Acacia trees near drilling sites in Ngamia-1, Twiga-1 or Lokichar town, this time round it was extraordinarily different.  In a show of unity of purpose, members of parliament from all the three constituencies i.e., Turkana North, South and Central, joined political aspirants, civil society groups, former MPs, civic leaders, religious leaders and professionals.   The people of Turkana standing united regardless of their political, religious, economic and social status agreed to forge a collective agenda for a future of sustainable development of their society. The meeting, though in a cool-modern hall, not under the traditional tree, gave the Turkana people a platform to discuss, confront and ask many unanswered issues of County and national importance.

On the first day, Mr. Ateyo, the Chairman of Turkana County Oil Committee, unhesitant, kicked of the meeting by accusing Tullow Oil Kenya of arrogance and disrespecting the local leaders and community. He was particularly disappointed with Mr. Martin Mbogo, General Manager of Tullow Oil claiming that “This man is the most arrogant man I have dealt with in my entire working life as a teacher and now, as a councillor,” He further argued that every time the committee plans to meet Mbogo, his handler (Corporate Affairs Manager) gives excuses that Mbogo is abroad, either in South Africa, Uganda or the UK.  “This is the first time we are meeting head of Tullow Oil in Kenya,” said Ateyo.

At the conclusion of the first day, the people of Turkana elected, endorsed and mandated the Turkana Leadership Forum, a group composed of three current sitting MPs, councillors, Turkana County Council, religious leaders, Turkana professionals, Turkana county oil committees and representatives from faith-based and civil society organizations. The forum main objective was to represent the Turkana people in all engagements with the Government, Ministry of Energy, Tullow Oil Plc and other oil prospecting firms. Additionally, the forum was tasked with developing policy and development issues both in national and international platforms. This is to protect the interest of the Turkana people by the Government and multinationals to redistribute oil wealth instead of risks.

Unprecedentedly, on the second day, a heavy contingent of anti-riot police was deployed at the meeting venue. A heated debate ensued where local Turkana residents, owners of land and oil put the Ministry of Energy, Tullow and Turkana County Council, on the spot. They accused them of blatant corruption, human rights abuse, mistrust, disrespect, arrogance, manipulation and high-handedness.

Once again Ateyo argued that the Turkana people have been long been marginalised by successive governments where yet again being subjected to similar exclusionist policies.   He noted adamantly that a future of Turkana people, which is now anchored on the new Constitution, should be respected and they should be allowed to participate. He argued that disrespecting the Turkana people by invading Turkana land and exploring resources without consent from local residents or Turkana County Council is tantamount to the dark days where the district was excluded and disenfranchised from the rest of the country.

Furthermore, during the feedback session, one elder from the Turkana County Oil Committee, a tall and sporty elder stood to speak and told Tullow off in a thunderous signature: “This is not the Turkana of the 60s and 70s but of the 21st century, where 50 per cent of the Turkana are educated,” said Mr David, a respected elder and local civic leader shouted angrily.

One time during the meeting, participants chanted enthusiastically that “Tullow wanatumia kirauni,” (loosely translated to mean that Tullow are using the government’s hand to oppress them). As a resident of Turkana, it is my opinion that Tullow and other oil exploration multinationals take effort to co-operate with a human-face and get support from local communities because they are more equal partners in the oil business as the same Ministry of Energy that has licensed them to prospect oil.

Currently, Tullow operates with impunity. Tullow Oil Kenya has previously been accused of using Provincial Administration, particularly local District Commissioners (DCs), District Officers and chiefs to harass and intimidate local communities in the oil exploration areas like Ngamia 1 and Twiga 1 in Turkana South District, in addition to informally invading land without local consultations.

Turkana residents have equally observed that Tullow Oil roams with letters from Nairobi, purportedly written by the Permanent Secretary for Energy authorising them to access any piece of land holding oil deposits in Turkana without public participation.  Tullow has deliberately ignored the Turkana County Council, the local authority who holds the trust land on behalf of the Turkana community. Furthermore, both Tullow, and the Ministry of Energy have ignored the plight of hundreds of local residents displaced in the exploration area and learning in some schools like Kapese Primary School, where Twiga 1, is located has been disrupted.

Moreover, since Tullow began exploring oil, it has not made exploration Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report public.  Ironically the District Commissioner has been quoted several times in the media confirming availability of the EIA and in support of Tullow.

It was also mentioned that in several incidences, Tullow Oil Kenya has been dictating corporate social responsibility (CSRs) activities and costing. The residents claimed that in every meeting Tullow official flush copies of cheques purportedly to have been issued for various CSR projects, including education bursaries and construction of classrooms to justify their work in Turkana. The local MP, (who) accused Tullow of ignoring existing devolved structures, like the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), to channel its CSR funds for appropriate identification of community service projects.

Additionally in 2011, for instance, Tullow allocated a meagre 1.3 million Kenyan shillings (approximately GBP 10,000) for education bursaries, This despite Tullow being a multinational company, deriving colossal earning from its share trade whose prices which have been increasing in the London Securities Exchange, since the discovery of oil deposits in Turkana County in March, 2012. Mr Lochiida, chairman of Turkana East District Oil Committee, constituted in January 2012, confirmed that although they have received and distributed the money to university students, the funds are insufficient to cater for the growing education needs of the community.  Though Tullow claimed that they have so far allocated approximately 10 million Kenyan shillings (GBP. 100, 000) for various CSR projects, the leaders and community demanded that Tullow declares expenditure of the CSR money dished out in addition they ought to develop a structured and accountable mechanism to harmonise CSR activities and funding with existing local institutions.

Likewise, the Turkana people questioned the recruitment, and tender procedures of Tullow. Residents noted that out of the 500 Tullow Oil Kenya staff, only 40 (8% of staff) were locals who are hired as casual labourers, usually for daily or month long work. The residents accused Tullow of importing staff, including drivers and support staff from Nairobi who could be hired locally. They also blamed the firm of outsourcing and awarding tenders for basic services like cleaning, foodstuff supply, including beef supply, to Nairobi firms. Embarrassingly as demonstration that Turkana had capable and qualified people, during the meeting, at least 10 Turkana engineers, including those with experience working at oil companies from the United States, were introduced to the Ministry of Energy and Tullow officials amidst their allegations that Turkana lacked qualified engineers

It was further revealed that Tullow, has been hiring and paying spy and moles, including local DCs, DOs, chiefs, councillors, security agents, CSOs and professionals to stamp their authority and protect their oil exploration interest in the county. Residents noted that they were induced with monetary, allowances and free flights to Nairobi, in order to undermine the leadership and the Turkana people.

The residents further accused the oil multinational for holding parallel meetings and disrespecting decisions made by the Turkana people and their leaders through the Turkana Leadership Forum.

In response to these accusations, Mr Martin Mbogo dismissed claims that Tullow displaced local Turkana residents in the oil exploration sites. Mr. Mbogo arrogantly ignored the accusations and instead said that they set up the camps where there were no permanent settlements.  This according to residents was an insult to their culture and livelihood, which entails nomadic pastoralist lifestyle. Mr. Mbogo failed to understand that Turkana people are nomadic and Ngamia-1 or Twiga-1 oil wells sit on pastoralist land set for grazing during the dry season.

He further produced a copy of a cheque, to show they had paid 204,000 Kenyan shillings for Ngamia 1 land rates, which the Turkana County Council Auditor, said was rejected and returned because it was payment for sand fees harvested by Tullow.Mr. Mbogo later ran into more trouble when he asked Ekuru Aukot, a participant, to verify his correspondence with the Ministry of Energy and Clerk to Turkana County Council. This move elicited sharp protests from the crowd, kaa chini! Kaa chini! Sit down! Sit down.

The meeting was concluded with a common position read on behalf of the community by Prof. Michael Lokuruka. The Turkana people demanded the following:

Terms of Engagement, an agreement not Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with Ministry of Energy and Tullow, to be signed by all parties (MoE, Tullow, Turkana County Council (Turkana County Government) and Turkana Leadership Forum (Turkana People).
The Turkana people also demanded that Ministry of Energy (Government) and Tullow Oil Kenya engages the community through the Turkana Leadership Forum forthwith without doubt, favour or contradiction.
They also demanded that Tullow awards at least three out of the five post-graduate scholarships advertised by Tullow Oil through the British Council in Nairobi, to Turkana students.
The Turkana demanded that the Government through Ministry of Energy to outline the oil revenue sharing formula, including billions of Kenyan shillings paid by oil and gas exploration multinationals as license and technical training fees.  They demanded 40 per cent share of the revenue and including appointment of Turkana people in strategic leadership positions in the 10 parastatals under the Ministry of Energy.
Residents also demanded that Tullow makes available the exploration Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report to interested parties, including individuals, institutions and public. The also demanded that a post-exploration socio-economic audit be conducted as soon as possible.
The participants noted with concern that the absence of Minister and Permanent Secretary, main decision makers, from the meeting, undermined the terms of engagement between the Ministry of Energy, Tullow Oil Kenya, Turkana County Council and the Turkana people represented by Turkana Leadership Forum. To that effect, they demanded a meeting with the Minister for Energy and Permanent Secretary as a sign of commitment from the Government to formally endorse the agreed expectations and aspirations of the Turkana people contained in the yet to be signed Terms of Engagement drafted by Turkana Leadership Forum legal team.

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