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Uganda's estimated oil wealth has increased from 3.5 billion to 6.5 billion barrels,following new discoveries. || 80% of the land in Uganda is tilled by Women but they own less than 10% of it. || The Albertine grabben, where most of Uganda's oil is found, is also one of the most ecologically diverse regions in Africa.

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CORRUPTION IN NOC RECRUITMENT SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED

CORRUPTION IN NOC RECRUITMENT SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED!

I recently had a rather interesting conversation with a taxi cum long-distance driver. We were on our way to Hoima for work-related activities and seeing as we were getting close to the oil region, our conversation turned to Uganda’s oil. What opportunities does it present? How about the challenges? Was the driver hopeful seeing as Uganda had a whole 6.5 billion commercial barrels of oil?

No, he said. He was not hopeful.

“That oil is not ours. It is for a select few,” he said in Luganda, which I have loosely translated.

To demonstrate his point, he said, “You look at the price of fuel here [Hoima]! It is higher than that in Kampala. These people are near the oil wells and they should be enjoying cheaper fuel but you see!”

Aside from the fact that the youthful driver was ignorant of the fact that Uganda is not producing oil yet, –I disabused him of this ignorance and educated him on the oil and gas sector and the potential it holds-, he echoed the sentiments of some Ugandans. The sentiment that oil is for a select few.

The president has severally referred to the public resource that oil is as “my oil” and as such, it is not surprising that some Ugandans are of the above view that Uganda’s oil is not theirs. This view is fuelled by the fact that public resources are often used for personal gain and Ugandans are discouraged from looking at them as their resources that should be used to uplift them from unemployment and poverty. What the taxi driver and some other Ugandans are not aware is that according to the constitution, government holds all oil, gas and sub soil mineral assets in trust of the nation. It represents Ugandans in policy formulation and in negotiating contracts related to oil and gas exploitation and development. Therefore, every Ugandan has a stake in oil among other resources and should demand for the accountability from government.

Back to the taxi driver. Why am I bringing up my conversation with him today? Because reports have said that the recruitment process for Chief Executive Officer (Executive Director) for Uganda’s National Oil Company (NOC) is already mired in back handedness, influence peddling and is generally flawed or if you will, is rotten.

What do these reports have to do with the very public sentiment that oil is for a select few and will do little to benefit all Ugandans?

Well, with corruption marring the recruitment process of the Executive Director for the NOC, this sentiment will hold true. I think we are all aware that piped pipers call the tune. The persons who will ensure that certain candidates are selected for NOC jobs will forever have those candidates beholden to them. This means that they will work for the interests of those people as opposed to those of Ugandans. We must fight corruption therefore in all sectors and in the NOC recruitment process for NOC is critical in the success of the oil sector.  We must also ensure that the oil sector gets regulations, a local content policy and functioning petroleum authority to ensure effective regulation. These have been lacking since 2015.

 IMPORTANCE OF NOC

The Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Act, 2013 lists the roles of the company as: “handling the state’s commercial interests in the petroleum sub-sector; managing state participation in petroleum activities; and managing the marketing of the country’s share of petroleum received in kind”.

Other roles include “managing the business aspects of state participation; developing in depth expertise in the oil and gas industry; optimizing value to its shareholders; participating in accordance with the terms of the petroleum agreement, in joint ventures in which it holds an interest on behalf of the State and investigating and proposing new upstream, midstream and downstream ventures initially locally but later internationally”.

Looking at its roles, one can surmise that if not meddled with by politicians and if given the right resources –including human- to work, the NOC can support our National Development Plan, Vision 2040 and generally help transform Uganda to middle income status as aspired towards by 2019. In short, a strong and independent NOC can play a role in uplifting us from thinking that oil will benefit a corrupt few while majority Ugandans remain trapped in abject poverty.

 WAY FORWARD

As Ugandans therefore, we must demand for transparency to beat corruption. In Kenya, we saw the selection process of Kenya’s Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice being done transparently with interviews of candidates being broadcast live. In the recruitment of a managing director for the NSSF, marks of candidates were published. Why can’t we have the same for NOC to ensure that we get the best and at least be assured that NOC is working for us? Let us demand for immediate formulation of the upstream, midstream and downstream regulations, the local content policy, the operationalisation of the Petroleum Authority to ensure that the oil sector development processes are guided by a coherent and strong legal framework for transparency so that oil may belong to us all and not a select few.

We must also ensure that the oil sector gets regulations, a local content policy and functioning petroleum authority to ensure effective regulation. These have been lacking since 2015 yet running of the oil sector without regulations and a functioning authority will only aid and abet a few individuals to manage the sector without responsibility for accountability.

If regulations and institutions are not put in place and fully operationalized respectively before the oil sector becomes fully advanced, the sector will not work for the benefit of Ugandans. Indeed, these are the same problems that explain why in other sectors like the electricity one, we have been spending over a trillion shillings of our national budget per year for the last six or so years, but today, less than 14% of the population has access to clean energy and of those, the number which can afford that electricity cannot even exceed 5%. We must fight them therefore.

Diana Nabiruma

Communications Officer

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS: MR. PRESIDENT, ADMIT FAILURES TO RE-PROGRAMME AND DEVELOP UGANDA

Dear Mr. President, thank you for the state of the nation address you made on May 31, 2016 before the 10th Parliament at the Serena Conference Centre. It is indeed good that you continuously account to Ugandans on the state of affairs in our country.

As you have often done, you talked about the expensive nature of Uganda’s power owing to the high price of electricity generated from Bujagali hydropower dam. You also said that power generated from Karuma, Isimba and other dams will bring down the prices of electricity.

Additionally, you reported that Uganda now generates 850mws of power with surpluses of 500mws being recorded during off peak times. You said that we were going to add 1,000mws to our grid and promised that revenues from Uganda’s estimated 6.5 billion barrels of oil would be used to spur development. Looking at the statistics presented, one would think that the situation in Uganda’s energy sector is rosy and will indeed become rosier with more dams being built.

However, this is far from the truth. Mr, president, allow me to remind you about my letter of May 7, 2007, published in the New Vision, in which I appealed to you to make Bujagali hydropower dam different from the past development project failures.

In that letter, I told you that that without corrupt-free, strong institutions working for the good of all Ugandans, your projects, including those supposed to bring down power tariffs, will fail.  

I requested you to stop political mismanagement of the procurement of the contractor process and financing of the dam. I predicted that Bujagali dam like the Nalubaale and Kiira dams would not provide value for money to citizens if the bad politics continued. I told you that, the country, under your leadership had spent over $500m to build Kiira dam with 200mw capacity and renovate the Own Falls dam to increase its capacity from 60mws to 180mws. This was at the beginning of the Bujagali dam construction in 2007.

Yes, these were great projects, which we Ugandan taxpayers hugely invested in, but out of the planned 380mws from the two dams, we were generating only 174mws. As a result, the country was plunged into darkness with all the consequences loadshedding brings. The little power generated had to be priced expensively to cover for the power losses.

As a remedy, your government installed thermal generators with the promise from government that upon the commissioning of Bujagali dam, the thermal power plants would be decommissioned and Ugandans would start enjoying electricity at 6 US cents per kilo watt.

However, when Bujagali was commissioned in 2012 and most of the thermal generators decommissioned, the tariffs were increased from less UGX300/ to over 450/ and, today, the tariffs are at over 580/ per unit.   

Now, we are in 2016 and in your May 31 State of the Nation address, you are regretting and blaming investors for the high tariffs of Bujagali. Yet we seemed to have failed to learn from our past mistakes. Why? Because all the mistakes made during the Bujagali project design, procurement and construction were repeated in the Karuma and Isimba process and you want Ugandans to expect better results from the flawed processes of procuring developers for the Karuma and Isimba dams?

Nothing good can come out of such processes. This country will never generate and Ugandans will never enjoy affordable and reliable developments until leaders plan well and execute those plans in a manner that make economic sense as opposed to political sense. For instance, if a company provides wrong information in the bid for Karuma dam and you fail to blacklist it but instead, you shift it from the Karuma deal to the Isimba one and then you switch the one of Isimba to construct Karuma based on political convenience and because they are both Chinese companies, then, you are in danger. Such decisions have no room in economics.

Additionally, as a nation, we should feel ashamed that with a population of nearly 35 million, we are generating 850mw and we are proudly announcing that we have surplus electricity during night or day time. At the current electricity tariffs of over UGX580/ per kilo watt, even those Members of Parliament who were clapping for you during the State of the Nation address cannot use the said electricity for even 20% of their energy needs. They cannot afford it.

As such, we continue to destroy forests to acquire charcoal and firewood for cooking and other energy needs. And surely, if MPs cannot afford to use electricity, how then does the government expect the youth who are receiving the Youth livelihood funds, the rural farmers under NAADS to use such electricity to increase production through storage and value addition to contribute in fighting the so-called $5.5 billion donation to the west? 

We need to look, with humility, and appreciate the crisis we are facing and admit, not as a sign of weakness, that we need to urgently de-programme and re-programme our country to address the problems facing the citizens including the youth who are faced with an 83 percent unemployment rate and have to travel to the Middle East to work as slaves.

On our part, as citizens, we must reject any attempt to compare the current resource-rich Uganda which can access high levels of global technologies with the situation of pre-1986. We must reject that comparison. We have to compare ourselves with the best.

In Africa, we have South Africa which produces over 40,676mw, Algeria, which produces 6,468mw and Morocco which produces 4,687mw. Ethiopia produces over 2,300mw; Kenya produces over 1,490mw and Tanzania produces over 1,500mw. I am not saying that these countries’ power situation is perfect but we need to aspire to the good they are doing.  Their tariffs are cheaper than ours and to a big extent, the sectors are in the hands of government.

Indeed, in 2007, I told the President that no country on earth has ever been developed by the private companies without a big hand of government. Remember, even the good Chinese companies who are currently in Uganda doing everything from building railways, dams, roads to kiosks, most of them are either owned or funded by the government.  But, it has taken the government over 20 years to understand that this country requires the Uganda Development Bank and many others to provide capital for equitable development.

A useful nation address should have clearly provided clear accountability of how much was delivered using UGX 26 trillion budget of 2015/2016 and the plans ahead for the 2016/2017 budget. How man real job opportunities were created for the youth? How many Ugandans gained access to reliable and affordable electricity?

The address should also have told us how government has used the over US $1 billion already collected from the oil sector as capital gains tax. Indeed, we cannot believe future plans when corruption is at its worst.

Dickens Kamugisha

CEO

REFINERY AFFECTED PEOPLE IN YET MORE EFFORTS FOR JUSTICE

HELP US: REFINERY-AFFECTED PEOPLE IN YET MORE EFFORTS FOR JUSTICE

1/3: This week, the refinery-affected people of Hoima district will hold a press conference in Hoima to cry for help in the face of government’s failure to compensate some of them, relocate others, provide education for school children, provide health care and worst of all, plans to resettle them in a special settlement that will make them extremely poor.

Mrs. Elvanesiti Tindigwihura, who is over 80, is one of the people who will be crying for help. Her land was acquired by government in 2012 and she is yet to be compensated! Her living situation has deteriorated due to the delayed compensation. The same can be said for the over 130 families that are yet to be relocated and compensated.

2/3: The headmistress of Nyahaira P/S, located in the refinery area, will also be crying for help. When government acquired land for the refinery, all the teachers, save for two including the headmistress, opted for cash compensation. They were paid and they left the refinery area. Children were left without teachers.

Worse, the refinery area became bushy owing to disuse of footpaths. Parents became afraid to send their children to school as the bushy paths harbor pythons and other wildlife! Government has been careless about enabling the children go back to school, even as it talks highly about local content. Yet the headmistress, Mrs. Mary Gulyetonda, has solutions as we will show you.

             Mrs. Elvanesiti Tindigwihura
 

 

             Mrs. Mary Gulyetonda
 

 

3/3: As we told you, the headmistress of Nyahaira P/S says that children should not be out of school.

She says, “If government could provide us with security and some food, we would create a boarding school facility and us the two teachers would teach a class of P.1s. We can manage it [with teacher Mrs. Rehema Kugonza]. It is especially the young children who are not going to school because they cannot walk three miles to Kabaale to study.”

The ball is now in the hands of government who in a May 25, 2016 meeting with the refinery-affected people promised to have their children back in school by third term!

Mrs. Gulyetonda says that they need food because some parents stopped growing it as they were stopped by government while others relaxed.

She also says that she has been “tortured” and her skill compromised because she has not taught for over three years. She needs to teach and the children below need to learn. Their peers are in school!

 
 
Some of the children who should be in school but are not. This picture was taken on a school day, Wednesday June 8, 2016. The children’s parents were attending a meeting by AFIEGO.
 

 

 

 

*In addition to the press conference in Hoima, the refinery-affected people will hold one in Kampala too. They are also still pursuing their court case against government and have said that they will file a new one against government owing to emmerging issues that are not catered for in the old case.

Story by: Diana Nabiruma

Photos by: Samuel Okulony

REFINERY AFFECTED PEOPLE IN YET MORE EFFORTS FOR JUSTICE

HELP US: REFINERY-AFFECTED PEOPLE IN YET MORE EFFORTS FOR JUSTICE

1/3: This week, the refinery-affected people of Hoima district will hold a press conference in Hoima to cry for help in the face of government’s failure to compensate some of them, relocate others, provide education for school children, provide health care and worst of all, plans to resettle them in a special settlement that will make them extremely poor.

Mrs. Elvanesiti Tindigwihura, who is over 80, is one of the people who will be crying for help. Her land

Mrs. Elvanesiti Tindigwihura

was acquired by government in 2012 and she is yet to be compensated! Her living situation has deteriorated due to the delayed compensation. The same can be said for the over 130 families that are yet to be relocated and compensated.

2/3: The headmistress of Nyahaira P/S, located in the refinery area, will also be crying for help. When government acquired land for the refinery, all the teachers, save for two including the headmistress, opted for cash compensation. They were paid and they left the refinery area. Children were left without teachers.

Worse, the refinery area became bushy owing to disuse of footpaths. Parents became afraid to send their children to school as the bushy paths harbor pythons and other wildlife! Government has been careless about enabling the children go back to school, even as it talks highly about local content. Yet the headmistress, Mrs. Mary Gulyetonda, has solutions as we will show you.

 

 

3/3: As we told you, the headmistress of Nyahaira P/S says that children should not be out of school.

She says, “If government could provide us with security and some food, we would create a boarding school facility and us the two teachers would teach a class of P.1s. We can manage it [with teacher Mrs. Rehema Kugonza]. It is especially the young children who are not going to school because they cannot walk three miles to Kabaale to study.”

The ball is now in the hands of government who in a May 25, 2016 meeting with the refinery-affected people promised to have their children back in school by third term!

Mrs. Gulyetonda says that they need food because some parents stopped growing it as they were stopped by government while others relaxed.

She also says that she has been “tortured” and her skill compromised because she has not taught for over three years. She needs to teach and the children below need to learn. Their peers are in school!

 
 
Some of the children who should be in school but are not. This picture was taken on a school day, Wednesday June 8, 2016. The children’s parents were attending a meeting by AFIEGO.
 

 

 

 

*In addition to the press conference in Hoima, the refinery-affected people will hold one in Kampala too. They are also still pursuing their court case against government and have said that they will file a new one against government owing to emmerging issues that are not catered for in the old case.

Story by: Diana Nabiruma

Photos by: Samuel Okulony