5 December 2018

Uganda: Hoima Residents Demand for 'Oil Jobs'

Residents of Buseruka sub county, accuse SBC - a company that is constructing Hoima International Airport of coming with their workers from Kayunga to the detriment of the locals

"Early this year, When SBC Uganda Limited [A company constructing Hoima International Airport] started construction of the airport early this year, we [local people] were promised jobs. However, we only see buses ferrying workers from Hoima to here, where are the jobs they promised us," Julius Muhumuza asks angrily. Muhumuza said that he got recommendations from local leaders to get a job as a casual laborer. However, he was never given the job.

Just like Muhumuza, Bosco Twaha another resident of Nyamasoga village, Buseruka sub-county, Hoima district complains, "I have a class A driving permit [a driving class for truck drivers]. I applied for a job as a driver but my application was turned down".

Nyamasoga village is just adjacent to Hoima International Airport that is under construction. The airport is one of the oil-related infrastructure projects required before the country can start oil production. However, local people in Hoima have expressed their dissatisfaction with SBC Uganda Ltd - a company that was granted a contract to construct the Hoima International Airport over the failure to employ them. The locals accuse the company of deliberately locking them out of oil related jobs.

They are accusing SBC-Uganda Limited of not implementing local content policy requirements to enable locals benefit from the project. They claim that the company has considered other young people from other places of the country and that few are from within.

However, the company officials say locals have been given jobs. Currently, SBC Uganda Ltd employs a total of 664 people at the airport construction site. Out of these, the company explains that 147 people hail from Hoima district alone. Currently, most of the work at airport construction site includes clearing the bushes for the runways, operating construction machines such as excavators, drivers and other casual jobs among others.

He says the company is committed to ensure that at least 30 percent of its work force are local people.

Stanislaus Birungi, the Human Resource Manager, SBC-Uganda Limited explains that they are currently on earth works whereby the jobs are fixed, adding that most of those who come seeking for jobs do not qualify. He denies claims that the local people have been locked out of jobs.

"How many wheel loader operators do we have? How many people have heavy trucks driving permits?. Most people do not have required skills and experience. We need few mechanics and builders at the moment," he added.

Mr. Ali Tinkamanyire, the sub-county Chairman of Buseruka attributes the local anguish to high expectations people have in the oil and gas sector. "Not everyone will be employed in the oil and gas sector," he said. He appealed to central government to ensure that local people are trained and skilled to be able to participate in the sector.

Recently, in a new twist and out of anger, the local people ambushed the company vans transporting SBC workers and pelted them with stones.Allan Julius Hakiza, police spokesperson for oil rich Albertine region says police intervened and started escorting the vans to the construction site. "We realized that escorting the vans was not a sustainable option, we conducted community policing meetings in those villages, where we explained to the local people to be patient or look for other options of benefiting from the sector. Not everybody is going to be employed in the oil and gas sector," Hakiza said.

The locals say, most of the workers at the airport construction site hail from Kayunga district where SBC Uganda has been constructing a road. "SBC has come with their people from Kayunga. This is unacceptable," Muhumuza says angrily.

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