Uganda: Covid Halts Compensation of Oil Pipeline Affected Persons

The compensation of persons affected by the East Africa Crude Oil pipeline (EACOP) project hangs in balance due to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic that has limited travels and gatherings, Daily Monitor has learnt.

Officials of EACOP had started discussing the resettlement action plan with project affected persons (PAPs) in May but stopped due to the ban on meetings to curb the spread of the pandemic.

The programme associate at Global Rights Alert, Mr Brian Nahamya, said: "Unfortunately, due to the second lockdown and the ban on meetings, oil companies halted the disclosure exercise."

Mr Nahamya, however, said there should be a Covid-19 strategic plan to avoid continuous suspension of activities.

"If Covid -19 does not end, what will be the fate of the PAPs? Won't they be compensated? Oil companies and government should find appropriate communication strategy to enable information flow," Mr Nahamya said.

He added: "Hold radio talkshows, adverts, community drives to update the PAPs. Information sharing provides opportunity for PAPs to make informed decisions during this period."

While addressing the media during a field tour of the Tilenga Project in Buliisa District in May, Mr Fred Bazarabusa, who works with land acquisition in EACOP project, said government was preparing to start compensating the project affected persons on May 31.

"We started the land acquisition process in November 2018 but it was put on hold in 2019.Three weeks ago, we concluded the resettlement action plan and on Monday, we shall start discussing the resettlement action plan at the village level in all affected villages," Mr Bazarabusa said.

In Kakumiro District, the affected persons say they were told that compensation for their property would be effected in 2018 but up to date nothing has been done.

The Kyajawe Village chairperson, Mr Stephen Twijukye said the project affected persons have lost hope of getting their compensation.

"We were told that we were going to be compensated in just two months after valuation of our properties in early 2018. However, it is coming to three years without getting the money," Mr Twijukye said.

Ms Alice Kemizano, one of the PAPs, said she has no information about how she will be compensated because her husband, who used to pursue the compensation process, died.

"My land was largely affected by the pipeline project including my two houses. I have no information about when and how I will be compensated," Mr Kemizano said.

Other residents said their land was under-valued because of lack of clear compensation rates at the district.

Mr Jasper Nshekanabo, a member of the PAP's grievance committee in Mpasana Sub-county, said: "Up to date we don't know how much we are supposed to be paid. We want our leaders to intervene and ensure that we are paid. "

However, the manager of corporate affairs and public relations at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda, Ms Gloria Sebikari, is optimistic that activities will resume once the lockdown is lifted.

"The expectation is that activities will resume once lockdown is lifted. Project affected persons will be compensated, their package will include the approved valuations by the chief government valuer and these include disturbance allowance and addition, an uplift will be paid by the project," Ms Sebikari said.

She added that the livelihood restoration programmes like agriculture improvement and vocational training will be implemented.

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