A firm contracted by the government to design a resettlement and compensation package for people displaced by the Hoima oil refinery project expects to conclude its initial study this week, according to the contractor, Strategic Friends International (SFI).
“We are finishing a field study of the area this week. We shall then embark on writing up the findings and hand over the final resettlement study to the government in September,” Koseya Wambaka, SFI’s head of operations, told Oil in Uganda.
The field study, he said, has included “sensitisation” of the approximately 20,000 people who, according to the estimate of the Hoima Population Office, live in the 16 villages of Kabaale Parish, in Buseruka sub-county of Hoima District, which the proposed refinery complex will occupy. In addition, SFI is making a socio-economic assessment of the area and valuation of the land and property of the residents who will be displaced.
“We had to sensitize people first, to allow us work in their villages because they may think we have come to grab their land,” Wambaka noted. “We moved from one village to another until all 16 villages were covered.”
He added that “We are also finding out the value of property – including crops, houses and household property so that they are compensated a fair price. We shall give this valuation rate to the government after.” The company began its work in May.
Bashir Hangi, a communications officer for the government’s Petroleum Exploration and Production Department, told Oil in Uganda that SFI involved the local people in the resettlement plan by calling on them to form Resettlement Action Plan Committees.
“Apart from chairpersons of different villages becoming automatic members of the committees, the rest of the sixteen members on the committees were elected,” Hangi said. The committees, he explained, helped SFI to identify the real owners of the land and also to determine whether they prefer compensation in the form of money or in the form land elsewhere.
“Their work is actually to guide government on how to proceed. They help to identify which person owns which piece of land in case the owners may not be having land titles to determine ownership.”
Wambaka reports that the work has proceeded without major challenges, but claims that some NGOs and local politicians have “incited” people to demand a very high price for their land, almost equivalent to the price of urban land and property.
“However, when we sensitized and told them that the price of village land cannot be the same as that of urban land, they accepted and the process is going on smoothly.”
Strategic Friends International, Wamabaka said, went through a competitive bidding process to win the the contract in competition with seven other consulting companies.
A Ugandan registered company headquartered in Lubaga, SFI has in the past completed contracts for Uganda Prisons, Irish Aid, and the Ministry of Lands, among others.
Report by FW