OIL PIPELINE: Masaka residents cry foul, demand better compensation

Oil pipeline project affected persons (PAPs) in the Masaka sub-region are protesting the delayed compensation process and the poor reparation rates offered by Total Energies E&P. 

Total, sub-contracted New Plan Limited to do the valuation of the affected property on the pipeline route and present the value for each item based on the district compensation rates.       

However, general compensation figures for all land and properties were offered to all PAPs in Rakai, Kyotera, Lwengo and Sembabule districts which prompted the PAPS and civil society organisations (CSOs) to demand a detailed breakdown of the rates per item. According to the CSOs and experts in oil accountability, there is a hidden motive in presenting the block figures without clear itemisation.       

John Mwebe, the program coordinator of the International Accountability Project (AIP), says Total must have intended to defraud the affected persons by keeping them in the dark. He explains that the compensation process is not transparent as it was meant to be yet PAPs who raise their voices are intimidated or arrested. 

He says that there is no certainty as to whether the figures presented are based on the compensation lists or just presented by the company without detailing the amount of land and the property on it. Mwebe noted that the block figures lead to questions about how people’s land in different localities is being valued.

“There is also the question around whether the figures that are used for compensation are the compensation figures for the district land boards or they are figures given by the company because there is also talk of figures that are established by the company…Those are questions that surround the block-figure that need to be addressed but also the people are talking about a block-figure because there is an amount for land and there is an amount for items on the land.”

“At times, it is being used to show a wholesome figure of the land, but it doesn’t depict the distinction between land and what’s on the land. So that block-figure also brings into question how different people’s land is being valued yet there should be an amount of land – for rural land but also for the urban land and that amount should be independent of the general land,” he added.

Mwebe says the lack of transparency means that Total is hiding something because now PAPs are not able to thoroughly double-check the compensation offer and claim for fair payment. He adds that in their research, they established that there are disparities in the amount they are told and the amount of money in the reports.    

“I wouldn’t want to allege but I’m thinking that if you can’t be transparent, then you’re hiding something. For me, that is the whole thing. The company should look intently at the people who are doing these declarations. Many people have stated that actually when they go to the records, they establish that there is a disparity between the amount they are told and the amounts in the records of these companies. What has been declared on the form at times doesn’t tally with the computations on the desk where these tallies are done. Yes, there could be some profiteering from individuals yet the company maybe has done some work to put a database that has the actual computations…There should be a concern because transparency requires that I should be able to access your documents in a convenient way for you and me but also that I should be able to double-check where I’m not content. So there should be connivance somewhere to defraud people,” said 

Yisito Muddu Kayinga, the executive director of Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE) says people’s properties such as land and buildings were undervalued while several were not considered for compensation. He says they raised complaints about the general figure during the resettlement action plan disclosure but Total declined to provide details. 

He says the block-figure offer for the 2000 PAPs is a clear manifestation of corruption to defraud an illiterate population because every land possess different items, all valued at different rates and hence the issue of block compensation can’t arise. 

He says that the poor compensation rates and failure to explain what each item costs are some of the concerns, which the six French and Uganda Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) namely Friends of the Earth France, Survie, AFIEGO, CRED, NAPE and NAVODA took to the French Supreme court against Total.      

Amid the concerns, the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) maintains that it has no hand in determining the compensation rates.  According to Seth Muhumuza, the head of stakeholder management (PAU), it is the chief government valuer, who is responsible for approving the compensation rates.        

Following a petition about the block figures earlier in November, CSOs and the PAPs led by COTFONE held a feedback meeting with the senior management of Total Energies E&P (U) B.V led by Martin Tiffen and agreed that the breakdown of the figures will be presented during the compensation agreement signing, which will take place at an opportune time. 

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