Members of Parliament have approved a request by government to acquire land in Hoima, in preparation for the much-awaited commencement of commercial oil exploration in the Albertine Graben.
Energy State Minister, Hon Simon D’ujanga, on Tuesday presented the motion, but a curious absence of all seconders, who happen to represent the affected district, stalled decision making on the matter.
Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah, who chaired the Wednesday, 26 September 2018 sitting, started by extracting apologies from the three members before a short debate saw the unanimous endorsement of the request.
“The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development is authorised to acquire land belonging to Hoima District Local Government for purposes of establishing a regional office for monitoring oil and gas activities in the Albertine Graben,” partly read the motion.
The motion was in fulfilment of Section 34(6) of the Public Finance Management Act 2015, which places sanctions on accounting officers who avoid the technicality.
“An accounting officer shall not pledge or otherwise encumber the land or any other asset of a Vote without the permission of Parliament,” states Section 34(6).
MP William Nzoghu (FDC, Busongora North) is opposed to the arrangement.
He says there’s no sense in government buying from itself.
“If land is owned by the District Local Government, that land is government land. There are other areas where government can spend money. To spend money on itself is not fair,” said Nzoghu.
Hoima Municipality MP Lawrence Bategeka offered conditional support to the motion, with the disclaimer that he will only accept if it is leased and not sold out completely.
The land acquisition processes started in 2015, but had stalled over the years, after the value per acre was placed at Shs50 million by the Chief Government Valuer.
Bategeka opposed the Shs50m offer saying the land has since appreciated in value.
“The process has taken four years. Many things have since changed; the valuation has changed; it is no longer valued at shs4 million. We want a lease so that our people can continue to benefit from the land,” said Bategeka.
Commercial oil exploration had stalled due to a host of emerging issues, including the oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean, which was re-routed to Tanzania from Kenya at the eleventh hour.
Analysts say the move angered Nairobi, which has reciprocated by speaking in tongues regarding the Standard Gauge Railway, which Uganda cannot build if Kenya fails to extend theirs to Busia from Nairobi.
This week, Minister Muloni said negotiations for the actual pipeline routes with Tanzania were ongoing.
Commercial production is predicted to begin in late 2020.