While the discovery of oil in Turkana County is worth celebrating, a number of disputes have emerged.
The optimism that followed the discovery in the Lokichar Basin is threatened by insecurity, and in a twist of events, residents of Turkana. And their leaders are using the oil as a bargaining chip to get a guarantee of security from the Government.
The journey from discovery, prospecting and finally to extracting the oil has had its own challenges, all of which hinged on insecurity. Prior to the production, Tullow Oil Company, the firm that carried out the exploration threatened to stop operations citing security concerns. For long, bandits have had free run of northern Kenya, undaunted by what could pass as perfunctory attempts at restoring peace and calm by security agencies.
With the contention on revenue sharing out of the way, ideally, both parties should have worked harmoniously to ensure the oil project yields maximum benefit. Sadly, it now seems like that will be a long time coming. As this newspaper reported a week ago, residents broke into the grounds where oil from Ngamia 8 in Turkana County is stored and prevented trucks from transporting the crude oil to the Kenya Pipeline Corporation’s Mombasa depot.
The residents, and rightly so, were protesting insecurity in the area, particularly the type that has pitted one community against another. The right to safety is constitutionally guaranteed, and the duty to provide security lies with the Government. Admittedly, the Government appears to have fallen short on this given the frequency and fatalities reported from this region on a regular basis. But even that being so, to block oil from leaving the field is counterproductive - here is why.
First, jobs are threatened by the siege and slowed production arising from the stalemate. Second, the much expected boost to the economy might not be realised and third, such acts do little to inspire investor confidence.
Even as area leaders support the residents’ calls for security as a prerequisite before allowing oil to be transported to Mombasa, there are better mechanisms for solving such problems. Use them. Individuals who could be having vested interests, as seen in Nigeria’s Nile Delta region, should not be allowed to sabotage the activities of Tullow Oil.