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Protect Turkana oil fields from attacks by political bandits

OPINION
By The Standard | June 30th 2017
(Photo: Courtesy)

Ongoing intrigues in Turkana County over the discovery of oil in Turkana, bring to mind the curse of oil in Nigeria; an oil rich country that despite exporting oil, often finds itself with crippling shortages and grotesque poverty levels. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s oil discovery has, to a great extent, fueled internal turmoil.

The Niger Delta is home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, yet attacks on oil industries and kidnappings for ransom are the order of the day. Fifty years after the oil discovery, the Niger Delta is home to some of the poorest communities in ECOWAS.

Now, the optimism that greeted the discovery of nearly 750 million barrels of oil in South Lokichar Basin hungs in the balance after Tullow Oil Company, the firm carrying out exploration threatened to stop operations citing security concerns.

Bandits appear to have free run of the Turkana County and, seemingly, security agencies are helpless to contain the menace. The Kenyan situation is not much different from the Nigerian case. There is suspicion of connivance bordering on economic sabotage by people having vested interests. While revenue from oil would boost the economy, create thousands of jobs, lead to a lower cost of fuel and by extension, the operation costs by industries, vested interests may succeed in delaying or killing that potential.

From the outset, the issue of land was touchy, and then came the tussle between the County and National governments over the share of proceeds from the oil. While the National Government insists on allowing the Turkana County keep 5 per cent of the income from the oil well, residents want 10 per cent.

In a way, this has led to machinations that threaten operations of the Tullow Oil Company. There is the feeling that attacks on the oil company’s workers and those constructing roads around it are politically instigated, even tribal. This should not be allowed to continue. The government needs to act to ensure the narrow interests of a few people do not supersede national interests. For Tullow Oil Company to function optimally, security for its workers and property must be guaranteed.

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