Buliisa locals take on NEMA over Tilenga oil fields

A group of locals from Buliisa district calling themselves the Bagungu community Association (BACA)  have challenged the manner in which environmental experts compiled the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report for the Tilenga oil project.

The group led by the association’s chairperson Dr Enoch Bigirwa and Buliisa MP Stephen Mukitale Birahwa  said that the assessment was done without consulting the indigenous Bagungu community who are the right owners of the land.

“Total E&P and Tullow Uganda Ltd despite operating in the current Buliisa district (Bugungu) for years have deliberately denied the existence of we the Bagungu as the indigenous people in our ancestral area,” Bigirwa told journalists during a press conference at Parliament.

In 2016, government granted petroleum production licenses to Total Exploration and Production Uganda and Tullow Uganda operations Pty Ltd to develop and operate upstream petroleum facilities in the Albertine graben with in  six oil fields which include  Ngiri, Jobi-Rii, Gunya, Kigogole and Kasemene-Wahrindi within Buliisa and Nwoya districts.

Under the Tilenga project, the government through its licensed oil companies has discovered commercially viable oil deposits north of Victoria Nile in Murchison falls national park and south of Victoria Nile in Buliisa district.

The oil companies activities in the area lead to the compilation of the ESIA report that Bagungu say does not respect their historical attachment to the Tilenga project area.

“This is despite a host of historical and archaeological records, presence of many knowledgeable authorities that could have been consulted,” Bigirwa said.

Two public hearings will be held on November 12 at Buliisa district headquarters, and on November 15 at Gotapwoyo Primary School, at Latoro center, Nwoya district.

The Bagungu leaders however say that the time given for public hearings is limited for the stakeholders’ input and at the same time scrutinise more than 3000 pages of ESIA.

Bagungu also called on the international financial corporation to halt the funding of these oil and gas extractions until issues contention are resolved or they risk facing legal action from the local community.