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Minister Nankabirwa urges oil and gas companies to open activity areas to public

Minister Ruth Nankabirwa.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The government, oil and gas companies continue to counter opposition to the development of the sector in Uganda, which has recently targeted religious institutions.

The crusaders accuse the government of allowing activities that they say will affect the livelihoods of mainly poor Ugandans as well as harm the environment.

The Minister for Energy and Mineral Development, Ruth Nankabirwa told a dialogue on local content in the oil and gas sector in Kampala, that the crusaders are now looking for people who have mass listenership like religious leaders, to spread their gospel.

Groups of civil society from Uganda and abroad have recently frequented the Vatican to convince the Roman Catholic Church to condemn the Ugandan oil and gas developments, especially the East African Crude Oil Pipeline.  In March, a department on human development at the Vatican accepted to condemn the EACOP as bad for the population.

The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development called the “governments concerned” to be considerate of “our common home” and invest in environment-friendly projects that preserve the ecosystem.

In their statement, the group said that “the Catholic Church stands with the people of Uganda and Tanzania in denouncing the EACOP project and asked the two governments to look into investing in projects that are in line with preserving and caring for our common home, the poor, and the economy.”

As part of her efforts, Nankabirwa says she has started dialogue sessions with the church and has already met the Bishop of the Church of Uganda over the issue. Unfortunately, according to her, many people are opposed to the projects without having adequate information and called on the oil and gas companies to allow access to members of the public to the installations.

The Roman Catholic Church in Uganda last month said they would be discussing the project in their plenary this month. In a statement last week regarding EACOP, members of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) called on all humanity to “exercise responsible stewardship over creation”.

“We are calling for an immediate stop of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline. If built, the proposed pipeline will displace communities, endanger wildlife, and make the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis devastatingly worse,” said the Bishops in a statement signed by SECAM First Vice President, Sithembele Sipuka, Bishop of Mthatha.

The General Manager TotalEnergies Uganda, Philippe Groueix, says that contrary to claims by the opponents that the project will produce tons of carbon, the expected emission of EACOP is less than 13 kilograms.

He said despite the negative publicity, the investors will continue with their activities not only because the industry will spur Uganda’s growth, but because it is being developed with the utmost care for the environment and humanity.

The Oil and Gas National Content Conference is organized under the theme, ‘Creating Lasting Value Through Enhanced National Participation to Accelerate Uganda’s Socioeconomic Transformation.’

Minister Nankabirwa committed that the resource will be used to lift Ugandans out of poverty, giving the example of the Petroleum Fund which was created to ensure that revenues are applied for infrastructure development.

TotalEnergies is leading a joint venture also comprising Chinese oil giant CNOOC and the Uganda National Oil Company in the Tilenga and Kingfisher projects as well as the EACOP, with oil production expected to start by June 2025.

This is in addition to other recently licensed companies to start exploration activities in other areas. The Executive Director, Petroleum Authority of Uganda, Ernest Rubondo said there will be no more going back with all the investments that have already been made in the sector, with 3 billion dollars expected this year.

The government has committed to helping local companies develop their capacity to be able to compete for contracts in the sector, under the National Content Policy.

This includes the creation of Local Content Fund Tier one companies, which get direct contracts from the oil and gas companies, and contribute 1 percent of the value of their contracts to the Fund to support Ugandan Business participation in the oil sector.

The government has set aside more than 100 billion shillings for the fund which now awaits the necessary legislation to be concluded, according to the Permanent Secretary Ramathan Ggoobi. Ggoobi said there are also many other challenges faced by the local companies as they attempt to access the opportunities in the sector.

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