Last weekend, Turkana residents demonstrated demanding that they be employed to work at the Tullow Oil company sites. Led by Turkana south Mp James Lomenen and his Turkana East counterpart Nicholas Ngikor, the residents marched on to the oil sites, demanding an explanation from the Tullow Oil company president on the criteria the company used to hire workers.
This move by the residents has made the company suspend its operations. On Sunday, the company announced that it had suspended its operations due to the demonstrations by area residents demanding to be employed at the company’s sites, including Twiga 1 and Ngamia 1 which are the biggest operations.
‘’The decision was taken to prevent further escalation of the demonstrations while discussions to resolve this issue for the long term are ongoing. The company is fully committed to utilising as many local workers and local services as possible, and currently employs over 800 people from the Turkana region out of the 1,400 people currently employed on Tullow's Kenyan operations’’ the company said.
This could just be a very huge setback to the country’s search for oil. One thing is clear though; Turkana residents are very justified to demand for employment at the Tullow oil sites. They accused Tullow Oil and associate companies of short-changing them on employment, tenders and vehicle hire contracts in the oil camp, something which should really be looked in to.
The company previously said that it will offer more employment opportunities to the locals in order to create a good co-existing environment and avert tension that has been building up. The tension, the company said had been precipitated by what the locals claim to be ‘’unfair’’ allocations by the oil firm. The demonstrations during the weekend now tell a different story. Does it mean the company is not honouring its promises to the residents?
MPs James Lomenen, the Turkana South Mp and Nicholas Ngikor of Turkana East who led the demonstrations have now been summoned by the CID for grilling. They are wanted at the CID headquarters by detectives over what CID boss Ndegwa Muhoro says is incitement.
One thing is clear though, Turkana residents should be the biggest beneficiaries from the company employment opportunities and even the aftermath of the entire discovery.
Muhoro added they are determined to ensure safety for the personnel at Tullow Oil Kenya, which announced significant oil finds that promise to be commercially viable, but what reaction do you expect from the residents if they are not involved in the entire project?
The Cabinet secretary in charge of mining should look into this, this culture of exploitation should be gotten rid off and the Turkana residents who for a long time have always been neglected should be given the employment opportunities they were promised.
By Nixon Kanali, Kenyan Institute of Mass Communication, Nairobi