Acquiring land for the construction of the Lokichar to Lamu crude oil pipeline whose implementation was set for last year is still a herculean task for the State after local leaders maintained a hardline stance on the issue.
As a key component of the Sh2.5 trillion Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor project with a 820km long pipeline, the crude oil pipeline from Lokichar to Lamu is, according to Petroleum Cabinet Secretary John Munyes, critical for Kenya to realise its ambition of joining the league of oil exporters through the production of 80,000 - 100,000 barrels per day.
In addition to Turkana County government moving to court in 2019 seeking conservatory orders to stop the implementation of the National Land Commission (NLC) decision to compulsory acquire the indigenous ethnic land, area Governor Josphat Nanok and Turkana South MP James Lomenen have said that petroleum activities in the region lack transparency.
Mr Nanok said NLC had proceeded to initiate the acquisition of the land on behalf of the State Department for Petroleum and Mining in total disregard of the constitution and the Land Act.
"The county government is the custodian of the community land and must be included in such processes like compulsory land acquisition. Until the time they will decide to involve us for fruitful consultations and not small meetings bringing on board few representatives,” the governor charged.
He asked the community to be wary of deceptive meetings seeking nod for land promising that discussion over land use would begin in major urban centres. The governor promised that there will be transparent and consultative meetings once Turkana gets a land registrar.
Mr Lomenen backed the county government for suspending the land acquisition process at the Kitale's Environment and Land Court “so that before the pipeline passes in our county we must have title deeds for our land and given value for all trees along the way for compensation”.
"Land in Turkana county can't be taken without permission from leaders and locals as it will remain our land. Our land should only be leased for intended projects for a certain period and reverted to owners or else we will kill pastoralism in the affected areas," the legislator said.
The Petroleum CS, however, pointed out that the hardline stance will delay the anticipated revenue sharing formula for national, county and local communities that was agreed to be 75:20:5 in the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act 2019 since Tullow Oil started exploration activities and discovered oil in 2012.
200,000 barrels of crude oil
Mr Munyes observed that the State has acquired land for the development of the pipeline in Lamu, Garissa, Meru, Isiolo and Samburu Counties but Turkana County was yet to give in.
"I wonder why local leaders are talking of delayed benefits yet for the country to commercialise crude oil so that we get profit out of it, we must have land to lay a pipeline from Lokichar to Lamu which assures us of 80,000 barrels a day," he said.
He noted that the State is, however, focused on upscaling petroleum activities with planned 300 additional wells that must be drilled for the country to successfully produce 150,000 barrels per day.
This, he said, was after the country in 2019 sold the first consignment of 200,000 barrels of crude oil, under the Early Oil Pilot Scheme (EOPS), for Sh1.2 billion.
Mr Munyes said that Tullow Oil and its sub-contractors have so far spent Sh300 billion for exploration and development of petroleum activities and the Sh1.2 billion was absorbed as part of the huge costs that were incurred.
Such assertion from a State officer was not good news for residents within Lokichar Basin such as Lucas Amron, 69, from Morongole village.
"The many trucks that used to pass on our road carrying crude oil from Lokichar to Lamu are no more. Where is our five percent share from that activity?" Mr Amron asked.
At the moment he said if they have to consult with the government or exploration companies on anything, their biggest concern at the moment is for them is benefits from the EOPS.
"If there are no benefits from crude oil since 2012, you can't leave us with a name tag that Lokichar is where crude oil was discovered but we don't have even basic necessities like clean and affordable water," he said.