Just nine months after Turkana County and the national government struck a deal over sharing of oil revenue, a fresh war has erupted that threatens to derail progress.
At the centre of the row is a new government plan to acquire 66,634 acres of community land for the oil and Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor projects.
Turkana County claims the national government has entered into secret contracts with British firm Tullow Oil for the excising of 15,686 acres of land without involving the devolved unit as required by law.
Ms Esther Lokiyo, Turkana’s county executive committee member for land, energy, housing and urban areas management, says the government has also secretly entered into agreements with the Lapsset Corridor Development Authority for setting aside of 50,948 acres for the mega infrastructure project.
Turkana wants the High Court in Kitale to quash two Gazette notices published by the National Land Commission last month, which notified the public of plans to compulsorily acquire land on behalf of the Petroleum and Mining ministry and the Lapsset Corridor Development Authority.
The county has sued the National Land Commission (NLC) and Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki. Neither the NLC nor Mr Kihara have responded to the suit.
The court has ordered the parties to attend a hearing on Tuesday.
Tullow Oil intends to spend Sh7 billion on its Turkana prospecting operations this year.
“The respondents have not engaged Turkana County towards the acquisition of the land, the subject matter of the two Gazette notices, and have proceeded to initiate the acquisition of the land in total disregard of the Constitution of Kenya, the Land Act, the Community Land Act and the obligation imposed thereby to consult and agree with the petitioner,” says Turkana County lawyer Nelson Havi.
He adds that there is a pending case in Nairobi filed by Mr Kelly Malenya, which is set to draw the line on the processes of compulsory acquisition of community land by the national government.
Declared null and void
He holds that the government has acted in bad taste by initiating compulsory acquisition of community land in Turkana before Mr Malenya’s case has been determined.
“It is just and proper that the two unconstitutional and illegal Gazette notices and the action intended thereby be declared null and void, quashed and in the meantime, the implementation of the action intended by the two unconstitutional and illegal notices be halted by way of a conservatory order,” Mr Havi adds.
The judgment on Mr Malenya’s case will be delivered on April 29.
Turkana County holds that the acquisition process is not feasible, as oil in its borders will be exhausted within 20 years. It adds that the pastoralist culture of the Turkana people will be eroded.
The NLC published a Gazette notice on February 8 seeking to acquire 15,686 acres for upstream development, South Lokichar Basin oil project and another one seven days later for the acquisition of 50,948 acres to implement the Lapsset project and ancillary facilities.
For the South Lokichar Basin, the NLC intends to acquire land from at least 516 owners.
Under the Lapsset project, an 865km pipeline is to be built connecting Lokichar, the oil mining site, to Lamu seaport.
Petroleum PS Andrew Kamau last year announced that the pipeline will cost Sh110 billion, half of the initially planned Sh220 billion.
Last June, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the transport of crude oil to Lamu after months of talks with Turkana leaders.
The deal saw government retain 75 per cent of proceeds of the oil prospecting.
As part of the Early Oil Pilot Scheme (EOPS), Kenya plans to transport 2,000 barrels of oil to Lamu daily while awaiting completion of the Lokichar-Lamu pipeline.
But midway through the month, residents blocked roads leaving Turkana, claiming that they had got the short end of the stick as locals were not getting enough jobs in the oil project. In the suit papers, Turkana insists that the acquisition process is in contravention of the Community Land Act as neither the county nor locals have been consulted, yet they will be forced to surrender the property to government.