Showdown as Elgeyo-Marakwet, Turkana county leaders give terms for exploration

Tuesday March 29 2016

Tullow official Alan Dowokpor with Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos (right) during a thanksgiving ceremony at Kaptubei School. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Tullow official Alan Dowokpor with Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos (right) during a thanksgiving ceremony at Kaptubei School. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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A showdown looms in Turkana and Kerio Valley after the discovery of oil, with leaders threatening to stop any exploration until promises by the government to residents are fulfilled.

The row was triggered when the government announced plans to transport oil from Lokichar in Turkana County to Eldoret by road and thereafter to Mombasa by rail.

Turkana South MP James Lomenen said the government was making unilateral decisions on resources without delivering the projects it had promised local residents.

“The claim that the Northern Corridor is insecure is a lie because the communities have reconciled,” Mr Lomenen told the Nation by phone.

The oil deposits, discovered by Tullow Oil, a British firm, are estimated to be a billion barrels. 

According Tullow Oil, the deposits at Amosing-1 are 160 to 200 metres deep, while those at Ewoi-1 are only 80 metres deep.

“We will be working with the national and county governments in the matter,” Tullow Chief Operating Officer Paul McDade said in a statement.

The firm said drilling results from Ekales-1 and Agete-1 wells showed that the Lokichar basin could have as much as 600 million barrels.

Baringo and Elgeyo-Marakwet leaders have demanded that the government issue title deeds to residents before exploration starts.

Tullow announced last week the discovery of oil traces, which it said pointed to significant deposits in the Kerio Valley Basin.

Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, who is also the House Energy Committee chairman, said the discovery would change the region and lives of the people.

“The government has the mandate to ensure that landowners are issued with documents to avoid wrangles like those witnessed in the past,” Mr Moi said.

Baringo Central MP Sammy Mwaita said policies surrounding compensation, royalties and general gains were yet to be agreed on. He said residents had never been given proper land documents. 

Tullow said it struck oil in the basin, raising hopes of boosting Kenya’s production potential.

The firm reported oil within a depth of 700-metres, while drilling at Cheptuket-1 well in Elgeyo-Marakwet.

“The oil traces indicate the presence of an active petroleum system with significant generation,” Tullow said in a statement.

Two years ago, the exploration ran into problems when Baringo residents threatened to block the project, saying they had not been involved in negotiations.

The residents expressed fears that if the exploration went on, they would not benefit much as the land was still owned communally.

Speaking on Tuesday at Kaptubei Primary School during a thanksgiving meeting, Tullow Oil operations officer Elike Mawuli said the company would continue with exploration to ascertain the quantity of the deposits in the area.

Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos urged Tullow Oil to implement more corporate social responsibility projects and asked the locals to be patient as the exploration continues.