Court Throws Out Refinery Land Case

Court has thrown out an application for an interim injunction by the African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) and 11 of the people affected by the planned construction of an oil refinery in Hoima district.

AFIEGO wanted court to issue an injunction stopping government from carrying out any activity on the land and to allow the affected persons to continue using their land until the main application was heard.

The applicants in the main application sued government for violating Article 26 of the Constitution which says that every person has a right to own property and that government can only take possession of the property after prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation.

Assistant registrar of the High Court, Otto Gulamali, yesterday dismissed the application saying that the case should have been signed by the affected persons and not AFIEGO.

AFIEGO revealed that it signed the application in accordance to Article 50 of the constitution.  The article stipulates that any person or organisation, who claims that a fundamental or other right guaranteed under the constitution has been threatened, is entitled to apply to a competent court for redress.

Gulamali also argued that there is no urgency in the matter saying that government hasn’t carried out any activity on the said land since the applicants filed the application adding that even if the people are evicted, it doesn’t matter because they will eventually be compensated.

AFIEGO’s communication officer Patience Akumu said that Gulamali should have suggested an alternative of where the affected persons will stay in the meantime if he thinks it is ok for them to be evicted before getting compensation.

Akumu said that the ruling in essence means that the lack of food and basics like clean water, as well as the fact that the refinery-affected people cannot use their land freely because government has already claimed the land as its own, is not something that needs to be remedied.

She added that court has in short condemned the refinery-affected people to continue wallowing away in indignity and desperation as government decides if and when to compensate and resettle them.

Government in 2012 earmarked 29 square kilometres of land in Buseruka sub county, Hoima district, to construct a 60,000-barrel-per-day refinery. Of the 7,118 affected persons, 2,615 were eligible for compensation.

Government has so far compensated only 62% and the rest are still waiting their due compensation yet Strategic Friend’s International (SFI), the firm in charge of implementing the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) had started evicting people mid this year.

Government has ignored demands by the affected people and activists to revalue people’s property saying that compensating them at the rates of two years ago is unfair and against the law.

An official in the lands ministry says that government was advised that the rates are valid for only one year. He adds that in the event that government fails to pay within one year, people’s property is supposed to be re-valued or an agreed interest rate should accrue on initial rates.