Tullow Oil’s troubles deepened Wednesday after another group of MPs demanded suspension of the company’s operations in Kerio Valley days after Turkana activity was disrupted.
The UK firm last Saturday suspended operations in Block 10BB and Block 13T in Turkana East and Turkana South sub-counties.
Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, Marakwet East MP Kangogo Bowen and Susan Chebet, the women representative, said the firm should stop business until an agreement is negotiated between the local communities and the company on social investment.
The position is likely to complicate government plans to get oil and mineral exploration activities off the ground and probably spur copycat actions elsewhere.
Mining minister Najib Balala who expressed hope Wednesday that oil will be brought into his docket — from Energy — in the next five years was categorical that the government would not allow such disruptions.
“The government will not tolerate such disruptions,” Mr Balala told an editor’s breakfast meeting in Nairobi.
“Tullow can’t absorb all people but we will come up with a policy for absorbing local people.”
The politicians asked Tullow to stop negotiations with the county governments, claiming governors were vulnerable to manipulation, therefore any engagement should be between the firm and the local people.
Mr Murkomen said the communities will establish a Trust Fund where social investment would be channelled for greater benefit to the local people.
“We are demanding 100 per cent social investment projects to go to the local communities. These are casual jobs, scholarships, tenders and other projects such as health care, boreholes and reforestation, otherwise we will declare the region a no-go zone,” said Dr Chebet.
Mr Bowen said the group had consulted with colleagues in Kerio Valley in Baringo, Elgeyo-Marakwet, West Pokot and Turkana counties to take a common stand in oil exploration.
They spoke as representatives of Tullow convened a meeting with governor Alex Tolgos and grassroots leaders in Keelu Resort in Iten Town that they snubbed.
At the meeting, Mr Tolgos called on Tullow Oil to ensure tenders were advertised on time during the ongoing exploration so residents can decide how to supply.
The governor said that was the only way residents can benefit and build good relations with the oil firm.
Mr Tolgos said lack of information on benefits from the oil proceeds has fuelled land disputes in the area.
Elema Fila of Tullow called on the county government to have a list of the various professionals in the area which the company could tap when there are opportunities.