One of the most important recent events in Kenya was the flagging off of the country’s maiden crude oil export to Malaysia in August at a cost of $12 million (Sh1.2 billion).
President Uhuru Kenyatta earlier announced that Kenya had struck a deal with an oil exporter with the Petroleum Principal Secretary Andrew Kamau revealing that Chinese State–owned ChemChina (UK) Ltd had won the bid to lift the Turkana oil.
Tullow Oil, the mining company in charge of the Turkana Project, estimates that Kenya’s fields in Turkana hold up to 560 million barrels of oil and expects to produce up to 100,000 barrels per day from 2022.
Whereas it is still too early for any meaningful celebration, exportation of Turkana oil is a significant milestone. Every stakeholder is seeking to get a pie of the Turkana oil.
However, one of the most contentious issues concerning the oil exploration and exportation has been the disclosure of information regarding Turkana oil.
The Ministry of Petroleum and Mining had stated that the Government would not publish the terms of engagement with Tullow Oil and its joint venture partners in the Project.
This seemed to have been a response to the accusation by the Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil that the Government was violating the Constitution and breeding mistrust by concealing details of the Project.
It is clear that the position of the Government on this issue is untenable. The Constitution and the Access to Information Act, 2016 explicitly require details of such projects to be disclosed. Indeed, Section 2 of the Act lists the exploitation of natural resources as one of the areas of disclosure of information due to public interest.
Accordingly, private entities involved in the extraction of natural resources, such as Tullow Oil, are required to disclosure any information on such extraction.
In light of the above, extractive contracts should not be crafted with confidentiality clauses to restrict access to information by citizens.
Such action would expressly be illegal. The Government should disclose information on such contracts, including the benefit sharing agreements, environmental impact assessment and the mineral agreements.
This will be in line with the Government’s commitment under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. It is worthwhile to note that whereas the Petroleum Act, 2019 provides for profit sharing between the National Government (75 percent), County Government (20 percent) and the local community (five percent), the amount to be shared will only be known after the cumulative cost of the Early Oil Pilot Scheme is known and a formula agreed.
The lack of a clear revenue sharing is a recipe for interruptions and unrest as has been witnessed in the past.
In the present case, the National Government, Turkana County Government and the private companies involved in the Project have the responsibility of publishing information and ensuring sustainable exploitation, utilisation, management.
Access to information is one of the ways to prevent ‘oil curse’ seen globally.