In September, last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta wrote to Parliament asking legislators to reconsider sections of the Petroleum Bill that they had just passed. This put Members of Parliament (MPs) affiliated to Jubilee in Turkana in an awkward position.
MPs from the region had spiritedly rallied the Bill to ensure the people in the areas where oil is discovered get 10 per cent of the revenue share.
The original Bill had stipulated that the local people get five per cent of the revenue share, while the county government receives 20 per cent and the national government retains 70 per cent.
In his memorandum, the President asked the House to amend the Bill to its original format of five per cent revenue share for the community.
The decision by the President has now been turned into a political issue between Jubilee and the opposition. During a recent tour of Turkana, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga accused Jubilee MPs of keeping quiet as “Turkana resources” are taken by the national government.
The political debate is so heated that MPs from Turkana are petitioning the President to reconsider his decision.
They accuse the Ministry of Energy of misleading the Head of State. The Bill is set to be debated again before the General Election.
Turkana South MP James Lomenen, who is also a member of the Energy Committee that scrutinised the Bill, had lobbied for the change from 5 per cent to 10 per cent.
“We did our due diligence when the committee and the National Assembly passed this Bill. It would be wrong if a community enriches the world and remains poor. The place where oil was found is still backward in terms of development,” he said.
Mr Lomenen, who is a vocal supporter of Mr Kenyatta, now says Jubilee will face an uphill task if the Bill passes as requested by the President.
“I have pleaded with the President and his deputy to let it remain at 10 per cent. We had even hoped that the Bill would be passed with the President’s memorandum so that we amend after six months but time is not on our side,” he said.
There are six MPs in the county with four having been elected on a Jubilee ticket. They are Mr Lomenen, Mr Christopher Nakuleu (Turkana North), Mr Daniel Nanok (Turkana West) and Turkana Central MP John Lodepe. The opposition has Protus Akuja (Loima, ODM) and Nicholas Ngikor (Turkana East, Ford Kenya,)
Turkana Senator John Munyes, who was elected on a Ford Kenya ticket, has since decamped to Jubilee where he expects to challenge ODM’s incumbent Governor Josphat Nanok.
The Bill is now the centrepiece of campaigns such that when Mr Odinga toured the county recently, he accused local MPs of abandoning their people.
Governor Nanok has also been critical of the President’s move.
“Over 850 million barrels have been discovered from various wells. Article 59 of the Constitution is clear on how mineral resources should be shared. What Mr Kenyatta is telling us is unconstitutional,” Mr Nanok said
Incidentally, the Mining Act, which was passed last year, gives the local community 10 per cent share.
Petroleum Principal Secretary Andrew Kamau says that as originators of the Petroleum Bill, the ministry had consulted widely.
“Let us look at the issue in a holistic way; the revenue sharing is done by the constitutionally mandated Commission for Revenue Allocation,” said Mr Kamau.
“I understand where the Turkana leaders are coming from but if you open that door, we are building a pipeline from Turkana to Lamu passing through Samburu, Isiolo and Garissa. What happens if all these counties demand their share? We have to be careful whether we want a unitary state or a balkanised state,” he said.
He said that it is not true that the government is undervaluing the amount of oil discovered. He said the companies involved in drilling follow strict codes of ethics because they are listed publicly.
Even as the see-saw on what the final Bill should capture goes on and as ODM digs in, the Deputy President was in Turkana recently and admonished the county government for misusing funds.
Presidential aspirant Dr Ekuru Aukot said there was no justification for a five per cent payout to the local community.
“It is the trend across the world that 10 per cent is a fair compensation. The President should not abrogate himself powers of legislation,” he said.