Locals storm Tullow Oil fields in Turkana
Tullow Oil has been forced to suspend operations at its two blocks in Turkana after locals stormed the facilities on Saturday.
Two area Members of Parliament marshalled local residents to match to Tullow's camps demanding for jobs for the locals and supply contracts for the communities.
The affected are Block 10BB and Block 13T in Turkana East and Turkana South. Tullow Oil and Canada's Africa Oil Corporation each have a 50 per cent working interest in the two blocks.
Over 2000 Turkana residents matched into the two camps in an incident that saw some looting of Tullow properties. No one was injured during the skirmish, Tullow Oil officials said.
Sources said the locals were seeking to chase away all the Tullow employees who are not locals and have them replaced with locals. Tullow estimates that out of the 1,700 employees at the two blocks, close to 900 are from the local communities.
"Tullow confirms that there have been a number of demonstrations at Tullow operated sites in Northern Kenya today regarding local concerns around employment," Tullow's Nairobi office said in a statement.
It added: "We have temporarily suspended our operations across Block 10BB and Block 13T in Turkana East and Turkana South sub-counties. The priority at the moment is to ensure the safety and security of our staff."
Tullow said those employees being moved to safety consists of locals, expatriates from other countries and Kenyan nationals working in the fields. The company said it was not sure of when it would resume work at the two sites but said it has started discussions with both the national and county governments to restore normalcy.
The sites are manned by armed officers from the Admistration Police as well as unarmed guards from New Port Africa which employs mostly from the local communities, a Tullow official said.
Just last month, Tullow Oil announced it has discovered oil in its Ekales well in Block 13T which could have lead to the latest attacks.
Attempts to get a comment from the two MPs James Lomenen for Turkana South and Nicholas Ngikol from Turkana East were unsuccessful yesterday. Neither were efforts to get a comment from the ministry of energy and petroleum successful with Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge, who is in Rwanda for the infrastructure summit, saying he was investigating the matter.
The incidents bring to forth the love-hate relationship between multinational companies and the local communities. County governments with rich natural resources have been lobbying to have locals considered for most of the openings at the these companies. Lack of necessary training however has seen the locals only getting jobs not considered so highly with the big jobs going to expertriates.
Tullow officials said the unfortunate incident sends a wrong message to investors and called on the government to intervene.