Turkana: The Dreams of wealth
Dreams of wealth consume Turkana oil village:
A dusty, sleepy township is slowly waking up to the reality that it could become the focus of industrial development. Just 25 kilometers away from Lokichar town in Turkana South, lies the oil rig at Ngamia 1, where Tullow Oil Company four days ago announced it had struck oil.
A wave of excitement has set in, with residents already conjuring up life amid massive wealth. Said Sharon Topos, a school dropout, the fact that I did not complete my studies does not mean I will not reap from this new found wealth in our county. I have big plans of going into business. Soon, our dusty town will be an economic giant.”A shopkeeper who runs perhaps the only wholesale, and relies on solar power is talking of expanding his business, “There is every reason for us to start thinking big. I will certainly expand because we will soon be seeing new faces and everyone coming over will need something to eat and a place to sleep,” God had a purpose for putting us in Turkana, an area that has suffered decades of neglect from the government. Even the NGOs here have only been attracted by extreme poverty levels to get funding.”He said basic amenities like electricity were unheard of, and barber shops; typing services and shops in Lokichar are solar powered.
Residents are already on the look-out for anyone who could be planning to invade the place.“We have not seen strange people so far, but we know very soon they will be streaming in to start reaping money from this development.
“But the land has not been demarcated and therefore nobody owns land here. This could be an advantage but knowing what Kenyans are capable of doing, we will kick out anybody bent on amassing land,” said Muye.Lodwar town, is the headquarters of the expansive Turkana County, where structures built on either side of the dusty Kapenguria-Lodwar Road speak volume of the neglect and underdevelopment it endures. Water, electricity, health clinics and schools are scarce in the soon-to-be oil-rich county
At the exploration site, workers are receiving a barrage of demands from villagers to be told the status of the oil find. But little information is forthcoming from the area now turned into a no-go zone, much like a military installation. The Press is not allowed anywhere near this place. You cannot take pictures or gain access until you get clearance from Tullow headquarters in Nairobi,” warned the head of security.
He said his situation was now more difficult after what he said was the blowing out of proportion of the news of the oil, something that had forced his company to tighten security. Armed policemen have been placed in strategically located watchtowers surrounding the now fenced off area. They are very suspicious of anybody approaching the site from any direction.
“What is going on at the rig is classified and even some of us who take care of the security here do not know what is going on. The only thing we are privy to is that there are geologists who are working round the clock,” said the security boss who did not give his name, instead directing the armed policemen to keep the media at bay.
But an official who is the man liaison between the company and the community said the biggest challenge has been to play down the high expectations, we have had to explain to them what the process is all about because some want to see for themselves what is going on. They want to know whether the oil is has started flowing,” said the man who also requested anonymity.
But even as Tullow gets more economical with information, even vegetable vendors are already anticipating massive economic gains.