Is it time that flies so fast or is it individuals that change their minds so fast? It is barely three months since President Uhuru announced the oil sharing agreement, which was rejected by Turkana community as they opted for 10% rather than the given 5% citing lack of involvement. Well, now the music is a bit different.
Turkana residents have now agreed to receiving the uncapped 5%, but with a demand. They want the revenue from the 5% to be given as direct cash transfers. This cash transfers is what they call ‘lopetun’ back in Turkana. In this system money will go directly into people’s accounts or smart cards, similar to that of retiree’s benefits plan. By this they get to decide how, where and when to spend the money without any trust or committee watching on how it is spent. Remember this is to go on throughout the oil extraction process, say the next 23 to 25years.
They have lobbied for lopetun and managed support from some of their leaders like Turkana South MP Hon. James Lomenen. In an interview by Maata FM, Lomenen says he will fully represent his people’s thoughts, if they want lopetun, then he will give his full support. In his defense Lomenen and other MCAs backing this system up say since the locals have been struggling with basic needs, this was the right way to alleviate poverty. Another view was, with the money, residents can buy food or start up their own small business where they’d generate income for themselves, rather than waiting on relief food as they have in the past.
As if the aforementioned reasons are not enough, other residents argue that all funds like the county government allocation, equalization fund, donor and well-wishers fund, oil revenue on national and county share among others have all been going to development.
As valid all the explanations may be, how sustainable is the system? The living will enjoy this money to the last drop, how about the coming generation? Since the oil is a natural resource, it is only natural that our children and the children of our children all get to benefit. Will they start their hustles from scratch because their fathers were not visionary enough? For by that time oil would be obsolete. The method is more short term than sustainable.
How safe is this system? If initially wars and conflicts have existed between the Turkana and the neighboring Pokot, what makes one think that sharing money may not brew issues of clash? If they have not been peaceful around the same borders, do you think they would share clean cash from the oil revenue? That aside, with money in a man’s hand, don’t you think the number of wives if not girlfriends would increase? With increase in social relations comes the idea of HIV/AIDs, unwanted pregnancies, cirrhosis because am certain drinking would also be on the rise.
This system will promote a consumer economy rather than a productive one. Coming to think of it, let’s say an affected resident will be earning a hundred thousand monthly from the 5%, do you think they’d be motivated to wake up very early in the morning every day to work? I don’t think so. They’d be a bit lazy knowing a ‘salary’, would be on their door come end month, and still look forward for the next pay day once the 100k is used up.
There are better ways this money could still be spent by the local community directly. They could invest the cash and reap good profits from it. This way, they may even seize to look upon the revenues from the 5% as they would by then be dependent and self-reliant. Another way to spend this money is by channeling part of it to sponsor the education of their children, from kindergarten way up to Universities. At least a new generation would have benefited from the oil, causing the number of illiteracy to drop thus raising citizens that can secure business or employment without much hustle.
Part of it could also be spent on peace campaigns. As much as the oil would bring development to the people, development cannot thrive minus peace, as peace is the foundation of development. There so many ways to look at it, Turkana locals should be educated more on this issue, so they will not look back and regret on their decisions.