Tullow suspends Kerio Valley operations after jobs protests

British oil exploration company Tullow Oil on Wednesday suspended operations in Kerio Valley following protests over tenders and jobs.

The company also moved the equipment from its base in Soy North Ward where it has been undertaking drilling operations in the search for the ‘black gold’ after the locals threatened to destroy it.

This happened as government representatives held a crisis meeting with Kerio Valley residents and Tullow representatives at Chepsigot trading centre to solve the stalemate.

Tullow community liaison officer Alice Jelimo said operations had been put on hold. “It just started from the contractor but escalated to other grievances including small things and we had no otherwise other than to suspend operations,” said Ms Jelimo.

Trouble started when a new contractor was hired after a local firm failed to match the terms of the contracts offered by Tullow, sparking protests after the oil firm said it not have capacity to undertake the work. But locals read malice in denying Sidalo Company Limited the job.

Ms Jelimo defended Tullow, arguing that Sidalo had twice failed to acquire suitable equipment to execute its contract. This prompted Tullow to award the contract for a firm working on its Turkana site.

“When the services of the new contractor were sourced, it became recipe for this chaos but we hope we shall resolve,” she added.

In November 2013, Tullow halted exploration in Turkana following protests from locals demanding more jobs and other benefits.

Tullow struck oil in Turkana and expects to start commercial production in 2020 through a planned pipeline.

Vincent Kipchumba, an MCA in Elgeyo Marakwet, who led the public protests said: “We have realised the business tenders was not the only issue. There are pertinent concerns pertaining casual jobs that have been given to outsiders.”