Three civil society organisations (CSOs) have lodged a statutory notice on their intention to sue Parliament should it fail to recall the recently passed oil bills for amendment.
The organisations; Abantu for Development Uganda, Publish What You Pay Uganda and Global Commons on Defence and Restoration of National Resources Uganda demand that the passed bills be recalled be within 60 days.
The three organisations say the Parliamentary Commission and Attorney General ignored calls for some clauses in the bills changed to ensure transparency. They now intend to claim exemplary, special and general damages for what they call wrongly passed oil bills.
In the notice, the plaintiff and other CSOs say they submitted their petition to parliament demanding amendment of different sections of the bills but parliament ignored them, thereby giving the minister of energy full powers to grant and revoke oil licenses and also negotiate petroleum agreements. This is in reference to the controversial clause 9 of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) bill 2012 which was passed in December last year after more than three months of a stand-off between Parliament and the Executive.
The second bill, the Petroleum (Refining, Conversion, Transmission and Midstream Storage), was passed in February, easily sailing through Parliament unlike the first one. But the bill also bestows upon the minister sweeping powers, including granting, suspending and revoking of licenses, besides initiating, developing and implementing policy.
The notice by CSOs was signed and submitted by one Aggrey Mugisha, a secretary in the Abantu for Development Uganda on behalf of the three organizations and 10,000 other people, and it was received by the office of the Clerk to Parliament on Friday.
Mugisha says if Parliament does not recall the recently passed oil bills for amendments before the president assents to them, the CSOs will not hesitate to sue Parliament.
The CSOs argue that the bill passed in December was one of the most negotiated pieces of legislation in the recent history of the country. Its fate, according to the CSOs, was determined by the NRM caucuses, cabinet meetings and phone calls to some legislators to ensure the minister for Petroleum gets full powers in the bill.
The petitioners had wanted the technical persons in petroleum to be in charge of any such activities instead of an individual politician whom they suspect would perform oil duties under the influence of the president.
The CSOs say Parliament wrongfully passed the bills after wasting petitioners’ time submitting their input for which they now claim exemplary, special and general damages of not less than two billion shillings.
Court recently awarded Severino Twinobusingye, a lawyer from Kanungu district over 12 billion shillings after he sued Parliament challenging the October 2011 oil debate resolutions that sought among others to ask three government ministers to resign. The ministers, including Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa and Hilary Onek, the Internal Affairs, were accused of allegedly receiving bribes from Tullow, one of the oil exploration companies in Uganda. The trio dismissed the allegations as baseless.