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Should the government continue hiding oil PSAs?

162 Members of Parliament want the highly guarded Production Sharing Agreements exposed

Uganda’s parliament has been on fire for more than a week now with a group of parliamentarians, both opposition and ruling party (NRM) working around the clock to have the contents of the agreements reached by the government and oil companies discussed in parliament.

Led by shadow Attorney General Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri county), Theodere Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) and Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala central) had by Sept 20 gathered 162 signatures including that of former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya for a petition they have delivered to the Speaker of Parliament seeking to recall parliament to hold a special sitting to discuss the agreements between the government and oil companies that have been limited to the two parties for years now.

The drive to have the PSA’s brought to parliament were offset by failure by the Attorney General, Peter Nyombi, to appear before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee to explain details of various oil agreements between the government and the oil companies Tullow oil, others and Heritage which sold its stake in Uganda and declined to pay taxes necessitating an arbitration in London that is set to cost Uganda more billions of money.

Irked by the request by the ministry of Justice to spend Shs. 11.9 billion on foreign lawyers representing Uganda in an arbitration case against Heritage Oil Uganda in London, the MPs want to understand why government agreed to terms like arbitration in London.

Although only 125 signatures are required for a petition to the Speaker, by the end of the day 162 had signed the petition that was handed to the speaker who now has only 21 days to respond.

The petition is such a huge thorn in the government’s flesh as the several ruling party MPs including the former VP Bukenya, two army MPs Col. Phinehas Katirima and Major Sarah Mpamba, Isingiro County South MP, Alex Byarugaba, Kinkiizi East MP Chris Baryomunsi, Stephen Tashobya, Kajara country MP and and others have joined the opposition to have the PSAs exposed.

The MPs say they want transparency in Uganda’s Oil sector adding that it is important for Ugandans to know all about the dealings the with companies. But Nyombi insists that making public the PSAs is illegal according to the terms and conditions of the agreements. Although oil experts agree that sometimes agreements have such terms, they say that the government can agree with the companies to change the terms and make the agreements public.

Onesmus Mugyenyi, deputy executive director, Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) says that the decision to make the agreements public does not lie with only the oil companies as the constitutional court can be called on to interpret the agreements to ascertain whether they can be made public.

What do you think about the agreements, should the continue being a domination of the government and the oil companies or be made public?

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