12 December 2012

Uganda: MPs Got Shs 2 Billion to Fight Oil Bill - Amama

Photo: Rogers Okwany/NewVision
Members of Parliament failed to vote on the oil bill after a chaotic plenary.

When parliament passed the controversial Petroleum Exploration, Development and Production bill 2012, last week, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, was on a weeklong official trip in Rome, Italy.

But on his arrival yesterday, Mbabazi was quick to say he is relieved that at last the entire oil bill was passed and only awaits the presidential assent to become law. However, the Prime Minister has turned on the group of legislators that were opposed to clause 9, which sought to vest the powers of granting and revoking oil licences in the minister. He accused the opposing MPs of receiving funding from 'foreign forces' for their efforts.

Though he was guarded in his attack, the premier singled out Theodore Ssekikubo, the chairperson of the Parliament Forum on Oil and Gas (PFOG). He said Ssekikubo and his colleagues were recently given $700,000 (Shs 1.85bn) to frustrate the oil bills.

"Who should control oil if not government? Even the authority they were talking about is still part of government," Mbabazi stressed.

Clause 9 gives power to negotiate and sign oil deals to the minister of Energy and Mineral Development, a matter some MPs opposed, preferring to vest those powers in the Petroleum Authority. But Mbabazi was unrelenting. "Who told you that civil society organizations have any responsibility, where is their mandate?" Mbabazi asked, adding: "Oil politics is very delicate and dangerous, don't just fall for it", during a media briefing at his office.

Prior to discussions of the oil bill, the parliamentary forum on oil and gas convened a two-day meeting to sensitize legislators on oil bills. This prompted Mbabazi to question the motives of the anti-clause-9 lobby.

"How did MPs get $700,000 that was spent in Munyonyo, if these are not vested interests, why should 'foreign forces' inject in all this money?" he wondered.

The premier, who has just returned from a trip to lure investors into the country, emphasized that the bill was a good law.

"It is good that the oil bill passed when I was still in Italy, prospecting investors in the oil sector were worried about parliament's delay to pass the oil bills," he said.

However, MP Theodore Ssekikubo was equal to Mbabazi's criticism, labeling the premier morally bankrupt.

"You see, this country has had a problem of bankrupt leaders. His allegations are worthless and bankrupt. But we shall expose him," Ssekikubo said, vowing to first study the allegations before unmasking the prime minister.

CSOs Take

Mbabazi's criticism follows a similar statement by the President, who accused the anti-clause-9 lobby of having foreign support. One of the consultants facilitating the anti-clause-9 MPs, Godber Tumushabe, admitted that CSOs received funding from donors to facilitate legislators in several meetings to review and understand the oil bills.

"I think the prime minister's preposition that donors and CSOs have vested interests in the oil sector is totally misleading. We are just making a noble contribution," Tumushabe said.

Italy trip

Mbabazi recently led a Ugandan delegation on a weeklong investment promotion trip to Italy, which he described as successful. He added that he had invited the investors into the country to invest in energy, where Uganda has plans to produce over 3,800MW of electricity by 2016, up from the current 830MW.

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