Last year in June, City Lawyer Andrew Oluka from Kampala advocates through his lawyers Muwema and Co. Advocates sued the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), Total E&P and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) over disregarding the local procurement laws concerning the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and other projects like Kingfisher Development Area and Tilenga Upstream.
In his application filed on June 24, 2021, at the High Court (commercial division), Oluka accused the above companies of giving priority to only foreign companies neglecting Ugandan owned companies which contravenes the law.
In his affidavit, he demanded that the court declares that previous and ongoing procurement process are illegal and are being done in contravention of articles 2, 26, 40 and 244 of the constitution and all enabling laws providing for national content in the petroleum sector.
“An order directing the respondents to conduct a legal audit of all the petroleum procurement activities in the (1) above to ensure compliance with the national content provisions of the law. An order of injunction restraining the respondents from continuing to conduct any further procurements in the petroleum sector which do not comply with the national content provisions of the law,” reads part of the affidavit.
Oluka also wanted a declaration that all business income derived from procurement under the projects in (1) above is taxable in Uganda and asked the court to order a legal audit of the procurement processes currently undertaken by the East African Crude Oil Project, Totalenergies and CNOOC.
However, while making his ruling on Monday, the High Court Civil Division Judge Musa Ssekaana squashed the application and dismissed it with costs alluding that blocking the procurement would halt the ongoing efforts to develop the infrastructure needed to get oil out of the ground.
He said; “The nature of the remedies sought to point to something sinister beyond the application which motive was intended for a specific purpose outside the application. The application is indeed frivolous and vexatious to the extent that it is an abuse of court process..”
“Of late, such an important jurisdiction as public interest litigation; created and nurtured with great care and caution by the courts is being blatantly abused by filing applications with oblique motives. The time has come when genuine and bonafide public interest litigation must be encouraged whereas frivolous and vexatious litigation should be discouraged, “Ssekaana said.
He, therefore, ruled that the applicant’s prayer for an injunction to stop sector-wide procurement activities was not supported by any credible evidence as to irreparable loss, and added that an injunction cannot be granted to one spirited individual at the expense of a broader economic activity that benefits the country as a whole.
Justice Ssekaana went ahead to advise the courts to protect and preserve this important jurisdiction in the larger interest of the people of Uganda, by taking effective steps to prevent and cure its abuse based on monetary and non-monetary directions courts. He added courts have a duty to ensure that unscrupulous and undesirable public interest litigation is not instituted because it wastes the valuable time of the courts as well as preserves the faith of the public in the justice delivery system.
Meanwhile, the respondents who included the Petroleum Authority’s Senior National Content Officer, James Musherure Rujoki, and Uganda National Oil Company’s Deputy General Manager, Mariam Nampeera Mbowa among others, asserted that the application was filed in bad faith and with an improper motive and also with intention of delaying the implementation of the oil projects which are supposed to be beneficial to the overall Uganda population.
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