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Oil bills: Lukyamuzi to table ‘minority report’ in parliament

Image: John Ken Lukyamuzi, MP for Lubaga South

Ken Lukyamuzi, MP, wants constitutional amendments regarding petroleum and the environment (Photo: Nick Young)

As Uganda’s parliament prepares to debate a long-awaited report on the Petroleum Bills, finally submitted by the Natural Resources Committee, a disgruntled member of that committee has secured permission to present his own, ‘minority report’ to the house.

Lubaga South MP, John Ken Lukyamuzi (CP), rose on a point of procedure after the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee had introduced the committee’s views on the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill 2012, and requested the Speaker to allow him to table his own report.

Parliamentary rules provide for a committee member or members who disagree with the rest of the committee to table their own report, referred to as a Minority Report.

Consequently, the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, suspended any discussion of the Natural Resources Committee report until Lukyamuzi’s presentation next Tuesday.

Hon. Lukyamuzi told Oil in Uganda that the committee had ignored a letter of protest from him and handed in their report without his knowledge.

“I did not know that these people had handed in the report. I was surprised to find the item on the order paper when I came to parliament on Thursday,” he said.

In his report, a draft of which Oil in Uganda has seen, Lukyamuzi raises eight issues of contention, most of which call for amendments in the Constitution of Uganda to accommodate the nascent oil and gas industry.

“For example, murder is a crime, it is there in the Constitution,” Lukyamuzi asserts. “It is unimaginable that the Constitution can ignore mapping out a clause to address such serious matters like environmental degradation. How can we write a law for a refinery without introducing a clause within the Constitution to address the refinery?”

He proposes renaming the 2008 Oil and Gas Policy the “National Petroleum Policy”; re-defining the word “Petroleum”, arguing that the definition in Article 244 of the Constitution is inadequate; and aligning existing oil contracts with the Uganda Contract Act 2010 as well as the Companies Act.

The MP also proposes that where necessary, the existing contracts between government and the oil companies should be revisited “to address the economic gaps created as a result of misrepresentation.”

He further calls for constitutional amendments to address the setting up and operation of the proposed oil refinery, revision of oil royalties with special consideration for the Bunyoro region, and tough penalties for pollution and environmental degradation.

Seventh parliament diverted

Hon. Lukyamuzi criticises article 244 of the Constitution, which forms the basis of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill 2012.  [Article 244 is cited in full at the end of this report.]

“I have declared in my report that this Article is ambiguous,” he says.

He recalls that in 2005, proposals on petroleum and on presidential term limits were brought to Parliament at the same time. However, the legislators were preoccupied with debate on the term limits and so paid little attention to the petroleum proposals. “It came in an omnibus fashion in the seventh parliament. The legislators concentrated more on the kisanja [term limits], so it passed without their attention.”

“Conspiracy”

Without giving details, Hon. Lukyamuzi claims that the actions of the National Resources Committee in ignoring his views point to “a conspiracy with the oil companies.”

“They are fearing that the House may wake up and say that these bills are not tenable until certain issues are addressed,” he says. “But the law we are passing must pass the litmus test, it should be implementable.”

However, some oil executives have previously criticized legislators like Lukyamuzi, as well as civil society, for delaying the passing of the oil bills and by implication, the production of oil, now expected around 2017.

The Natural Resources Committee has been reviewing the proposed legislation since February of this year, when the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill and Petroleum (Refining, Gas Processing, Conversion, Transportation and Storage) Bill were tabled in parliament.

Report by CM

Article 244 of Uganda’s Constitution (as amended in 2005), reads:

244. Minerals and petroleum

(1) Subject to article 26 of this Constitution, the entire property in, and the control of, all minerals and petroleum in, on or under, any land or waters in Uganda are vested in the Government on behalf of the Republic of Uganda.

(2) Subject to this article, parliament shall make laws regulating—

(a) the exploitation of minerals and petroleum;

(b) the sharing of royalties arising from mineral and petroleum exploitation;

(c) the conditions for payment of indemnities arising out of exploitation of minerals and petroleum; and

(d) the conditions regarding the restoration of derelict lands.

(3) Minerals, mineral ores and petroleum shall be exploited taking into account the interest of the individual landowners, local governments and the Government.

(4) In this article—

“mineral” means any substance, other than petroleum, whether in solid,liquid or gaseous form occurring naturally in or on the earth, formed by or subject to a geological process;

“petroleum” means—

(a) any naturally occurring hydrocarbons, whether in gaseous,liquid or solid state;

(b) any naturally occurring mixture of hydrocarbons, whether in a gaseous, liquid or solid state; or

(c) any naturally occurring mixture of one or more hydrocarbons (whether in a gaseous, liquid or solid state) and any other substances; and includes any petroleum as defined by

paragraph (a), (b) or (c) that has been returned to a natural reservoir, but does not include coal, shale, or any substance that may be extracted from coal or shale.

(5) For the purposes of this article, “mineral” does not include clay,murram, sand or any stone commonly used for building or similar purposes.

(6) Parliament may regulate the exploitation of any substance excluded from the definition of mineral under this article when exploited for commercial purposes.”