Oil: NRM moves to save ministers

NRM moves to save ministers

President Museveni said disciplinary proceedings must commence against the defiant MPs with a view of chasing them from the party. He also vowed to ensure that they don’t come back to Parliament.

The ruling NRM party yesterday faced sharp criticisms from constitutional lawyers over its resolutions to overturn decisions of Parliament regarding government’s handling of oil contracts with foreign firms and the fate of three ministers accused of drawing huge kickbacks from foreign companies in return for favourable oil deals.

The decision agreed by the NRM Caucus at the close of a weeklong retreat in Kyankwanzi, will amount to the use of extra legal means by the Executive to subvert established procedures and would have no bearing on government unless returned to the House for consent, the lawyers observed.

More Lawyers’ outburst came hours after the acting NRM Caucus Chairman, Mr David Bahati told a news conference at Parliament yesterday that the Caucus had agreed to review some of the resolutions without the Executive necessarily coming back to Parliament.

Mr Bahati told journalists that the Caucus resolved that ministers accused of taking oil bribes be investigated while in office and that a moratorium put on the execution of oil agreements should not affect the on-going transactions such as the $2.9 billion Total-CNOOC farm out deal with Tullow Oil, a British firm doing business in Uganda.

However, according to other lawmakers led by the Opposition leader in Parliament, Mr Nandala Mafabi, the fact that, Tullow Oil doesn’t have a legal licence, signing the farm-out deal contrary to the Parliament resolution will be illegal and that such agreements will be challenged in court.

Mr Mafabi said when Parliament reconvenes tomorrow, the Executive should prepare for a “showdown” over what he called attempts to shield corruption in the oil sector.

Legal perspective
Lawyers, Muzamiru Kibedi, Ladislaus Rwakafuzi and Dr James Akampumuza among others who talked to Daily Monitor yesterday, said, the “the NRM Caucus resolutions cannot be used to overturn the Parliament resolutions as they are only binding to the party. They have argued that for anybody to claim that such resolutions are binding to the Executive will be a misguided undertaking.

“Legally, the NRM Caucus can only change Parliament resolutions on the floor and through a formal motion. The Caucus is not Parliament and their resolutions are not parliament resolutions,” Dr Akampumuza said.

In harmony with the arguments advanced by Dr Akampumuza, Mr Kibedi added: “Parliamentary democracy is about numbers, the Executive must go back to Parliament.” Asked how Parliament can ensure that their resolutions are implemented, Mr Kibedi said: “Although Parliament resolutions are not binding to the Executive, they are normally enforced through a censure motion and blocking budgets for ministries.”

Other legal minds led by Mr Rwakafuzi have asked President Museveni who, according to sources, ordered that the oil matters should not return to Parliament so as to avoid what he called “further acrimony” to respect the separation of powers, adding that overturning Parliament resolutions, “will be a disaster and means that parliament is no longer independent.”
Although the legal basis for this unusual review is not yet clear, members who talked to Daily Monitor said, “the President wants to create an escape route for the ministers implicated in oil deals”.

However, House Rule 68 on closure of debate prohibits members from reversing decisions after a vote has been decided on a matter by a majority. Again, Rule 73 says “the decisions (of the Speaker) shall not be open to appeal and shall not be reviewed by the House…”

Also, under Rule 49 on withdrawals of motions, Section (1) says, “A motion or an amendment to the motion may be withdrawn at the request of the mover, by leave of the House or Committee before the question is put on the motion or the amendment”.

This means that the mover cannot rescind a motion that has already been passed. Some lawmakers yesterday vowed never to allow implicated ministers on the front bench and threatened to have them censured.

Sunday Monitor reported that a group of NRM independent-minded MPs led by Theodore Ssekikubo, Chris Baryomunsi, Barnabas Tinkasiimire, Muhammad Nsereko, Wilfred Niwaga, Cerinah Nebanda and Henry Musasizi walked out on the President over what they called “a sinister plot to hijack the independence of Parliament and entrench corruption in the oil sector”.

Sources, who attended the Kyankwanzi retreat, said after the lawmakers walked out on the President, Workers MP Sam Lyomoki backed by Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu and other lawmakers, who changed their earlier position on oil resolutions, asked the President, who is the party chairman, to discipline the MPs.

In his response, the President reportedly said disciplinary proceedings must commence against the defiant MPs with a view of chasing them from the party. The President also vowed to ensure that they do not come back to Parliament.
Mr Ssekikubo said: “I hope the President is not misguided by the dishonest criminal elements within the party whose sole motive is to hide their culpability behind the mob. We are going to take the battle to Parliament on Tuesday and the NRM Caucus should be prepared to tell us who authorised them to change what was agreed on in Parliament.”

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He added that those who walked out on the President at Kyankwanzi retreat will also boycott today’s NRM caucus meeting at State House, Entebbe. The meeting, according to Mr Bahati, will discuss the resolutions on the economy.

In the caucus, Ssembabule Woman MP Anifa Kawooya attacked Speaker Rebecca Kadaga for failure to defend the government positions during the oil debate.

Defending the caucus decisions, Mr Bahati said regarding resolution No.9, the caucus and the President was in agreement with Cabinet that an ad hoc committee investigates the root cause of the bribery allegations against Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Internal Affairs Minister Hilary Onek so that the truth can be told.

ymugerwa@ug.nationmedia.com

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