Law Society to Challenge Oil Bonus Court Order

2442 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Uganda Law Society President Francis Gimara says that the order sets a dangerous constitutional precedent with serious negative effects on the functioning of the legislative organ of state.

The Uganda Law Society will challenge an Interim Order issued by Deputy Chief Justice Stephen Kavuma, stopping debate on oil bonus payment to government officials involved in a tax arbitration case between Uganda and Heritage Oil.

The officials shared 6 billion Shillings as  a token of appreciation for helping Uganda secure USD 400 million (1.4 trillion Shillings) in capital gains tax from Heritage's sale of its stake to Tullow Oil in 2015.

The payment, now referred to the presidential handshake, has attracted sharp criticism from the public, MPs and civil society among other sections of the public. The matter was due for debate yesterday in Parliament.

But Justice Stephen Kavuma, sitting as a single Judge on January 9, issued an interim injunction restraining Parliament, any   person, or authority from investigating, the payment, a decision that has aroused contention across the country.

Uganda Law Society President Francis Gimara says that the order sets a dangerous constitutional precedent with serious negative effects on the functioning of the legislative organ of state.

"The        Uganda     Law Society takes  strong  exception  to this  order because  we believe it in effect closes down Parliament as an  arena  to debate  issues  of public importance  and those  related to how public affairs are managed," The statement reads.

The Law Society adds that it      is      not          appropriate        for    the Judiciary to intervene in the deliberative process of Parliament because its role is limited to determining the validity of the outcomes from the legislative process.

Gimara also calls on members of Judiciary and the Bar to refrain from using the court system to abuse rights derived from the Constitution and to avoid making orders that fuel impunity and fetter oversight mandates. 

He adds that the law and the courts must be properly and only used as an instrument of justice and not as tools of promoting impunity.