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allAfrica.com: Uganda: MPs to Petition EU Parliament Over Oil Deals

A group of Members of Parliament from both the ruling and opposition side have vowed to petition European Union Parliament to investigate oil companies, Tullow Oil and Total.

The MPs said they were not only going to mobilize colleagues who believe in transparency and accountability to sign the petition, but also mobilize civil society organizations, religious leaders and all Ugandans of good will.

The announcement was made at an impromptu press conference called by MPs to talk about the recent transaction between Government and Tullow Oil and the subsequent farm down by the company to France's Total and China's CNOOC oil companies.

The press conference was addressed by ten MPs at Parliament buildings on Thursday.

The legislators argued that the government had simply "donated" the country's natural resource. "With a lot of pain, we are calling you to tell you that we have been given a bad deal," Theodore Sekikubo said.

Wilfred Niwagaba (NRM) said they were petitioning the EU Parliament with a purpose to investigate Tullow and Total to ascertain whether their practices in the oil transactions with government comply with their standards.

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"We want the EU Parliament to find out whether the transactions entered into with the Ugandan Government meet their criteria of transparency and accountability, and environmental concerns," he explained.

The petition, Nuwagaba said, would be copied to the British House of Commons, the French Parliament, (since Total is a French Company), the President of Uganda and the Speaker of Parliament.

The announcement by MPs follows media reports that after selling majority of its oil shares, Tullow Oil was now contesting Uganda Revenue Authority's calculation of the tax due from the transaction.

The company transferred 66.6% of its shares to France's total and China's CNOOC oil companies recently in a transaction worth US$2.9b.

The letter

This week, acting Government Chief Whip in Parliament, Daudi Migereko said President Yoweri Museveni had intercepted a letter asking the House of Commons to investigate the oil agreements signed between Tullow Oil and Uganda Government.

He said the President was concerned about the letter because it could derail the oil production process in Uganda.

The letter contests the legality of the agreements in light of a Parliament resolution which put a moratorium on the signing of the oil agreements until the relevant laws are enacted by Parliament.

Responding to questions, however, the MPs denied being its authors.

"None of us is a coward. If we had petitioned, we would have addressed a press conference," Abdu Katuntu (FDC) said.

"We fear no intimidation or blackmail of charges being preferred against us because we know the law very well. We shall make sure we act lawfully," he added.

He said they would walk to every village in Uganda and ask the people to be a part of the crusade.

'Concern'

Odonga Otto (FDC) said the process of collecting signatures begins next week. "Next week we shall formally launch a booklet of impeachment process." He urged Museveni to "save his face and resign."

Betty Amongi (Independent) said she feels pain because and children are dying because the government cannot recruit enough doctors and nurses and yet it was "donating" money to Tullow Oil. She said they would even go to hospital wards to collect signatures from pregnant women, and also from teachers.

Sekikubo expressed concern that the Government had entered into oil production processes without putting in place institutions such as the Uganda Petroleum Authority and the Oil Company to monitor the oil produced.

As Joseph Ssewungu (DP) proposed that a commission of inquiry be set up to investigate the President, Gerald Karuhanga (independent) warned that oil cannot be a one man business.

The press conference was also addressed by Cerinah Nebanda and Denis Obua both of NRM and Hassan Fungaroo (FDC).