Government sued over oil pipeline deal

Photo credit: Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU)

Government has been dragged to court for failure to disclose the details of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) agreement that Uganda and Tanzania signed with multinational oil companies.

The suit filed by lawyer Male Mabirizi against the Attorney General says it was wrong and illegal for the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development Permanent Secretary to refuse to heed to his attention to access the pipeline agreement under the Access to Information Act.

Last month, Uganda, Tanzania and the two oil companies – Total E&P and China’s CNOOC signed the EACOP deal that included the Tariff and Transportation Agreement (TTA) between the pipeline company and the shippers of the crude oil through the pipeline.

The two governments and oil firms also signed the Host Government Agreement for the Republic of Uganda and the shareholding Agreement (SHA) for shareholders to the EACOP Company.

“The applicant wants a declaration that the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development illegally or wrongly ignored the applicant’s request for access to the Host Government Agreement for the pipeline, Tariff and Transportation Agreement and Shareholding Agreement in respect of the planned East African Crude Oil Pipeline,” the documents before the Mengo Chief Magistrates court reads in part.

Mr Mabirizi wants court to direct the Permanent Secretary to avail the agreement and also stop him from ever concealing the same information.

He says the information requested for is liable to mandatory disclosure in public interest and to enable him institute criminal proceedings.

“It is in the interest of promoting administrative fairness, efficiency, transparency and accountability among leaders, public officers and statutory bodies that this application is granted,” Mr Mabirizi says.

The lawyer wants court to award him general, exemplary and aggravated damages on top of costs for the suit after the Permanent Secretary earlier refused to reveal the details of the agreement.

The EACOP is a 1,445-kilometre-long pipeline from the oil wells in Hoima district, Uganda to Tanzania’s seaport of Tanga.

The pipeline will cover 296km in Uganda passing through Hoima, Kikuube, Kyankwanzi, Mubende, Gomba, Kyotera, Lwengo, Ssembabule and Rakai, and 1443km in Tanzania through the regions of Kagera, Gieta, Shinyanga, Tabora, Singida, Dodoma, Manyara and Tanga.

The $3.5 billion oil pipeline project is the longest electrically heated pipeline in the world. It will be heated because Uganda’s oil is waxy instead of being sweet.

Shareholders in the EACOP include the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) on behalf of the government of Uganda, the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC), Total E&P and CNOOC.

With French company – Total E&P owning a majority stake of 72 per cent in the pipeline, Uganda has 15 per cent, CNOOC has 8 per cent while Tanzania has 5 per cent.

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