Masindi High Court has transferred to Hoima High Court the case in which some Kabaale oil refinery Project Affected Persons (PAPs) claim they were not adequately, fairly and timely compensated.
The eight-year old case was expected to reach the verdict stage with cross-examination of all the pending complainants scheduled last week on November 10, 2022.
In an interview with Kazi-njema News, Mr Christopher Opio, the Coordinator for Oil Refinery Residents Association (ORRA), says he was disappointed to be told by the High Court Registrar that the case had been transferred to Hoima.
ORRA is an association known for advocating for justice to the oil refinery PAPs.
“We eagerly waited for the 10th November to know our verdict. Without any prior notification, we were told to move to the newly inaugurated Hoima High Court on the 9th February, 2023, to fix the hearing date which is a step backwards,” says Mr Opio who is also a complainant.
He adds that the PAPs were told that the move followed the transfer of Justice Jessy Byaruhanga from Masindi to Hoima High Court yet he was the one handling the case.
Additionally, the complainants are also residents of Hoima.
More than 20 complainants had eagerly travelled to Masindi High Court in response to the earlier assurance by Justice Byaruhanga that he would dedicate the whole day of November 10, 2022, to their case.
Mr Opio says though it sounds disturbing, Hoima High Court is a nearer venue compared to Kampala and Masindi that were financially draining.
“What we want is justice. It is eight years now but when the case is to be heard from Hoima, it is cheaper for us because we can even reach court on foot,” he says.
The 160 complainants in this case are part of the 7,118 persons affected by the oil refinery project on the 29-square kilometre land.
- After challenges of movement from Hoima to Kampala High Court, the PAPs petitioned the Principal Judge to prioritise their case because some of them were aging and there were economic challenges.
- The PAPs petitioned in January 2021 calling for the case fast-tracking so that it is concluded in whoever favour.
- In 2021, the Principal Judge transferred the case to Masindi High Court.
- Coronavirus disrupted hearings until February 2, 2022. The case was adjourned to May 24, 2022. This did not work because the defendant’s lawyers did not attend.
- It was re-adjourned to November 10, 2022, and would involve execution of all pending cross-examinations.
The oil refinery Project Affected Persons (PAPs) from Kabaale Parish in Buseruka Sub-county, Hoima District filed to the Civil Division of the High Court in Kampala before it was transferred to the Land Division of Masindi High Court.
The PAPs’ fate began when the government of Uganda’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development through its agent, Strategic Friends International (SFI) Ltd while acquiring land at the beginning of 2012 allegedly failed to compensate them promptly, fairly and adequately.
The hearing of the case commenced on June 12, 2018, at Kampala High Court through their lawyer – Bemanyisa & Co. Advocates. They want court to declare that the oil refinery compensation process violated Article 26 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda pay them more money.