The High court in Kampala has declined to order an injunction against ongoing procurements in the oil and gas sector. Blocking the procurement would have halted the ongoing efforts to develop the infrastructure needed to get oil out of the ground.
The Monday ruling was premised on an application by city lawyer, Andrew Oluka, who had sought a declaration that the procurement processes undertaken by the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and Tilenga by Total Energies and Cnooc are being done in contravention of the constitution.
The applicant filed the application in public interest to enforce and stop the infringement of the constitutional and economic rights of Ugandans whom he said were entitled to priority in the provision of goods and services in the petroleum sector.
Citing Articles 2, 26, 40 and 244 of the constitution and all enabling laws providing for national content in the petroleum sector, Oluka asked the court to order for legal audit of the EACOP procurement processes.
The respondents who included Uganda Petroleum Authority’s senior national content officer, James Musherure Rujoki, and Uganda National Oil Company’s deputy general manager, Mariam Nampeera Mbowa among others, opposed the application, saying that it was not a legitimate public law and public interest action.
They asserted that it was filed in bad faith and with an improper motive. They further stated that the application was is intended to delay the implementation of the oil projects which are supposed to be beneficial to the overall Uganda population.
According to the respondents, all the procurements relating to the projects being undertaken are executed in accordance with the laws of Uganda and the National content requirements.
Justice Musa Ssekana declined to entertain the application and therefore dismissed it with costs. The judge ruled that the applicant’s prayer for an injunction to stop sector-wide procurement activities was not supported by any credible evidence as to irreparable loss, and added that an injunction cannot be granted to one spirited individual at the expense of a broader economic activity that benefits the country as a whole.
“The nature of the remedies sought to point to something sinister beyond the application which motive was intended for a specific purpose outside the application. The application is indeed frivolous and vexatious to the extent that it is an abuse of court process” said Ssekana in the ruling.
Meanwhile, the judge took a swipe at lawyers/litigants who seek to abuse the process of the court by filing what he described as frivolous petitions.
“Of late, such an important jurisdiction as public interest litigation; created and nurtured with great care and caution by the courts is being blatantly abused by filing applications with oblique motives. The time has come when genuine and bona fide public interest litigation must be encouraged whereas frivolous and vexatious litigation should be totally discouraged,” Ssekaana said.
He advised the courts to protect and preserve this important jurisdiction in the larger interest of the people of Uganda, by taking effective steps to prevent and cure its abuse on the basis of monetary and non-monetary directions by the courts.
According to Ssekaana, the courts have a duty to ensure that unscrupulous and undesirable public interest litigation is not instituted because it wastes the valuable time of the courts as well as preserve the faith of the public in the justice delivery system.