By Precious Delilah
Lawyer Hassan Male Mabirizi has sued the government over its bid to monopolise the importation of fuel into the country.
Mr Mabirizi, in his lawsuit filed before the Anti-Corruption Court, contends that the government’s move to contract Vitol Company as a sole importer of fuel without going through proper bidding amounts to corruption and unfairly edges out those suppliers with capacity to do so.
“The government of Uganda announced that it has created a fuel import monopoly through a contract with Vitol Company. The said company did not go through the normal bidding process under the laws of Uganda, hence corruption,” Mr Mabirizi avers in his court documents filed on November 10.
Further, Mr Mabirizi contends that the conceptualisation, processing, selection, contracting and grant of fuel import monopoly to Vitol Company infringes on importation rights.
“Creating a monopoly in importation of fuel derogates economic rights of other Ugandans who may have capacity to import fuel,”he says.
On November 1, Energy minister Ruth Nankbirwa tabled before Parliament an Amendment Bill to regulate the importation of petroleum products.
The Petroleum Supply (Amendment) Bill, 2023, if passed into law in its current form, will grant the Uganda National Oil Company (Unoc), the monopoly to supply imported petroleum products to local suppliers.
The proposed law aims at giving exclusivity importation rights to Unoc, which monopoly is to be handed over to a Bah- rain EC-based Company, Vitol, for five years.
The line minister explained that currently, there are multiple agencies along the oil supply chain, the reason why there are supply disruptions leading to soaring fuel prices, with a litre of petrol now going for close to Shs7,000 at a pump.
The government also defended the exclusiveness of Vitol Company for their ability to provide finances to purchase the refineries.
Last week, concerned fuel suppliers while appearing before Parliament, opposed the government’s bid to ring fence the petroleum importation by Unoc through Vitol, arguing that bringing on board more players would lead to cheaper fuel pump prices.
Mr Mabirizi in his law suit wants court to issue a permanent injunction, restraining government or any other state agency from enforcing the fuel import monopoly contract granted to Vitol.
He also wants court to issue an order, nullifying the fuel import monopoly granted to Vitol Company. “It’s fair,equitable and in the interest of protecting fundamental and other human rights as well as the rule of law in Uganda that this application is allowed,” Mr Mabirizi says.
By press time last Friday, the court had not yet summoned the Attorney General, the sole respondent in this case, to file his defence before a hearing date could be fixed.