Today in Parliament |14th November 2023

Today in Parliament |14th November 2023

Greetings from AFLI and the Parliament of Uganda!

This is an update from the Parliament of Uganda marking the 12th Sitting of the 1st Meeting of the 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament. This Sitting was chaired by the Speaker Rt. Hon. Anitah Among. In her communication, the Speaker thanked Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa for steering the House during her absence.  Among also told MPs that next week on Tuesday, the government will present a statement on outstanding demands of the opposition, but urged that they should all the same attend plenary, where all contradictions can be substantively resolved. Speaker Among threatened to expel Opposition MPs who continue to boycott plenary sittings because of the unresolved concerns on human rights violations, if they miss 15 sittings in a row without seeking permission from her office for their absentia. Among further castigated the Opposition for their sustained boycott wondering why they chose to take their issues to the streets instead of dialoguing within Parliament, saying their actions go against the spirit of cohesion and unity that is being cultivated in the 11th Parliament. “You don’t fight when you are out, you fight when you are inside here. Just like in a home, when you are in a home and you are fighting with a woman, don’t run away be there, stay there so that we see who is who. So it isn’t good for us to go out and start lamenting from out, let us be here, solve our people’s problems getting out of this House isn’t a solution”. said Among. 

Speaker Among later responded to people who have been criticizing her for not utilizing her maternity leave days, saying she is in good health which is why she returned to serve her country. “Holding a position like mine doesn’t stop you from being a mother, I hope I inspire most of you. And being a politician, I am not a civil servant for anybody to ask why has she come back from leave, I am not on maternity leave, the law prescribes for a civil servant. A politician isn’t a civil servant, so if I am in good health, I come and serve my country”. Among said.

According to Article (83) of the Constitution, a Member of Parliament may lose his or her seat in any of the following instances; On resignation in writing to the Speaker; If he or she subsequently ceases to qualify to be a Member of Parliament; If he or she is absent from 15 sittings without permission of the Speaker; If he or she is found guilty of violation of the Leadership Code of Conduct; If he or she joins another party or leaves the party and decides to remain an Independent member; If a member was elected as an independent and joins a party; or On appointment as a public officer.

Reacting to the Speaker’s Communication, Prime Minister Hon. Nabbanja Robinah led MPs in welcoming Speaker Anitah Among back to the House, following her absence. Hon. Achieng Sarah Opendi (DWR, Tororo, NRM) called for increased allocations to the Health Sector in the next Financial Year. In response, Prime Minister Hon. Nabbanja Robinah said “It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that our people get deserving treatment in hospitals”. Hon. Atim Cecilia Ogwal (Dokolo, DWR, INDP) said she comes to the House despite the ongoing opposition’s absence, to relay an important message, because “I do not have any other platform”. On the ACP-EU agreement, Hon. Ogwal said it is hard to trade with the European Union if you have a contrary stand on LGBTQ. She added that a new ACP-EU protocol, which must be signed by the 15th of this month, threatens to be injurious to the interests of Uganda. In response, Deputy Attorney General Hon Jackson Kafuuzi said gov’t will only enter into agreements cleared by the Cabinet. As a way forward, Speaker Anitah Among proposed that the Deputy Attorney General engage Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa, who heads Uganda’s delegation to the ACP-EU, for guidance on the appropriate course of action in light of the new protocol.

Hon. Muhammad Nsereko (MP, Kampala Central, Kampala District, INDP) said the disconnection of SIM cards has disrupted many Ugandans, especially those in the diaspora, who use those service providers to remit funds back home. He said even those who had money on their lines are failing to find it after verification. “Why are there disruptions every year regarding SIM card registration? How many times shall we be moving hence and forth (on SIM card registration?)”,  Nsereko asked. In response, Finance State Minister Henry Musasizi said all customers who fear they could have lost money during the recent SIM card re-registration, can claim and get it back. He said the National Payment Systems Act 2020 covers them.

Later, Hon. Achieng Sarah Opendi (DWR, Tororo, NRM) tabled before Parliament The Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill, 2023, which seeks to regulate drinking. This Bill was afterward referred to the Committees on Trade and Health. Hon. Achieng also opposed the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2023 whose object is to provide for the rationalization of government agencies as proposed by the government, saying there are many times she has had her proposed amendments to the Constitution deferred. MPs Hon. Nathan Byanyima and Hon Yusuf Mutembuli also opposed the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill. As a way forward, the Presiding Officer guided that it would be better for the government to introduce an omnibus Bill to comprehensively amend the Constitution. She added that this would be better for the House. In addition, Among noted that there is also a Bill that has sections which, if enacted, will amend almost all laws creating the affected government entities. As a result, Among said it is better to introduce the Bills on an agency basis, to allow seamless harmonization with Parliament.

The House then moved on to consider the Petroleum Supply Amendment Bill 2023 under the second reading. This was moved by the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Hon. Ssentamu Ruth Nankabirwa. According to the Minister, the Bill will enable the government to ensure a steady supply of petroleum products, and also diversify supply routes.

Hon. Otaala Emmanuel Otiam (MP, West Budama County South, Tororo district, NRM) who is also the Chair of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources later presented a report of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on the Petroleum Supply Amendment Bill 2023. According to the Chair, the object of the Bill is to amend the Petroleum Supply Act, 2003, to empower UNOC to be the supplier of all imports to the licensed oil marketing companies of petroleum products for the Ugandan market for purposes of ensuring the security of supply of petroleum products. He also added that the Bill will improve petroleum product stock holding levels within the country, and contribute to the competitiveness of consumer and retail pump prices. Otaala also told MPs that the lack of empowerment for UNOC to be the sole importer and supplier of Uganda’s petroleum products has contributed to the instability of petroleum product supply in Uganda, unpredictable pump prices, and financial stagnation for UNOC which has curtailed its business progress. The Committee noted that the inability to purchase directly from the refineries leads to an extra markup on Uganda’s fuel from Kenyan companies, insecurity in supply for petroleum products, and inability to directly negotiate for petroleum prices with refiners which inevitably contributes to high and unpredictable pump prices. As a result, the Committee recommended that in the long term, UNOC should explore opportunities for direct engagement with the refineries. The Chair said that this shall minimize costs, and increase stability of petroleum product supply into the economy. 

Hon. Akamba Paul (MP, Busiki County, Namutumba district, NRM) also presented a Minority Report, saying it is not good to create a monopoly for UNOC. He added that this is unconstitutional and prohibits fair competition. “The Committee also noted that past experiences of monopolies including UMEME, the Enrico Agreement, the lron Ore Agreement, and the Dura Cement Agreement have cost the country money and set a bad precedence for monopolies in Uganda”. Akamba said.

Reacting to the Bill, Hon. Alioni Yorke Odria (MP, Aringa County South, Yumbe, NRM) said the Bill should be supported to save Ugandans from fuel cartels that arbitrarily influence fuel pricing, and cause pain at the pump for citizens. On the other hand, Hon. Nandala Mafabi Nathan James (MP, Budadiri County West, Sironko, FDC) opposed the Bill, saying the creation of monopolies is not good for the economy and referred to a decided case where the Court of Appeal set aside an agreement for purporting to create a monopoly. He said the Bill could face the same fate. He added that Parliament should finance UNOC to go to the refineries and buy from them directly, instead of creating another ‘middleman’. In addition, Hon. Kateshumbwa Dicksons (MP, Sheema Municipality, Sheema, NRM) supported the Bill and said the future will be to financially support UNOC so that they can buy directly from the refineries. Debate on the Bill was closed and the Bill read for the second time. The House then moved to consider the Bill at the Committee stage. The House later passed the Petroleum Supply (Amendment) Bill 2023.

On the report of the Committee on Tourism, Trade, and Industry on the inquiry into the governance of cooperatives, the Speaker referred the report to the investigating agencies of Police, DPP, and IGG. “We are not competent enough as a House to handle this report”. Among said.

The Speaker afterward adjourned the House to tomorrow, 15th November 2023. at 2:00 pm.

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