Speaker Adjourns Parliament Amid Chaos Over Oil Bill (UPDATED with Video)

According to the Facebook page for the Parliament of Uganda, Speaker Kadaga adjourned the session early amid shouting MPs over how to deal with a controversial clause in one of the oil bills before that body (confirmed by a call to Kampala). Here are the status reports:

Parliament moves to consider a motion by the Minister for energy to have clause 9 of the oil exploration bill reconsidered.

Reconsideration of clause 9 will have an effect on almost 80% of all the other clauses in the bill, MP Niwagaba tells Parliament.If we recommit clause 9, we shall have to reconsider the entire bill.

Originally clause 9 of the bill provided powers to the Minister to grant licenses to oil Companies;

The Minister 9. Functions of the MinisterThe Minister shall be responsible for—(a) granting and revoking licences;(b) initiating, developing and implementing oil and gas policy;(c) submitting draft legislation to Parliament;(d) issuing petroleum Regulations;(e) negotiating and endorsing petroleum agreements;(f) approving field development plans;(g) promoting and sustaining transparency in the petroleum sector;(h) approving data management systems; and(i) any other function incidental or consequential to his or her functions.

The contention on clause 9 stems from the fact that Parliament had provided powers to grant licenses to the Petroleum Authority of Uganda and not the minister. The Minister now wants Parliament to revert this decision and have powers restored.

House adjourned as MPs turned chaotic. The Speaker of Parliament has adjourned today’s sitting prematurely as legislators failed to agree on the mode of recommitting clause 9 of the oil exploration bill.

The Speaker adjourned following shouting matches between legislators on both sides of the house. MPs could not agree on whether to debate the clause or move into voting on the reconsideration of the clause.

The pattern for Uganda’s Parliament is to take business in order. The implication here is that the Parliament will return tomorrow to debate over the oil bills which could take days to resolve. As noted earlier this morning, two oil bills and the Accountants Bill are ahead of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on today’s agenda.

For more on the controversy, see this NTV report:

One MP said that the oil bill is the most important decision this parliament will make. For an explanation of the issues involved see this Fox Business report. Essentially, the Parliament is resisting the involvement of the Executive branch and prefers that an independent petroleum authority make contracts.

The call from some MPs for a public march on Parliament is another indicator that this issue could stall Parliament for days.