By Hillary Nsambu
GREENWATCH, an environmental NGO, has petitioned the court in a bid to compel the Government to release the agreements it signed with several international oil companies.
Greenwatch, a local NGO, advocates for the proper use, management and protection of the environment.
Through Kakuru and Company Advocates, Greenwatch filed its application in the High Court on December 22.
It said it had not obtained adequate information from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
The NGO wants to be availed with copies of the agreements concluded between the Government and the four oil companies operating in Uganda: Tullow Oil, Heritage Oil and Gas, Dominion Oil and Neptune Petroleum.
It wants details concerning oil exploration and exploitation activities, its production and the revenue sharing agreements.
It argues that since the agreements are public documents, the Government should not keep them secret from the people of Uganda, who it says are entitled to access them as beneficiaries.
According to an affidavit sworn by Irene Ssekyana, the NGOâ€™s national coordinator, Greenwatch is charged with ascertaining the impact of the oil exploration and exploitation on the environment, the countryâ€™s natural resources and peopleâ€™s livelihoods.
According to Ssekyana, Greenwatch has been conducting research on the impact of petroleum activities in Uganda since 2008. However, vital information about production sharing agreements was not disclosed, she says.
Ssekyana also accuses the Permanent Secretary of the energy ministry of giving her a blank model agreement instead of the signed agreements.
Because of the Governmentâ€™s attitude of secrecy, the NGO says, it has not been able to conclude its research and publish its findings and recommendations to the public.
It says this attitude contravenes the right to access of information as provided for in the Constitution. It also infringes the promotion of justice and good governance, Greenwatch argues.