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HOW TOTAL UGANDA’S SHS4BN THREW ANOTHER COURT REGISTRAR IN HOT SOUP

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 By Mulengera Reporter

Acting Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo has ordered interdiction of Executions and Bailiffs Division Deputy Registrar Deo Nizeyimana for abuse of judicial authority, producing poor standard of work and conducting himself in a manner prejudicial to the image, dignity and reputation of judicial service contrary to Judicial Service Commission Regulations, 2005.

Nizeyimana’s suspension was communicated in a June 29 letter from Acting Chief Registrar Tom Chemutai. The deputy registrar’s charges stem from the issuance of an expert garnishee order absolute in a case involving Total Uganda Limited and AO Basid Limited even when the assistant registrar of same court had issued an order staying the execution of the same in October 2019.

 

The same order was issued in “defiance of Chief Justice’s directives suspending execution proceedings in line with the National Directives to curb the spread of the Covid19 Pandemic.” The Deputy Registrar is also accused of issuing garnishee orders “without the knowledge of the respondent [Total Uganda].”

In a petition Total Uganda wrote to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on June 19, the oil company reports Nizeyimana for his “irregular issuance” of the orders that would have seen $1.12m (almost Shs4.2bn) from its bank accounts paid to AO Basid Limited. It all started in 2017 when AO Basid filed a case in the Centre for Arbitration and Dispute Resolution against Total and was awarded about $1m in damages. Attempts by the oil company to have the execution of the order halted hit a snag when court dismissed Total’s application in June 2019 arguing that it had been filed out of time.

Total appealed this judgement in the Commercial Division of the High Court. In October 2019, Assistant Registrar Dorothy Lwanga gave Total a new lease of life by staying the execution of the order, until the appeal has been disposed of. In an appeal ruling delivered on May 11, 2020, the oil company’s application had been dismissed. Total moved to the Court of Appeal to challenge the High Court ruling and previous orders, but its managers say they were shocked to learn from Absa Bank that Nizeyimana had issued a garnishee order on June 02 directing the financial institution, Stanbic Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Bank of Africa and Citi Bank to “immediately” transfer $1,123,600 (almost Shs4.2bn) to AO Basid’s lawyers’ account in Tropical Bank. Nizeyimana also ordered these banks to transfer Shs80m from Total’s account to AO Basid’s lawyers’ as costs for the garnishee proceedings.

Total Uganda told the JSC that they believed Nizeyimana “irregularly and unlawfully” issued the garnishee orders which had been stayed by Lwanga. The company further accuses the deputy registrar of disobeying the rules issued by the Chief Justice suspending execution proceedings, and further cite unfairness in the entire process because Nizeyimana didn’t notify Total nor its lawyers of the proceedings that resulted in the orders. The oil company further protested the “exorbitant” costs awarded to AO Basid Limited.

“The manner of handling the matter as highlighted above brings the integrity of court to question and have seriously eroded our confidence in this particular court. We pray that you look into the matter and the Deputy Registrar be investigated and disciplined for conducting the affairs of this particular matter in a manner unbecoming of a judicial officer,” wrote Total Uganda MD Obi Imemba. “We believe that the proper handling of this matter will give us and other investors the confidence that this is a one-off case and not an endemic problem of the Judiciary in Uganda.”

It is this petition that Owiny-Dollo based on to order Chemutai to interdict Nizeyimana. The deputy registrar will now face the JSC’s disciplinary committee. Like Masaka High Court Deputy Registrar Cissy Mudhasi (See: HOW SHS3.5BN MAKERERE FRAUD CASE LANDED COURT REGISTRAR INTO TROUBLE), Nizeyimana will also forfeit half of his monthly salary, is expected to hand over office and won’t be allowed to travel out of the country without Chemutai’s permission.

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