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Court chops costs for Mbabazi oil bribery case

Kampala. Court yesterday chopped down to only Shs21m the huge Shs13b costs it had awarded to a city lawyer for having successfully argued a case that disputed resolutions of Parliament that had recommended investigation of then premier Amama Mbabazi over allegations of bribery in the oil sector.

Constitutional Court registrar Erias Kisawuzi had awarded lawyer Severino Twinobusingye nearly Shs13b on Christmas eve of 2012 for arguing the case that also involved Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa, and Disaster Preparedness minister Hilary Onek.

The trio was accused of taking bribes from foreign oil firms, with MPs pushing to have them step aside to pave way for investigations. But the Constitutional Court issued an injunction stopping Parliament from having the three Cabinet ministers step aside.
The huge costs forced government to appeal the costs before a single justice of the court, Mr Kenneth Kakuru.

His observation
While reducing on the initial Shs13b costs, Justice Kakuru said he found nothing extra ordinary with the petition that Mr Twinobusingye handled to warrant such costs.
He subsequently cut down the costs by more than Shs12.9 billion.

“I have found nothing extra-ordinary about this matter. It appears to be rather brief petition. It is neither voluminous nor complicated in any way. The judgment of the court is only 28 pages long. I have failed to understand the basis upon which such a high award of instruction fees was made.” Mr Kakuru ruled.

But in justifying the huge instruction fees that Mr Twinobusingye demanded, his legal team argued that the Mbabazi petition involved physical and electronic research on national and international jurisprudence.

They also argued that the subject matter involved invariable but highly intricate and tantalising constitutional issues relating to high personalities in government.

“The proceedings of that day took about four hours. The matter generated a lot of anxiety with some issues being new such as court granting an injunction against Parliament,” they added.

Mr Twinobusingye on December 24, 2012, through his advocates of Mugisha & Co. Advocates and Bakiza & Co. Advocates, filed the costs, seeking to recover professional fees and disbursements totaling a whooping Shs23b, with Mr Kisawuzi allowing costs of about Shs13b.

Out of the total, Shs12m was pegged to disbursements while Shs11m was claimed as professional fees in respect of attendances, perusals and preparation of court documents.
He also sought to recover over Shs3b being Value Added Tax.

But justice Kakuru while delivering his ruling on the initial Shs23b demand as professional fees by Mr Twinobusingye, said: “The question I have to ask myself is; what would the petitioner have done had the award he obtained of Shs20b on instruction fees been awarded against him?”

“Shs20b is a lot of money. The Chief Justice of this country has just had his monthly salary increased to about Shs20m per month. I take judicial notice of this notorious fact,” he added.
“This means that the Chief Justice would have to work for 1,000 months, which translates to slightly more than 83 years to pay such costs.”

Twinobusingye says

When Daily Monitor contacted Mr Twinobusingye about the huge reduction of his costs, he said: “The ruling of Justice Kakuru is erroneous. He disguised it as an appeal but I have already instructed my lawyers to appeal it before a panel of three justices. Actually, he handled this matter in the initial stages as my lawyer and I don’t know how he ended up sitting in it as a judge.”

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