Basra Province Sues Iraqi State, Demanding Oil and Gas Rights

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The Basra Provincial Council has filed suit against the central government for setting up a gas company in the province without consulting local authorities, reports Ahmad Wahid. The dispute is one of many between the central government and the provinces over oil and gas revenues.

The Basra Provincial Council announced that it had filed a lawsuit against the Council of Ministers, after the latter established the Basra Gas Co. without consulting the provincial council. They warned that the case could escalate to a lawsuit against the Iraqi parliament in the event that the company's project continued. At the same time, MPs asked that the governorate be included in talks on the legislation of an oil and gas law.

The head of the provincial council, Sabah al-Bazoni, said in a statement to Al-Hayat: "The establishment of the Basra Gas Co. without consulting the local government is in violation of article 112 of the constitution," adding that "the lawsuit was specifically against the oil ministry, however the administrative court told the provincial council that it had to be against the Council of Ministers, because the council — based on the votes of its members — were responsible for the decision. Thus, the local government reformulated the lawsuit to be against the federal government, but it is intended to target the oil ministry, which always undermines the province's powers when it comes to matters relating to oil." He confirmed that "the court has agreed to hear the case, and set Nov. 5 as the date to hold the first meeting and listen to proceedings."

He continued: "If we do not reach a settlement favorable to the province, we will file another lawsuit against the parliament, which has issued many laws yet failed to oversee their application. [Oversight] is one of their responsibilities and they must prevent the Ministry of Oil from violating laws that give provinces the right to manage their own affairs. He revealed that "the provincial council also intends to file a lawsuit against the Ministry of Oil in particular, for ignoring the powers granted to the province relating to the oil sector."

The Council of Ministers, at the end of last year, agreed to establish the Basra Gas Co. to take over processing natural gas from the oil fields of Rumaila, Zubair and West Qurna, in partnership with the Southern Gas Co. The ministry owns a 51% share in the latter, while the Royal Dutch Shell company owns a 44% share and the Japanese company Mitsubishi owns a five percent share.

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Hussein al-Asadi, an MP from the State of Law Coalition in Basra province, said that "the oil ministry continues to undermine the local government's powers, especially when it comes to matters related to its oil wealth. It only consults the local government regarding petty issues." He added: "Basra should always be involved when it comes to central decisions related to oil projects in the country, as it exports roughly 90% of Iraq's oil."

Asadi then said: "The MPs from Basra demand that we, alongside representatives from the local government, be included in the committee charged with drafting the oil and gas law." He noted that "a statement will be issued by MPs from Basra and the local government adopting an official position regarding oil laws in Iraq, as these laws are of direct concern to the province."

Abdul Hadi al-Hassani, a member of the same coalition, said in a statement to Al-Hayat that "there are many articles in the oil and gas law that give the local government joint authority alongside the central government. MPs from Basra will demand that the province's role in oil affairs be central, not local." He added: "Some of the laws that have been issued, such as the provincial administration law, as well as some of those that have yet to be issued, such as the law making Basra the economic capital of Iraq, give the province the right to participate in central decisions relating to national oil. However, the problem lies in the lack of enforcement mechanisms and bodies responsible for the implementation of projects."
 

Found in: iraqi oil, iraq ministry of oil, iraq, basra provincial council, basra governorate, basra
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