Hima appeals court ruling on its licence

Hima Cement has applied for a stay of execution to last week’s judgment in which the High Court ruled that the cement company unlawfully changed its name.

Hima Cement

The implication of the stay of the execution application is that the March 26, 2012 decision, which would halt Hima’s operations in Uganda, is not immediately implemented.

“We requested for stay of execution and an adjournment was made till April 9. They (East African Gold Sniffing Company) have been ordered not to do anything,” said Nicholas Echimu, a lawyer with Ssebalu and Lule Advocates that represents Hima Cement.

Echimu confirmed that they were aware of last Tuesday’s ruling, which was presented as a summary by Judge Eldad Mwangusya. Hima is yet to see a copy of the ruling, which would detail the judgment. Efforts to get a copy of the judgment hit a dead end since last week, with High Court personnel saying Judge Mwangusya started leave this week and will be available on Friday. The judgment would be made public then.

“It (judgment) was a shock to all of us,”

“How do you explain that since 1999 when the name change was effected, Hima has been filing returns and has been paying taxes, the implications of the ruling are unacceptable,” said Echimu. Reports indicate that the judge implied that Hima’s license expired in December 2011 and are now legally non-existent.

At the centre of the controversy is East African Gold Sniffing Company, which went to court fighting the Ministry of Energy’s decision to reinstate Hima’s license after it was revoked by officials in the same ministry.

Last week’s ruling, according to senior legal experts, means that Hima will lose its operating license to East African Gold Sniffing Company over limestone deposits in western Uganda if it is upheld.

Lafarge-owned Hima has been battling with East Africa Gold Sniffing over the limestone deposits in Kasese, western Uganda where Hima has invested.

While Gold Sniffing capitalised on the name change issue which sources said may have been an error of omission, Echimu said Hima has had an operating certificate and it would appear strange if now the court pronounces that certificate of incorporation since 1994 is illegal.

The controversy began when Hima Cement was acquired by Lafarge Group, the French giant in 1994. After the acquisition, the Group changed its name to Hima Cement Ltd, but forgot to register the changes with the Registrar of Companies according to the law and thereafter subsequently publish the name change in the National Gazette.

But Echimu dismissed the ruling that Hima had not advertised its name change in the gazette saying it is supposed to be the responsibility of a third party -the registrar according to Company’s Act, section 19.

Hima has a certificate of change of names but evidence presented to court according to sources indicates that the said name does not exist in the Registrar of Companies registry.

By David Mugabe, The New Vision

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