A human rights advocacy group has urged the Federal Government to put into effect the Federal High Court judgment by Justice Inyang Ekwo, setting aside the removal of Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as the Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd) rather than challenge it.
In a statement signed by the convener Mr. Stanley Ihuoma, the group said that appealing the judgment would only be inflammatory given that Sen. Araraume’s rights were infringed upon when he was arbitrarily removed as Chairman of NNPCL after his name was used to incorporate the company at the Corporate Affairs Commission.
“Further prolonging the matter would lead to uncertainties in the oil sector, which may lead to a trust deficit in the sector from IOC’s and other investors. It would be in the best interest of the company and the nation for the Federal Government to honour the court judgment and lay the matter to rest once and for all,” The group added.
Justice Ekwo in a nine-point judgment recently held that the position of Senator Araraume as non-executive chairman of the NNPCL are exclusively governed and regulated by the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 and the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the NNPCL. Araraume’s removal by President Muhammadu Buhari contravened provisions of the NNPC Ltd laws as well as the Company’s and Allied Matters Act.
The judge held that President Buhari cannot lawfully remove Araraume as the non-executive chairman of NNPCL for any reason whatsoever outside the conditions specifically listed in section 63 (3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.
Setting aside all resolutions and decisions of the board of the NNPCL made in the absence of Araraume, from January 17 till date, Justice Ekwo, awarded Araraume the sum of N5 Billion (Naira) being damages for his wrong removal, disruption and interruption of the term of his office as the non-executive chairman of the NNPCL.
The judge in the judgement which has been served to all the defendants, asserted that the removal of Araraume without fair hearing by the president was, “wrong and cannot be tolerated by a court of law.’’
Industry experts believe the newly reinstated non-executive chairman of the board of the NNPCL may decide to ratify decisions of the board since his removal, so as not to arrive at a circumstance where the operations of the company would be negatively impacted.
Senator Araraume had instituted a law suit against President Buhari over his removal as the Chairman of the Board of NNPC LTD. The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/691/2022 had articulated four issues for determination by the court which are:
- Whether in view of the provisions of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the NNPC, Companies and Allied Matters Act 2010 and the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, the office of the non-Executive Chairman is not governed and regulated by the stated provisions of the law.
- Whether the president could lawfully remove him as non-Executive Chairman of the NNPC for any reason outside the provisions of the law, by the interpretation of Section 63 (3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.
- Whether Buhari could remove him without compliance with expressly stated provisions of the Articles of Memorandum of Association of the Company, section 63 (3) of the PIA Act 2021 and section 288 of the CAMA Act 2020.
- Whether his purported removal vide letter of January 17, 2022 without compliance with provisions of the law is not wrongful, illegal, null and void and of no legal consequence whatsoever.
Upon the determination of the issues in his favour, the plaintiff had wanted the court to make declaration that his position as non-Executive Chairman of the NNPC was exclusively governed and regulated by CAMA 2020, PIA Act 2021 and Memorandum of Association of the Company.
The president had in a letter dated January 17 2022, withdrawn Araraume’s appointment without any reason whatsoever which informed the legal action.