President Muhammadu Buhari is being sued for N100 billion at the Federal High Court in Abuja over the alleged wrongful removal of Senator Ifeanyi Ararume from his position as non-executive chairman of the newly incorporated Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC). He is requesting the lump payment as restitution for losses incurred as a result of the development.
A group of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), including Chief Chris Uche, Ahmed Raji, Mahmud Magaji, Ogwu James Onoja, K.C. Nwufor, and Gordy Uche, filed the lawsuit on his behalf with the case number FHC/ABJ/CS/691/2022.
In the litigation, Ararume formulated four issues for the court to decide on, one of which is whether the office of the Non-Executive Chairman is not governed and regulated by the existing provisions in light of the NNPC’s memorandum and articles of association, the Companies and Allied Matters Act of 2010, and the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) of 2021.
In addition, he asks the court to interpret Section 63 (3) of the PIA to establish whether the President may legally dismiss him from his position as non-executive chairman of the NNPC for any cause unrelated to those specified by the law.
The plaintiff further requests that the court rule on Buhari’s ability to fire him despite any expressly stated provisions of the Company’s Articles of Memorandum of Association, Section 63 (3) of the PIA, and Section 288 of the CAMA Act 2020.
The issue of whether his alleged expulsion through a letter dated January 17, 2022, without compliance with plainly stated legal requirements, is not unlawful, illegal, null and invalid, and of no legal importance at all, is also listed for determination.
The plaintiff requests that the court declare that his role as the Non-Executive Chairman of the NNPC is solely governed and regulated by CAMA 2020, PIA 2021, and the Company’s Memorandum of Association when the problems are resolved in his favor.
Additionally, a statement that the President is not permitted to dismiss him from his position as Non-Executive Chairman by decree without first complying with the requirements of Section 63 (3) of the PIA, the CAMA Act, and the Memorandum of Association of the NNPC.
Therefore, Ararume requested an order to quash Buhari’s expulsion of him by letter dated January 17, 2022, with reference number SGF.3V111/86. In addition, he asked for an order that would immediately reinstate him and provide him with all the rights and perks that come with holding the position of NNPC Non-Executive Chairman.
The Imo lawmaker further claimed that all NNPC Board actions and resolutions issued between January 17, 2022, and the present be annulled and set aside. He also asked for a court injunction preventing the defendants from removing his name from the company’s board of directors.
The petitioner asked for N100 billion in compensation for the allegedly unjustified expulsion, disruption, and interruption of his time as non-executive chairman of the NNPC.
Ararume claimed in a 75-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the lawsuit that after the PIA was passed, the former Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries were divided up to form Nigerian National Petroleum Company, which was given the registration number 1843987 by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
On October 20, 2021, President Buhari authorized his nomination as the company’s non-executive chairman for an initial five-year term. His name was then entered into the company’s memorandum of incorporation, and the appointment was made public.
The applicant said that he had attended the 23rd World Petroleum Congress in the United States of America based on the appointment, but shockingly, on January 7, 2022, Buhari inaugurated the NNPC Board without consulting him and named a different person in his place.
He received notice of the withdrawal of his appointment by letter dated January 17, 2022, but there was no explanation provided for the alleged revocation.
Plaintiff claimed that he had never been declared bankrupt or deemed medically unfit for employment and that he had not violated any pre-requisites for dismissal.
Plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s unlawful act had increased public mistrust of him and rumors about him. Ararume then alleged that his putative expulsion by President Buhari had resulted in a loss of trust and goodwill, immense emotional, mental, and psychic suffering, as well as public humiliation, degradation, and embarrassment.
To return to office in accordance with the word and conditions of his appointment, he thus asked the court to grant him N100 billion in compensation and to order it.
During yesterday’s hearings, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), who represented Ararume, and Alhasan Shuaib, who represented the President, did not object to Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo’s decision to force the CAC to become a party.
The judge then set December 15 for further discussion of the case and mandated that the parties receive the updated originating summons before the next postponed date.