By Kenneth Atavti
A N100B Suit has been slammed on President Muhammadu Buhari at the Federal High Court in Abuja over an alleged unlawful removal of Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Ararume as a non Executive Chairman of the newly Incorporated Nigeria National Petroleum Company, (NNPC).
Ararume is claiming the huge sum from the President Buhari led Federal Government as damages caused him in the alleged unlawful and unconstitutional ways and manners he was removed as the NNPC Chief after using his name to incorporate the entity.
The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/691/2022 was instituted on his behalf by a group of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) comprising Chief Chris Uche, Ahmed Raji, Mahmud Magaji, Ogwu James Onoja, K.C Nwufor and Gordy Uche.
In the suit, Ararume formulated four issues for determination by the court among which was 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.
He is also asking the court to determine whether by the interpretation of section 63 (3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, the President can lawfully remove him as non Executive Chairman of the NNPC for any reason outside the provisions of the law.
The Imo politician also wants the court to determine whether Buhari can sack 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.
Also listed for determination is whether his purported removal vide letter of January 17, 2022 without compliance with expressly stated 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 wants the court to make declaration that his position as non Executive Chairman of the NNPC is exclusively governed and regulated by CAMA 2020, PIA Act 2021 and Memorandum of Association of the Company.
A declaration that by the provisions of section 63 (3) of the PIA Act, CAMA Act and Memorandum of Association of the NNPC, the President cannot by will remove him from office as non Executive Chairman without following due process of the law.
Ararume therefore prayed for an order of the Court setting aside his removal by Buhari vide letter of January 17, 2022 with reference number SGF.3V111/86.
He also sought order of the Court reinstating him forthwith and restoring him to office with all the appurtenant rights and privileges of the office of the NNPC non Executive Chairman.
Plaintiff further demands for nullification and setting aside of all decisions and resolutions of the NNPC Board made in his absence from January 17, 2022 till date and another order restraining the defendants from removing his name as Director of the Company.
He requested for N100B as damages for the wrongful removal, disruption and interruption of his term of office as non Executive Chairman of the NNPC.
In a 75 paragraph affidavit in support of the suit, Ararume averred that upon the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, the former Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation NNPC and its subsidiaries were unbundled to become Nigeria National Petroleum Company registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission with number 1843987.
That on October 20, 2021, President Buhari approved his appointment as a non Executive Chairman for a period of initial five years and subsequently, his name registered in the Memorandum of Articles of the Company and the appointment announced to the whole world.
Based on the appointment, Ararume averred claimed that he attended 23rd World Petroleum Congress in the United States of America but surprisingly on January 7th, 2022, Buhari inaugurated the NNPC Board without a recourse to him while another person was named in his place.
By a letter of January 17, 2022, he was informed of withdrawal of his appointment but without any reason whatsoever to justify the purpoted removal.
Plaintiff asserted that he was not guilty of any pre conditions for removal and was never declared bankruptcy or adjudged medically unfit for the job.
Based on the unlawful act of the defendant, plaintiff said that the action has fuelled public suspicion and rumours against his person.
Subsequently, Ararume asserted that he has suffered loss of credibility and goodwill, untold emotional, mental and psychological trauma and public humiliation, degradation and embarrassment by his purpoted removal by President Buhari.
He therefore prayed the court to award him N100Billion naira compensation and to order his return to office in line with the letter and conditions of his appointment.
At Wednesday’s proceedings, Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo ordered that the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) be joined as a party following no objection from Chief Chris Uche SAN who stood for Ararume and Alhasan. Shuaib who represented President Buhari.
Justice Ekwo subsequently fixed December 15, 2022 for further mention into the suit and ordered that the amended originating summons be served on parties before the adjourned date.