By Wandoo Sombo
The Federal High Court, Abuja has declared the sack of Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume by the Federal Government as Non-Executive Chairman of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) as illegal and unlawful.
Delivering judgment in the matter on Tuesday, Justice Inyang Ekwo, said that his removal was unconstitutional and as such the court restored him as the Non- Executive Chairman of the company with full benefits.
The judge also awarded N5 billion against the federal government and NNPCL in favour of Ararume as damages for what he suffered on account of the wrongful sack and disruption of his appointment.
Justice Ekwo ordered that Ararume be immediately restored to office as non Executive Chairman of the NNPCL.
The court also declared as null and void and set aside all decisions that were taken by the Board of Directors of the NNPCL after Ararume’s sack.
The court said that the government acted ultra vires, wrongful, illegal, null and void in the way and manner Ararume was sacked after using his name to register the company.
Justice Ekwo in the judgment agreed that under Section 63 of the Company and Allied Matters Act, (CAMA), the president was vested with powers to remove directors of the organization but held that the powers were not at large.
The judge said that the law clearly stipulated conditions under which directors of the NNPCL could be sacked, adding that a breach of the stipulated conditions would automatically make any purported sack unlawful.
In the instant case, the judge said that the federal government’s letter of Jan. 17, 2022 signed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), did not give any reason why Ararume was removed.
The court said that the issue of contract fraud raised in the processes filed by the NNPCL casting doubts on the character, integrity and reputation of Ararume was an afterthought as such facts were not adduced in the letter that removed him.
Justice Ekwo said it was bad enough that the NNPCL claimed to have obtained the alleged contract fraud against Ararume from an on-line media, adding that no probate value could be attached to such information by any court.
The judge said even if the allegations were to be made in the proper way, the plaintiff would have been confronted with same and be allowed to defend himself as required by law.
He added that anything short of that amounted to denial of fair hearing which he said was against natural justice.
The judge restrained the government from removing Ararume as a director of the NNPCL and that his name must also not be removed as Non- Executive Chairman of the organisation.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ararume dragged the federal government to court praying it to declare his removal as NNPCL chairman illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.
He also asked the court to declare that it was a total breach of the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) under which NNPCL was incorporated.
Besides asking the court to issue an order to return him to office, Ararume demanded N100 billion as compensation for the damages he suffered nationally and internationally by the unlawful way and manner he was sacked.
The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/691/2022 was instituted on his behalf by a group of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) comprising Messrs Chris Uche, Ahmed Raji, Mahmud Magaji, James Onoja, K.C Nwufor and Gordy Uche.
Ararume had prayed for an order of the court setting aside his removal vide a letter of Jan. 17, 2022 with reference number SGF.3V111/86.
He also sought an order of court reinstating him and restoring him to office with all the appurtenant rights and privileges of the office of the NNPC non Executive Chairman.
He further demanded for the nullification and setting aside of all decisions and resolutions of the NNPC Board made in his absence from Jan. 17, 2022 till date and another order restraining the defendants from removing his name as director of the company.
NAN reports that earlier, the judge refused to acknowledge the presence of Mr Ibrahim Shafi who announced his appearance on behalf of NNPCL.
” I will not record your appearance because you walked out of the court.
“I will only record your appearance by leave of court because the court is not a market place where you walk out and return at will,” the judge said. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Ismail Abdulaziz