Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Ararume has instituted a lawsuit against President Muhammad Buhari over his alleged unlawful removal as Chairman of the Board of Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited.
The suit, filed at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, is before Justice Inyang Ekwo who has fixed December 15 for further hearing.
Ararume is demanding the sum of N100 billion in damages for his wrongful removal, disruption and interruption of his term of office as Non-Executive Chairman of the NNPC.
Ararume is also asking the Court to, among other issues, determine whether the President has the right to remove him without compliance with the provisions of the law.
The Backstory: On September 19, 2021, Senator Ararume was nominated by President Buhari as the Chairman of the Board of NNPC Limited.
However, the inauguration of the Board and management, initially scheduled for November 23, 2021, was later suspended by the President.
In support of the suit, Ararume explained that on October 20, 2021, he was appointed as a Non-Executive Chairman of NNPC. The appointment was to last for an initial period of five years.
He said because of his appointment, he attended the 23rd World Petroleum Congress in the United States of America only for the President to inaugurate the NNPC Board on January 7, 2022, with another person’s name listed in the position he was appointed.
Subsequently, in a letter dated January 17, 2022, Ararume was informed that his name had been dropped and replaced with Senator Margaret Chuba Okadigbo without any explanation to justify his removal.
Credibility loss: Ararume averred that because of the President’s actions, he suffered a loss of credibility and goodwill, untold emotional, mental and psychological trauma, and public humiliation, degradation and embarrassment.
Ararume’s demands: He is asking the court to award him N100 billion in compensation. He also wants to be returned to office, in line with the letter and conditions of his appointment.
A group of Senior Advocates of Nigeria(SANs) filed the lawsuit on Ararume’s behalf. The SANs include Ahmed Raji, Chris Uche, Mahmud Magaji, Ogwu James Onoja, K.C Nwufor and Gordy Uche.
The senator set four issues before the court to be determined and he also sought some relief.
Reliefs sought: he is asking the court for an order setting aside his removal by Buhari via the letter dated January 17, 2022, with reference number SGF.3V111/86.
He also wants the court to nullify and set aside all decisions and resolutions made by the NNPC board in his absence to date.
He prayed for another order restraining the defendants from removing his name as Director of the Company.
He is demanding the sum of N100 billion as damages for the wrongful removal, disruption and interruption of his term of office as Non-Executive Chairman of the NNPC.
He also sought the following:
“An 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.
“A 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.”
4 Issues to be determined by the court:
“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.
“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.
“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.
“ Determine 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.”