Ararume slams Buhari with N100 billion lawsuit over removal as NNPC chairman

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Senator Ifeanyi Ararume has instituted a N100 billion suit against President Muhammadu Buhari at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court over his alleged unlawful removal as a non-executive chairman of the recently incorporated Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC).

Mr Ararume is asking for N100 billion as damages caused him in the alleged unlawful and unconstitutional way he was removed as the NNPC chief after using his name to incorporate the entity.

When the matter was called on Wednesday, one of Mr Ararume’s counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), told the court that all parties had been served the necessary processes.

Justice Inyang Ekwo evoked provisions of Order 9 Rule 14 (2b) of the Federal High Court Rules that allow a judge to order a party whose presence in a matter is pertinent to join the matter.

Mr Ekwo ordered that the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) be joined as a party since the case had to do with the interpretation of the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA).

There was no objection from any of the parties.

The judge adjourned the matter until December 15 for mention and ordered that the amended originating summons be served on parties before the adjourned date.

The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/691/2022 was instituted on Mr Ararume’s behalf by a group of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) comprising Chris Uche, Ahmed Raji, Mahmud Magaji, James Onoja, K.C Nwufor and Gordy Uche.

Meanwhile, Alhassan Shuaibu, a principal state counsel from the Ministry of Justice, announced an appearance for the federal government.

The former senator formulated four issues for determination by the court.

One of the issues 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.

Mr Ararume also asked the court to determine whether, by the interpretation of Section 63 (3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, the president could lawfully remove him as the non-executive chairman of the NNPC for any reason outside the provisions of the law.

He further asked the court to determine whether the president could sack him without compliance with expressly stated provisions of the Articles of Memorandum of Association of the Company, Section 63 (3) of the PI Act 2021 and Section 288 of the CAMA Act 2020.

Another issue for determination was whether his purported removal vide letter of January 17 without compliance with expressly stated provisions of the law was not wrongful, illegal, null and void and of no legal consequence whatsoever.

The plaintiff asked the court to, upon determination of the issues in his favour, make a declaration that his position as non-executive chairman of the NNPC was exclusively governed and regulated by CAMA 2020, PI Act 2021 and Memorandum of Association of the Company.

He further asked the court for an order nullifying and setting aside all decisions and resolutions of the NNPC board made in his absence from January 17 to date.

He also asked for an order restraining the defendants from removing his name as director of the company.

In a 75-paragraph affidavit in support of the suit, Mr Ararume averred that upon the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, the former NNPC and its subsidiaries were unbundled to become Nigeria National Petroleum Company registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission with number 1843987.

“On October 20, 2021, the president approved my appointment as a non-executive chairman for a period of initial five years, and subsequently, my name was registered in the Memorandum of Articles of the Company and the appointment was announced to the whole world.

“Based on the appointment, I attended the 23rd World Petroleum Congress in America but surprisingly on January 7, the president inaugurated the NNPC Board without recourse to me while another person was named in (my) place.”

“By a letter of January 17, I was informed of the withdrawal of my appointment but without any reason whatsoever to justify the purported removal.”

The plaintiff asserted that he was not guilty of any pre-conditions for removal or adjudged medically unfit for the job.

He asserted that he had suffered a loss of credibility and goodwill, untold emotional, mental and psychological trauma and public humiliation because of his alleged unlawful removal.

He, therefore, prayed the court to award him N100 billion in compensation and to order his return to office in line with the letter and conditions of his appointment.

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