No fewer than seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) have instituted a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari over the illegal removal of Ifeanyi Ararume as the non-executive chairman of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC).
Naija News understands that the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts is demanding reinstatement into office with all privileges attached while also demanding the sum of hundred billion naira (N100 billion) as payment for emotional and character damage.
In the suit, the SANs said on behalf of Ararume that he had suffered credibility loss and a series of trauma following the decision of the President to sack him from office.
The suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja described the defendant’s action as unconstitutional. As sighted by Naija News on the PUNCH, the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/691/2022 had Chief Chris Uche, Ahmed Raji, Mahmud Magaji, Ogwu James Onoja, K.C Nwufor and Gordy Uche as SANs in defence of Ararume.
Araraume, in the suit, formulated four issues for determination by the court, among which was whether, given 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.
The politician asked the court to establish whether President Buhari can by the interpretation of section 63 (3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, terminate his appointment as non-Executive Chairman of the NNPC for any reason.
Ararume also asked the court to examine 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 was whether his purported removal 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 determining the issues in his favour, the plaintiff wants the court to declare that his non-Executive Chairman of the NNPC is exclusively governed and regulated by CAMA 2020, PIA Act 2021 and the Memorandum of Association of the Company.
Naija News understands that the politician is also demanding 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 remove him from office as non-Executive Chairman without following due process of the law.
Ararume 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.
While reiterating his demand for payment of N100 billion for damages, the plaintiff further demands nullification and setting aside of all decisions and resolutions of the NNPC Board made in his absence from January 17, 2022, to date and another order restraining the defendants from removing his name as Director of the Company.
In a 75-paragraph affidavit supporting the suit, 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 the 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 was registered in the Memorandum of Articles of the Company, and the appointment was announced to the whole world.
Based on the appointment, Ararume averred claimed that he attended the 23rd World Petroleum Congress in the United States of America.
Surprisingly, on January 7th, 2022, Buhari inaugurated the NNPC Board without recourse to him, while another person was named in his place. By a letter of January 17, 2022, he was informed of the withdrawal of his appointment but without any reason whatsoever to justify the purported removal.
Ararume maintained in the suit that he was not guilty of pre-conditions that could have warranted his removal from office. He said he was never declared bankrupt or adjudged medically unfit for the job.
Based on the defendant’s unlawful act, the plaintiff said that the action had fuelled public suspicion and rumours against his person.
The suit read before the court proceeding on Wednesday demanded the court to order that Ararume be returned to office in line with the letter and conditions of his appointment.
At Wednesday’s proceedings, Justice Inyang Ekwo ordered that the Corporate Affairs Commission 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 for further mention in the suit and ordered that the amended originating summons be served on parties before the adjourned date, Naija News reports.