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Court reverses Buhari’s sack of Ararume as NNPCL chair

Court reverses Buhari’s sack of Ararume as NNPCL chair

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Tuesday restored Ifeanyi Ararume as non-executive chairman of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).

The court presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo, also awarded N5bn against Buhari and NNPCL, in favour of Ararume as damages for the wrongful sack and disruption of his appointment.

Ekwo, while delivering the judgement in the case filed by Ararume, voided the sack of the business man and also set aside his removal by President Muhammadu Buhari and dubbed the president’s action as arbitrary, unlawful and illegal. The judge also ordered the immediate reinstatement of Ararume to the office as non-executive chairman of the NNPCL.

Ekwo also declared as null and void all decisions of the board of directors of the NNPCL carried out in the absence of Ararume.

The judge held that Buhari acted ultra vires, wrongful, illegal, null and void in the ways and manners Ararume was sacked after using his name to register NNPCL and that such brazen act cannot stand in the face of the law.

Ararume had dragged Buhari before the court praying it to declare his removal as NNPC Chief illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional and that it is a total breach of CAMA law under which NNPCL was incorporated.

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Apart from asking the court to issue an order to return him to office, Ararume also demanded N100 billion as compensation for the damages he suffered nationally and internationally in the unlawful way and manner his removal was carried out by President Buhari.

Recall that President Buhari in September 2021 announced the appointment of Ararume as the non-executive chairman of the board of the NNPCL, but held back from inaugurating the board. However, on January 5, 2022, the president removed Ararume and replaced him with Margaret Okadigbo, the widow of the late Chuba Okadigbo, a former president of the Senate. No official reasons were offered by the presidency for the action.

Irked by the treatment, Ararume filed a case at the Federal High Court, Abuja, demanding N100 billion as damages, and his reinstatement as the board chairman.

Ararume noted in the suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1621/2022, that his removal was without reason, didn’t follow due process of the law, and contravened the 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.

He also explained that the sack has led to his character being questioned, as well as loss of credibility. Ararume also stated that he has lost goodwill, endured untold emotional, mental and psychological trauma.

The former lawmaker also included public humiliation, degradation and embarrassment in the list of damages he suffered. He asked that the court help interpret the laws and companies to enable him get justice for his removal.

The plaintiff had urged the court to determine “Whether by a proper construction and interpretation by this Honourable Court of the provisions of the memorandum and Articles of Association of the 2nd defendant, the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 and the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, the office and position of the plaintiff as non-executive chairman of the 2nd defendant are not exclusively governed and regulated by the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020, the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021 and the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the 2nd defendant.

“Whether by a proper construction and interpretation of the provisions of Section 63(3) of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021, the 1st defendant can lawfully remove the plaintiff as the non-executive chairman of the 2nd defendant for any reason(s) outside the conditions specifically listed in the said Section 63(3) of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021.

“Whether the plaintiff as the non-executive chairman of the 2nd defendant for a fixed term of 5 (five) years with effect from September 21, 2021, can be lawfully removed from office by the 1st defendant at will and without compliance with the strict provisions of Articles 21.3, 21.4, and 24 of the memorandum and Articles of Association of the 2nd defendant, Section 63 (3) of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021 and Section 288 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020.