Court awards N2m fine against Seplat Energy for suing wrong persons


Seplat Petroleum

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, awarded a N2 million fine against Seplat Energy Plc for filing a suit against two perceived members of Statutory Audit Committee (STACO) of the company.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, who directed the oil giant to pay the defendants in the suit the sum of N1 million each within 30 days of the order, dismissed the suit after it was withdrawn by counsel to the company, Emmanuel Agwungwu.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the oil company had, in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/627/2023 filed by Mathew Burkaa, SAN, sued Cheif Anthony Idigbe, SAN, said to be chairman of STACO, and Mr Sunday Nwosu, alleged to be a member of the committee.

In the originating summons, the company sought an an order setting-aside all steps taken, all decisions and resolutions passed by Idigbe and Nwosu-led Statutory Audit Committee, whether by themselves or through the appointed 3rd party independent investigators for being invalid, null and void and not binding on the firm.

It also sought an order restraining the duo from “further entertaining or causing the investigation of any issue that is outside the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), 2020, and the Terms of Reference of the Statutory Audit Committee of Seplat Energy PLC, 2022 as provided by the CAMA,” among others.

Upon resumed hearing, Agwungwu informed the court that though the matter was slated for hearing, the plaintiff had filed a motion for discontinuance of the suit.
But lawyer to the defendants, C.I. Enweluzo, SAN, prayed the court to rather dismiss the suit since issues had been joined in the case

The senior lawyer also asked for a cost in accordance with the provisions of the law.

After Agwungwu moved the motion to discontinue the suit, the judge asked him how much he would concede for the cost.

“I am not conceding to any cost,” he responded.

Justice Ekwo then called his attention to Paragraph 7 of the motion for discontinuance and directed him to read it to the court.

Reading the paragraph, Agwungwu said: “Since the 1st and 2nd defendants are no longer members of the Audit Committee of the plaintiff, this suit has become academic,” he said.
He said they discovered the development between June 20 and June 21.

“You brought them to court when you know that they are not members of the Audit Committee? That is why I am going to grant the cost,” the judge said.

While Enweluzo asked for a N100 million cost, Agwungwu conceded to a N10, 000 cost.

Justice Ekwo, who dismissed the suit since issues had been joined, ordered the company to pay a N1 million fine each to the two defendants within 30 days of the order.

NAN reports that in the affidavit attached to the plaintiff’s originating summons, Bennett Ebikon, a staff in the law firm, had deposed that the purpose of the committee as set out in Paragraph 1.1 of Exhibit was to “monitor the integrity of the financial statements of the company and any formal announcements relating to the company’s financial performance by reviewing significant financial reports and auditors.”

“That sometime in January 2023, a group that tag themselves Concerned Staff and Stakeholders of Seplat Energy Pic, through their counsel, Messers Hakeem Kareem & Co. caused a petition to the Federal Ministry of interior alleging Anti-Nigeria activities of Mr. Roger Brown, the Chief Executive Officer of Seplat.
It said the petition dated Jan. 31 was attached as exhibit.

”On the strength of the above petition, there was withdrawal of Mr. Roger Brown’s Combined Expatriate Residence Permit (‘CERPAC’). ‘Visa, Residence Permit and all relevant documents,’ (the ‘Revocation’).

“There were also orders of the Federal High Court made on April 6, 2023, which essentially restrained Mr. Roger Brown from acting in the plaintiff as Chief Executive Officer and/or engaging in her day-to-day management.

“Following the above, the law firm of Messers. Hakeem Kareem & Co., caused a petition to the 1st defendant who is the Chairman of the Statutory Audit Committee, stating allegation of racism, discriminatory practices and anti-Nigeria activities against Mr Roger Brown.

Brown is the CEO of the plaintiff and deliration of duties by the Chairman and Independent Non-Executive Director (INED),” he said.
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