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$19.4M Legal Fees: Stakeholders, CSOs ask Tinubu to order probe of Seplat CEO, board

By John Akubo, Abuja
09 August 2023   |   5:05 am
The Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN) and a human rights and good governance advocacy group under the aegis of Make A Difference Initiative (MADI), have urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to direct relevant agencies to investigate the perpetual breach of corporate governance codes by SEPLAT CEO. Allegations of racism, favouritism of foreign workers against…

Seplat Energy CEO Roger Brown

The Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN) and a human rights and good governance advocacy group under the aegis of Make A Difference Initiative (MADI), have urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to direct relevant agencies to investigate the perpetual breach of corporate governance codes by SEPLAT CEO.

Allegations of racism, favouritism of foreign workers against Nigerian employees have earlier been levelled against the CEO of Seplat Energy PLC, Roger Brown, by employees of the company for which MADI had demanded a definite prosecution of Mr. Brown and even the Board of Seplat Energy Plc, over connivance and conspiracy to flout the country’s immigration laws.

Addressing a Press conference in Abuja yesterday, National Coordinator of ISAN, Comrade Moses Igbrude, urged President Tinubu to save Seplat and the investments of Nigerians and international investors from going down the drains by directing the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC) and Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) to do their jobs by taking disciplinary actions and carrying out a thorough investigation into the perpetual breach of corporate governance codes.

He also demanded “the immediate resignation or removal of SEPLAT CEO, Roger Brown, and Independent Non-Executive Directors to ensure an unimpeded investigation into the rot in Seplat before it is too late.”

“As we speak now, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) does not recognize the resolutions passed during the controversial May 10 AGM, yet they are operating as if everything is normal.

“We also urge the President to institute a probe panel composed of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and other relevant bodies to investigate the circumstances surrounding the so-called N16bn legal fees and other related matters in Seplat Energy PLC.

“We want to know how much of the senseless N16bn professional legal fees was actually paid to lawyers handling the cases.”

According to Comrade Igbrude, Nigerians and investing public deserve to know who the lawyers are and how much was paid to each lawyer or law firms.

“Did those lawyers in any way serve as conduits for any unholy compromises in the legal tussles that resulted in the questionable court injunctions and vacation of court orders in favour of Seplat?

“For instance, the Federal High Court injunction in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/726/2023 was discharged on Motion Ex-Parte by the Court of Appeal in less than 48 hours of filling by Seplat without giving the Respondent the opportunity to respond.

“What informed the sudden withdrawal of criminal charges (FHC/AB/CR/149/2023) instituted against Seplat CEO, Roger Brown and the INEDs as well as the restoration of Roger Brown’s visa, work, and resident permit by the Nigerian Immigration Service and Ministry of Interior without any explanation to the public or the endangered Nigerian employees in Seplat whose petition led to the investigation in the first place?

“Why were such important decisions hurriedly and surreptitiously taken immediately the Minister left office at the end of the previous administration?

“Equally worthy of investigation is the silence, inaction, and any complicity of the FRCN, SEC, etc. in the face of the serial breaches of the Nigerian Code of Corporate Governance (NCCG) by the Mr Basil Omiyi-led Seplat Board.

“For instance, Omiyi and Dr. Charles Okeahalam have stayed over 10 years as INEDs on Seplat Board, way beyond the maximum of nine years prescribed by the NCCG to refresh Boards and minimise threats to Board independence.

“Also, SEC is well aware of the infringements on statutory Audit Committee of Seplat such as Omiyi’s written order directing the Committee not to investigate breach of codes of corporate governance, and the forcing out of the Committee Chairman and a member by a controversial AGM and lawsuit.

“While the FRCN and CAC have responded to our petitions assuring action and investigation into the matter, SEC, unfortunately, has continued to look the other way.”