Ararume files N100b suit against Buhari over removal as NNPC chair
Senator Ifeanyi Ararume has filed a N100 billion suit against President Muhammadu Buhari at the Federal High Court in Abuja over his alleged unlawful removal as Non-Executive Chairman of the newly Incorporated Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC). He is demanding the lump sum as compensation for damages suffered due to the development.
The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/691/2022 was filed on his behalf by a group of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), comprising Chief Chris Uche, Ahmed Raji, Mahmud Magaji, Ogwu James Onoja, K.C Nwufor and Gordy Uche.
In the litigation, Ararume formulated four issues for determination by the court, among which is whether in view of the provisions of the Memorandum and Article of Association of the NNPC, Companies and Allied Matters Act 2010 and Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, the office of the Non-Executive Chairman is not governed and regulated by the extant provisions.
He is also asking the court to determine whether by the interpretation of Section 63 (3) of the PIA, the President can lawfully remove him as Non-Executive Chairman of the NNPC for any reason outside provisions of the law.
The plaintiff also wants the court to determine whether Buhari can sack him without compliance with expressly stated provisions of the Article of Memorandum of Association of the Company, Section 63 (3) of the PIA and Section 288 of the CAMA Act 2020.
Also listed for determination is whether his purported removal vide 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 the determination of the issues in his favour, the plaintiff wants the court to make declaration that his position as Non-Executive Chairman of the NNPC is exclusively governed and regulated by CAMA 2020, PIA 2021 and Memorandum of Association of the Company.
Also, a declaration that by the provisions of Section 63 (3) of the PIA, CAMA Act and Memorandum of Association of the NNPC, the President cannot by will remove him from office as Non-Executive Chairman without following due process of the law.
Ararume, therefore, prayed for an order setting aside his removal by Buhari vide letter of January 17, 2022 with reference number SGF.3V111/86. He also sought order reinstating him forthwith and restoring him to office with all the appurtenant rights and privileges of the office of the NNPC Non-Executive Chairman.
The Imo politician further demanded for nullification and setting aside of all decisions and resolutions of the NNPC Board made in his absence from January 17, 2022 till date and another order restraining the defendants from removing his name as a director of the company.
The N100 billion the applicant requested is damages for the alleged wrongful removal, disruption and interruption of his term of office as Non-Executive Chairman of the NNPC.
In a 75-paragraph affidavit in support of the suit, Ararume averred that upon passage of the PIA, the former Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries were unbundled to become Nigerian National Petroleum Company registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) with 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 registered in the Memorandum of Articles of the Company and the appointment announced to the whole world.
Based on the appointment, the applicant averred that he attended the 23rd World Petroleum Congress in the United States of America, but surprisingly, on January 7, 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 withdrawal of his appointment but without any reason whatsoever to justify the purported removal.
Plaintiff asserted that he was not guilty of any pre-condition for removal and was never declared bankrupt or adjudged medically unfit for the job.
Based on the unlawful act of the defendant, plaintiff said the action has fuelled public suspicion and rumours against his person. Subsequently, Ararume asserted that he has suffered loss of credibility and goodwill, untold emotional, mental and psychological trauma and public humiliation, degradation and embarrassment by his purported removal by President Buhari.
He, therefore, prayed the court to award him a N100 billion compensation and order his return to office in line with the letter and conditions of his appointment.
At yesterday’s proceedings, Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo ordered that CAC be joined as a party following no objection from Chief Chris Uche (SAN), who stood for Ararume and Alhasan Shuaib represented the President
The judge, subsequently, fixed December 15 for further mention of the suit and ordered that the amended originating summons be served on parties before the next adjourned date.