Court reinstates Ararume as NNPCL chairman, awards N5b damages against Buhari
A federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, reinstated Ifeanyi Godwin Ararume as non-executive chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).
The court voided sack of the businessman and set aside the removal done on January 17, 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari on the ground that the President’s action was arbitrary, unlawful and illegal.
Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo, in a judgment following a suit by Ararume, awarded N5 billion against Buhari and NNPCL, to be paid to Ararume as damages for wrongful sack and disruption of his appointment.
Ekwo ordered that Ararume be immediately restored to office as non-executive chairman of NNPCL. The judge also declared null and void all decisions by the NNPCL board of directors carried out in Ararume’s absence.
Ekwo held that Buhari acted ultra vires in the way and manner Ararume was sacked after using his name to register NNPCL, and that such brazen act could not stand in the face of the law.
Ararume had dragged Buhari before the court, praying it to declare his removal as NNPCL chief illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional and a breach of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) law under which NNPCL was incorporated.
Apart from asking the court to issue an order returning him to office, Ararume also demanded N100 billion in damages. Issues he raised for determination included whether, in view of provisions of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the NNPCL, CAMA, 2010 and the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), 2021, the office of non-executive chairman was not governed and regulated by stated provisions of the law.
The suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/691/2022, was instituted 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.
Among others, the plaintiff wanted the court to determine whether by interpretation of Section 63 (3) of the PIA, the President could lawfully remove him as non-executive chairman of the NNPCL for any reason outside the provisions of the law.
Besides, Ararume prayed the court to determine whether Buhari could 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.