A damning judgment against President Muhammadu Buhari’s order, removing Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Ararume as non-executive Board Chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Lmited (NNPCL) was on Tuesday handed down by a Federal High Court, Abuja.
Justice Inyang Ekwo in his judgment voided the removal of Ararume by Buhari and ordered his reinstatement with immediate effect.
Persecondnews reports that this is first time in over a decade that the judiciary will be asserting itself and upturning Executive’s action considered to be unlawful while the president is still in office.
On January 28, 2023, the Supreme Court had struck out a suit filed by the Federal Government seeking its (court’s) interpretation of its December 10, 2004 ruling on Federal Government’s seizure of council allocations to Lagos State.
It ordered the Olusegun Obasanjo administration to release the seized councils’ funds.
Ekwo resolved all the four questions listed for determination in Ararume’s amended originating summons in his favour.
Prior to the Tuesday’s judgment, Ekwo had first given rulings on the seven preliminary objections by the first, second and third defendants (President Muhammadu Buhari, NNPCL, and the Corporate Affairs Commission respectively).
The judge dismissed six of the objections as lacking in merit and liable to be dismissed and one of them as premature as it dealt directly with the substance of the originating summons and therefore could not be given in the course of the hearing.
The court answered all the four questions in the N100 billion suit filed against FG over Ararume’s unlawful removal as a non-Executive Chairman of the newly-incorporated NNPCL in the favour of the plaintiff (Ararume).
It ruled on the 1st and 4th questions in the positive while on the second and third it was in the negative.
In the suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/691/2022, Araraume had formulated four issues for determination by the court.
Persecondnews recalls that one of the issues was whether in view of the provisions of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the NNPC, Companies and Allied Matters Act 2010 and the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, the office of the non executive chairman was not governed and regulated by the stated provisions of the law.
Also wanted the court to determine whether by the interpretation of Section 63 (3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, the president could lawfully remove him as non executive chairman of the NNPCL for any reason outside the provisions of the law.
A court ruling to determine whether the president could sack him without compliance with expressly stated provisions of the Articles of Memorandum of Association of the Company, Section 63 (3) of the PI Act 2021 and Section 288 of the CAMA Act 2020.
He, therefore, asked the court for an order to set aside his removal via a letter of January 17, 2022 with reference no. SGF.3V111/86.
Ararume prayed the court for an order reinstating him and restoring him to office with all the rights and privileges of the office of the NNPC non-executive chairman and asked for N100 billion as damages caused him in the alleged unlawful and unconstitutional way and manner he was removed from the NNPC board after using his name to incorporate the entity.
In a declarative judgment, the court nullified all decisions taken by the Board of the newly incorporated NNPC Ltd in his absence while he was removed and awarded N5 billion as damages in his favour.