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Sunday, 03 December 2023 06:04

I Remain Legal NNPC Chair Until Court Says Otherwise - Araraume

Warns Against New Appointments

The court-recognized chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited board, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, has warned against the appointment of a new non-executive chairman, affirming he legally remains chairman until the court rules otherwise.

In a public notice issued on November 30 by his lawyer, Dr Ogwu Onoja (SAN) Ararume said the move by President Bola Tinubu was in breach of an order of court.

“Our attention has been drawn to the news of the appointment of new members of NNPC Limited Board including a new Non-Executive Chairman by the President on the 27th November, 2023, in utter violation of the judgment and order of the Federal High Court, Abuja dated 18th April, 2023 in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1621/2022 – Between Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Araraume v.

“The President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, NNPC Ltd and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) wherein the court restrained the President from removing the name of Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Araraume from the Corporate Affairs Commission as a Non-Executive Director of NNPC Ltd and that he be allowed to continue to function as the Chairman of the Board of NNPC Ltd. This judgment remains valid and subsisting until this moment without being set aside”, the notice read in part.

Ararume expressed shock that the President could brazenly disobey the court judgment by purporting to appoint a New Board and Management Team for NNPC Ltd instead of giving implementation to the said judgment of the Federal High Court.

“It is shocking that rather than obey the valid and extant judgment of the court, the President has taken the laws into his hands to overrule the courts and usurp the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal before who, the President has filed an appeal which is pending, by taking steps to undermine the judgment by such illegal appointments.

“This singular act of Mr. President unfortunately denotes a wanton disregard for rule of law and a direct affront on the Judiciary”, the notice added.

It argued that with the said judgment still valid and subsisting, it is clear as crystal even to the common man that the appointment of the new Board and Management of the NNPC Ltd by the President on November 27, 2023, is illegal, wrongful, null and void and of no legal consequence”.

The notice warned the general public to “beware of those illegal appointments in their own interest” and avoid having any dealings whatsoever with the new Board and Management of the NNPC Ltd “as anyone who goes ahead to do any business or transactions with them will be doing so at his or her own peril.

“We hereby call on Mr President, who is a huge beneficiary of judicial pronouncements and rule of law, to reverse his decision and allow the flow of the rule of law.

“Mr President should have known that respect for rule of law is equally a strong factor in the attraction of Foreign Direct Investment (FOI), which he has been traveling all over the world to promote”.

Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, had on April 18, 2023, set aside the removal of Senator Ararume as the Non Executive Chairman of the newly Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited Board.

Justice Ekwo in the judgment held that Ararume’s removal by the then President Muhammadu Buhari contravened provisions of the NNPC Ltd laws as well as the Company’s and Allied Matters Act.

In addition, Ekwo had held that Ararume’s removal after his appointment by Buhari was illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void and subsequently nullified the president’s action.

The court also declared as a nullity all decisions and actions taking so far by the board in the absence of Ararume.

While Ekwo had made an order reinstating Ararume as Non Executive Chairman of the NNPC Ltd Board with immediate effect, he had made another order directing the defendants which included Buhari, NNPC Ltd and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), to pay Ararume the sum of N5 billion being damages he suffered following his unlawful removal as NNPC Board Chairman.

Miffed by the judgment, NNPCL had approached the Court of Appeal, Abuja, to challenge the decisions and orders of Justice Ekwo.

The NNPCL in its appellant’s brief of Argument dated June 30, but filed July 3, presented 18 grounds upon which it is challenging the entire decision of the trial court.The appeal is however, pending at the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal.

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