A former senator, Ifeanyi Ararume, has appealed to President Bola Tinubu to rescind his appointment of a new board and management team for the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).
Mr Ararume anchored his demand on a court judgement he obtained in April this year.
He was appointed as the board chairman of the NNPCL in September 2021 and then abruptly removed shortly before the inauguration of the board of the company in January 2022 by then-President Muhammadu Buhari.
Angered by his abrupt removal, Mr Ararume sued Mr Buhari and the NNPCL at the Federal High Court in Abuja on 12 September 2022, challenging his removal about eight months earlier.
Deciding the suit in April, the judge, Inyang Ekwo, overturned Mr Araraume’s removal as NNPCL chair and awarded N5 billion damages in his favour.
The judge said Mr Araraume’s removal was unconstitutional and as such, ordered that he be restored as the Non-Executive Chairman of the national oil company with full benefits.
The judge also set aside every decision taken by the board that was appointed after Mr Ararume’s removal.
However, the government appealed against the Federal High Court judgement at the Court of Appeal in Abuja where the appeal is still pending.
Last week, Mr Tinubu announced the appointment of Pius Akinyelure as Non-Executive Board Chairman of NNPCL, while Mele Kyari was reappointed as Group Chief Executive Officer of the government oil company.
Push to reclaim NNPCL chair
Mr Ararume, a former senator from Imo State, south-east Nigeria, faulted Mr Tinubu’s appointment of the oil company’s new leadership.
In a statement dated 30 November, Mr Ararume’s lawyer, Ogwu Onoja, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), cautioned the public against having any dealings with the Akinyelure-led new board.
Mr Onoja said the 27 November appointment of the NNPCL management team was in “utter violation of the judgment and order of the Federal High Court, Abuja dated 18 April 2023.”
He said the court restrained the president from removing Mr Araraume’s name from the Corporate Affairs Commission as a Non-Executive Director of NNPC Ltd.
“This judgment remains valid and subsisting until this moment without being set aside.
“We state that the purported appointment amounts to a flagrant disobedience of court order and brazen disregard of the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction. We are appalled and shocked 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 delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo on the 18 April 2023.”
Mr Onoja expressed shock that Mr Tinubu “has taken the laws into his hands to overrule the courts and usurp the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal before whom the President has filed an appeal which is pending.”
He went on: “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 the 27 November 2023, is illegal, wrongful, null and void and of no legal consequence.
“By this Notice, the general public is therefore warned to beware of those illegal appointments in their own interest. The public is urged to 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 travelling all over the world to promote.”
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