By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja.
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday restored Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Ararume as non-executive Chairman of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited NNPCL .
The Court voided the sack of the business man and set aside his removal as NNPCL Chairman done on January 17, 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari on the ground that the action of the President was arbitrary, unlawful and illegal.
Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo in a judgment in a suit by Ararume awarded N5Bn against Buhari and NNPCL to be paid to Ararume as damages for the wrongful sack and disruption
.of his appointment.
Justice Ekwo ordered that Ararume be immediately restored to office as non Executive Chairman of the NNPCL.
The Judge also declared as null and void all decisions of the Board of Directors of the NNPCL carried out in the absence of Ararume as Chairman of the Board.
Justice Ekwo held that Buhari acted ultra vires, wrongful, illegal, null and void in the ways and manners Ararume was sacked after using his name to register NNPCL and that such brazen act cannot 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 that it is a total breach of the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) under which NNPCL was incorporated.
Apart from asking the court to issue an order to return him to office, Ararume also demanded N100 billion as compensation for the damages he suffered nationally and internationally in the unlawful ways and manner his removal was carried out by President Buhari.
Justice Ekwo in the judgment agreed that under section 63 of the CAMA, the President is vested with powers to remove Directors of the organization but held that the powers were not at large.
The Judge said that the law clearly stipulated conditions under which Directors of the NNPCL can be sacked adding that a breach of the stipulated conditions would automatically make any purported sack unlawful.
In the instant case, Justice Ekwo said that the Federal Government letter of January 17, 2022 signed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, did not give any reason for the removal of the plaintiff from being inaugurated along with other Directors.
The Court said that the issue of contract fraud raised in the processes filed by the NNPCL cast doubt on the character, integrity and reputation of Ararume were afterthought as such facts were not adduced in the letter that removed him from being inaugurated.
To worsen the situation, Justice Ekwo said that the NNPCL claimed to have obtained the alleged contract fraud against Ararume from on-line media adding that no probate value can be attached to such information by any Court.
The Judge said even if the allegations are to be made in the proper way, the plaintiff must be confronted with same and be allowed to defend himself as required by law adding that anything short of that, would amount to denial of fair hearing which he said, is against the natural justice.
In the judgment, the Judge restrained Buhari from removing the plaintiff as a Director of the NNPCL and that his name must also not be removed as non Executive Chairman of the organization.
Buhari had been dragged before the Court for N100 billion over the alleged unlawful removal of Ararume as a non-Executive Chairman of the Petroleum Company.
Ararume demanded the huge sum as damages caused him in the alleged unlawful manner he was removed as the NNPC Chief after using his name to incorporate the entity.
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.
Ararume had prayed for an order of the Court setting aside his removal by Buhari vide letter of January 17, 2022 with reference number SGF.3V111/86.
He also sought order of the Court 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 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 Director of the Company.