Court Fixes March 30 To Rule On Seplat CEO’s Suspension
Justice Chukwuejekwu Aneke of a Lagos Federal High Court, Thursday fixed March 30, 2023, to rule on several applications challenging the suspension of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Seplat Energy PLC, Mr. Roger Brown, from parading himself as the CEO of the company.
Justice Aneke fixed the date for ruling, after hearing applications seeking to vacate the ex-parte order and to strike out the suit by counsel to the respondents.
The court had on March 8, restrained Mr. Roger from parading himself as the CEO of the company pending the determination of a suit instituted against him and others by some aggrieved stakeholders of the company over allegations of racism, favouring of expatriate workers, discrimination against Nigerians, and breach of good governance.
Justice Aneke made order while ruling on a Motion Ex parte, filed by Jeph C Njikonye (SAN) on behalf of some aggrieved stakeholders of Seplat.
The aggrieved stakeholders who are petitioners/applicants in the suit marked FHC/L/402/2023, are: Moses Igbrude, Sarat Kudaisi, Kenneth Nnabike, Ajani Abidoye, and Robert Ibekwe. While Seplat Energy Plc, Mr. Roger Thompson Brown, and Mr. Basil Omiyi, were listed as respondents.
Similarly, Justice Aneke in a separate ex- parte application, granted the petitioners leave to serve the petition, any order of court and all other processes to be issued subsequently in the matter on Brown and Omiyi by pasting in the premises of Seplat Energy located at Ikoyi, Lagos.
When the matter was called on Thursday for hearing of pending applications, Jeph Njikonye (SAN) announced appearance for the aggrieved shareholders, Bode Olanipekun (SAN) announced appearance for the first respondent (Seplat Energy), Mathew Burkaa (SAN) announced appearance for second respondent (Roger Brown), while Uzoma Azikiwe (SAN) appeared for the third respondent (Basil Omiyi, Board Chairman, Seplat).
Addressing the court counsel to the aggrieved shareholders, Njikonye (SAN) told the court that there are several applications before the court, submitting that his application for interlocutory injunction for joinder should be heard first before applications seeking to discharge the ex parte order made by the court.
He argued that by the nature of the suit and by virtue of Order 29 Rule 1A of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, the application for joinder takes preeminence above other applications.
However, counsel to the first respondent, Olanipekun (SAN) opposed the application arguing that the ex-parte order granted by the court affected many other people who are not parties before the court.
He argued that those who are not parties have come to challenge the order, adding that the application for joinder is not ripe for hearing.
Counsel to other respondents aligned with submissions of Olanipekun, and urged the court to hear the application for setting aside the ex parte order made on March 8, 2023.
Justice Aneke in a brief ruling held that the application for interlocutory injunction is not ripe for hearing, and called Counsel to the respondents to move their applications.
The aggrieved shareholders had in their Motion on Notice prayed the court for a declaration that the affairs of Seplat have been conducted in a manner that is illegal, oppressive and unfairly prejudicial to the petitioners and other members of Seplat and in total disregard to the interest of the petitioners, other employees, and Seplat as a whole.
They equally seek a declaration that by condoning the unlawful, discriminatory, and abusive conducts of the CEO, Roger Brown, the Board Chairman, Basil Omiyi, and the Non-executive Directors have “failed in the discharge of their duties and are unfit to continue to function in the Board of Directors of the 1st Respondent (Seplat).
Consequently, the Petitioners seek “An order of mandatory injunction restraining the second respondent (Brown) from parading himself as, or continuing to operate as the CEO of the 1st Respondent (Seplat) or working for Seplat in any other capacity”.
They equally seek an order restraining Seplat and the Board Chairman from retaining Brown as the CEO of Seplat or retaining his services for Seplat in other capacity whatsoever.
To support their case, the aggrieved stakeholders exhibited a petition to the Minister of Interior against Brown by employees of Seplat, as well as a letter by the Minister of Interior communicating the Ministry’s decision on the said petition to the company.
In the March 3, 2023 letter addressed to the Board Chairman of Seplat Energy PLC signed by Mr. Akinola Adesina for the Minister, which was marked as Exhibit B, the Ministry of Interior had conveyed the revocation of Roger Brown’s Work Permit, Visa, and Residence Permit.
The letter read: “I write to inform you that the Ministry is in receipt of a petition from the Solicitor to the concerned workers and stakeholders of Seplat Energy Plc accusing Mr. Rogers Thomson Brown, the CEO of the companies of various allegations.
“These accusations include racism, favouring foreign workers and discriminating against Nigerian employees. Testimony was received from several witnesses, which supported the allegations. Mr. Roger T. Brown declined to attend despite two invitations, claiming to be unavailable even though we learnt he was in Abuja for other purposes at the time.
“Investigation and records in the Ministry also revealed that Mr. Roger Brown was in possession of CERPAC that was not based on validly issued Expatriate Quota approved by the Ministry of Interior resulting to the violation of relevant Immigration Laws and Regulations. As a result of these, the Honourable Minister has determined that Mr. Brown’s continued stay in Nigeria is contrary to national interest.
“Consequently, the Ministry has withdrawn the Work Permit CERPAC, Visa, Residence Permit and all relevant documents that authorized Mr. Roger Thomson Brown’s entry or stay in Nigeria”.