Two NNPC SANs Walkout On Court In Ararume’s N100billion Suit Against Buhari

Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) namely, Professor, Kayinsola Ajayi and Etigwa Uwa on Monday, staged a walkout on Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court Abuja.

Both SANs are representing the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) in the N100billion suit by Senator Ifeanyi Ararume against President Muhammadu Buhari challenging his removal as the Chairman of the oil company.

Ajayi, on behalf of the NNPCL, had sought to move three different applications comprising one asking the Court to stay proceedings pending the appeal against the ruling of the Federal High Court delivered on January 11, 2023.

After identifying his processes, Ajayi argued that the motion seeking stay of proceedings must be heard separately and ruling delivered by the Judge before any other motion should be entertained.

The Judge however informed him to move all the applications together and that he would deliver separate rulings in each of the applications so as to save judicial time of the court.

As Chris Uche SAN, argued that the motion for stay of proceeding had not been served on him, Ajayi stood his ground to move the application separately and that the Judge must give separate rulings on it before any other issue.

However, following the decision of the Judge to take all the applications together in line with the provision of the Practice Direction of the Federal High Court, Ajayi and his fellow senior advocate, Uwa announced their withdrawal from the suit and immediately walked out on the court.

The two senior lawyers were joined by their juniors in leaving the court immediately the Judge ordered them to move their three applications together.

Later during the proceedings, Uche adopted his argument, and urged the court to invoke the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) to nullify the removal of his client as the Chairman of the NNPCL.

Uche informed the Court that President Muhammadu Buhari acted outside the law to remove Ararume after incorporating the oil company in his name and was billed for inauguration in that capacity.

However, President Buhari’s counsel, Abubakar Shuaib, prayed the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it was statute barred at the time it was instituted.

Shuaib argued that Ararume’s suit offended Section 2(a) of the Public Officers Act and as such was incompetent.

Akeeem Mustapha SAN, counsel to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) which is the third defendant in the suit asked the court to decline jurisdiction in entertaining the suit.

After taking arguments from Ararume, President Buhari, and Corporate Affairs Commission, Justice Ekwo fixed 28 March for ruling and possible judgment in the suit.

By the suit, Ararume is demanding the sum of N100bn as damages caused him in the alleged unlawful manner he was removed from office after using his name to incorporate the entity.

The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/691/2022 was instituted by a group of Senior Advocates of Nigeria comprising Chief Chris Uche, Ahmed Raji, Mahmud Magaji, Ogwu James Onoja, Kingsley Nwufor and Gordy Uche, on behalf of Ararume.

Specifically, the plaintiff wants the court to make declaration that his position as non Executive Chairman of the NNPC is exclusively governed and regulated by CAMA 2020, PIA Act 2021 and Memorandum of Association of the Company.

He also wants a declaration that by the provisions of section 63 (3) of the PIA Act, CAMA Act and Memorandum of Association of the NNPC, the President cannot by will remove him from office as non Executive Chairman without following due process of the law.

Ararume therefore, is praying for an order 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.

He is also demanding 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.