Court Reinstates Ararume As NNPC Non-Executive Chair
A federal high court in Abuja has nullified the removal of Ifeanyi Ararume as a non-executive chairman of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited.
In a judgment delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo on Tuesday, the court restored Ararume as the Non-Executive Chairman of the company with full benefits. The judge also awarded N5 billion in damages in favor of Ararume.
It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Ararume as board chairman of the corporation in September 2021, but he was later sacked and replaced by Margaret Chuba Okadigbo in January of the following year. Margaret is the widow of the late Chuba Okadigbo, a former president of the senate.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1621/2022 and filed at the Abuja federal high court, Ararume argued that his sack was “wrongful,” and amounted to “disruption and interruption” of the term of his office.
He said it violated various provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters (CAMA), 2020, the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), 2021, and the company’s memorandum and articles of association.
The plaintiff sought to be reinstated as the board chairman and be paid N100 billion in damages.
However, in a notice of preliminary objection, Buhari said Ararume’s removal from the NNPC board as chairman was done in his capacity as a public officer by virtue of section 251 (1) of the 1999 constitution.
The president further argued that Ararume’s suit was statute-barred, having been sacked on 17 January 2022, about seven months before the suit was instituted on September 12, 2022. He also contended that the case, being an abuse of the court process, robs the court jurisdiction to hear and determine it.
Despite Buhari’s objections, the court ordered that Ararume be reinstated as non-executive chairman of the NNPC, with all rights and privileges due to him. The court also set aside all decisions made by the board after the removal of Ararume in January 2022 till date.
This development marks a significant victory for Ararume, who will now resume his duties as the Non-Executive Chairman of NNPC.