The crisis in Seplat Energy PLC, has worsened, with a Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, issuing a restraining order barring its Chief Executive Officer, Roger Brown, from parading himself as the occupier of the office.
On March 3, 2023, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, wrote to the Chairman of the Board of the indigenous oil and gas company, Basil Omiyi, about the decision by the Ministry to revoke Mr Brown’s work and residence permits as well as his visa over allegations of racism, favouritism, discrimination against Nigerian workers in breach of the company’s food governance policy.
The Minister’s letter was signed by one Akinola Adesina and marked as Exhibit B.
The allegations against Mr Brown were contained in a petition against him by some concerned workers who also accused him of being in possession of a Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC) not based on a valid Expatriate Quota.
Mr Brown was said to have refused to honour several invitations by a panel constituted by the Ministry to look into the allegations.
Consequently, some aggrieved workers of the company filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi seeking a restraining order against Mr Brown until he is able clear himself of the allegations.
The applicants/petitioners included Moses Igbrude, Sarat Kudaisi, Kenneth Nnabike, Ajani Abidoye, and Robert Ibekwe, while Messrs Brown, and Omiyi were listed as respondents in the application with reference No. FHC/L/402/2023.
The Petitioners in their Motion on Notice filed by their legal counsel, Jeph Njikonye, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), made several pleas, including: “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.
“An order restraining Seplat and the Board Chairman from retaining Mr Brown as the CEO of Seplat or retaining his services for Seplat in another capacity whatsoever.”
Also, they asked the court to declare that the affairs of Seplat Energy were being conducted in a manner that was illegal, oppressive and unfairly prejudicial to their interest and those of other stakeholders of Seplat.
Besides, they alleged that the management of the company was in total disregard to their interest and other employees as well as Seplat as a whole.
They sought a declaration that by condoning the unlawful, discriminatory, and abusive conduct of the CEO, the Chairman of the Board Chairman, Mr Omiyi, and the Non-executive Directors “failed in the discharge of their duties and are unfit to continue to function in the Board of Directors of the first respondent (Seplat).”
To support their case, the aggrieved stakeholders attached among other exhibits, a petition to the Minister of Interior against Mr Brown written 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 his ruling on Wednesday on a exparte motion brought before the court by the aggrieved workers, Justice Chukwuejekwu Aneke granted their request barring Mr Brown from office, pending the determination of the motion for interlocutory injunction.
The court also barred Seplat’s Board Chairman, Basil Omiyi, and all the independent non-executive directors from “continuing to run the affairs of Seplat in an illegal, unfair, prejudicial, and oppressive manner pending the hearing and determination of the Petitioners’ Motion on Notice.”
In a separate ex parte application, Justice Aneke granted the petitioners/applicants leave to serve their petition against the defendants, any order of the court and all other processes to be issued subsequently in the matter on Mr Brown and Mr Omiyi by pasting them in the premises of Seplat Energy located at Ikoyi, Lagos.
The court adjourned to March 23, for a hearing of the pending application.