News - Oil & Gas - December 24, 2021

Seplat Energy crisis: Avuru fights back; moves to defend his right over sack

By Bassey Udo

The former managing director and chief executive officer of Seplat Energy Plc, Austin Avuru, has described his purported sack as a non-Executive Director of the company as “ill-advised” and an attempt to “malign his character and reputation.”

Consequently, he has instructed his lawyers to take legal action to reserve his rights in the company as co-founder and foundation CEO.

Also, he has asked the general public to discountenance the publication by Seplat Energy Plc about the ”fictitious allegations of breaches of the Company’s corporate governance policies” as reason for action.

On Thursday, the Board of Seplat Energy announced its decision to terminate the contract of the appointment of Avuru as a non-Executive Director.

Seplat Energy’s Director, External Affairs & Sustainability/
Chioma Nwachuku, said the decision of the company to sack its foundation MD and CEO became effective from December 22, 2021.

The disclosure contained in a notification to the Nigerian Exchange Limited titled, ‘Change on the Board of Seplat Energy Plc’, and signed by its Director, Legal/Company Secretary, Edith Onwuchekwa, said the announcement was due to Avuru’s alleged breaches of the Company’s corporate governance policies and his fiduciary duties.

Besides, Onwuchekwa said the Board also called for Avuru’s resignation as the company’s Director.

“In line with Seplat Energy’s Memorandum and Articles of Association, Platform Petroleum Limited has been asked to nominate a candidate for his replacement on the Board, and a further announcement will be made in due course.”

However, in his reaction, Avuru, through his lawyers and legal advisers, Osaro Eghohamien, and Folabi Kuti, both senior advocates of Nigeria (SANs) of Perchstone and Graeys, advocates and arbitrators, said he was responding immediately immediately to reserve his rights.

In a joint public statement dated December 23, 2021, titled, “Re: Change on the board of Seplat Energy Plc – Austin Avuru,” the lawyers said the company’s ostensible intent to terminate the services of their client and the subsequent publication was simply to play to the public gallery.

The statement reads: “Our attention has been drawn to a publication issued by Seplat Energy Plc on December 23,2021clearly designed to malign Mr Austin Avuru well circulated on both the mainstream and social media.

“By the publication, Seplat Energy announced the termination of the contract for the appointment of our client as its Non-Executive Director on December 22,2021 due to alleged breaches of the Company’s corporate governance policies and his fiduciary duties, and further called for his resignation as a director of Seplat Energy.

“Our client has taken a dignified position on the issues leading to the ill-advised action. This is clearly evidenced by Seplat Energy’s letter dated January 9,2021confirming our client’s dignified position, and urging our client to act with confidentiality, which is customary to our client’s impeccable character.

“In a dramatic summersault and by letter dated December 22,2021 received by our client at about 6 pm, Seplat Energy purports to terminate the appointment of our client from the Board.

“This was followed by a public announcement the next morning without as much even giving our client the opportunity to respond to a letter, contents of which were otherwise grossly mischievous.

“The company’s ostensible intent to terminate the services of our client and the subsequent publication was simply to play to public gallery.

“Its real object was to do incalculable damage to our client’s hard earned reputation.
We will immediately respond to the fictitious allegations and reserve our client’s rights. The general public is hereby advised to discountenance Seplat Energy’s publication of December 23,2021.”

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