Court Fixes April 6, To Rule On Order Reversing SEPLAT’s CEO, Roger Brown, Sack

Moves to vacate an interim ex-parte order restraining Mr. Roger Brown, from parading himself as the Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Energy Plc, suffered a setback Thursday, as the presiding judge, Justice Chukwuejekwu Aneke of a Lagos Federal High Court, informed parties that the ruling was not ready.

The court was also unable rule on the application to set aside the order restraining the Chairman, Board of Directors of Seplat, Mr. Basil Omiyi, and all the Non-Executive Directors under him from “continuing to run the affairs of Seplat in an illegal, unfair, prejudicial, and oppressive manner pending the hearing and determination of the Petitioner’s Motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction”.

Consequently, Justice Aneke sought consents of counsels to the petitioner and the respondents to deliver the ruling during Easter vacation.

By the counsel’s consents, Justice Aneke fixed April 6 for ruling on all pending applications seeking to set aside the ex-parte order.

The judge had on March 8, restrained Brown 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 the order while ruling on a Motion Ex-parte, filed by J C Njikonye (SAN), on behalf of some aggrieved stakeholders of Seplat   

The stakeholders who are petitioners in the suit marked FHC/L/402/2023 are; Moses Igbrude, Sarat Kudaisi, Kenneth Nnabike, Ajani Abidoye, and Robert Ibekwe. While the respondents were; Seplat Energy PLC, Mr. Roger Thompson Brown, and Mr. Basil Omiyi.

Similarly, Justice Aneke in a separate ex-parte application, granted to the petitioner to serve any order of court and all other processes to be issued subsequently in the matter on Brown and Omiyi by pasting on the premises of Seplat Energy located at Ikoyi, Lagos.

The aggrieved shareholders had in their Motion on Notice filed by their lawyer, Jeph Njikonye, prayed the court for a declaration that the affairs of Seplat were being conducted in a manner that was 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 sought a declaration that by condoning the unlawful, discriminatory, and abusive conducts of Brown, 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 sought, “an order of mandatory injunction restraining the 2nd 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 sought an order restraining Seplat and the company’s Board Chairman from retaining Brown as the CEO of Seplat or retaining his services for Seplat in other capacity whatsoever.

But, Seplat through its counsel, Mr. Bode Olanipekun (SAN), had in his application challenged the interim orders, contending that the orders were granted against persons that were not parties to the suit.

Olanipekun (SAN), submitted that the interim orders of the court had elapsed by the passage of time and if Counsel to the Petitioners/Respondents concedes that the interim orders had expired and needs the formal orders of the court to be set aside, the coast would be clear for him to make any further application.

Also, on behalf of the second respondent/Applicant, Mr. Matthew Burkaa (SAN), aligned himself with the submissions of Olanipekun (SAN).

Justice Aneke, after listening to argument of all the counsel, agreed with Respondents/Applicants that the Joinder Application was not ripe for hearing.

Meanwhile, staff of Seplat and other Nigerians have also joined issues in the ongoing crisis in company, stating that at the root of the crisis and litigation is the refusal of the Chairman, Omiyi, to resign after spending 10 years on the Board contrary to provisions of Section 12.10 of the Nigerian Code of Corporate Governance, which specifically provides that the tenure for Independent Non-Executive Directors (INEDs) should be a maximum of three terms of three years each.