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.
Inyang Ekwo, the presiding judge, in his ruling on Tuesday, awarded N5 billion as damages in favour of the former senator representing Imo north.
President Muhammadu Buhari had appointed Araume as board chairman of the corporation in September 2021, but he was later sacked and replaced with Margaret Chuba Okadigbo in January 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.
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 court process, robs the court jurisdiction to hear and determine it.
However, in the judgment, 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 since January 2022 till date.