A federal high court in Lagos has restrained Roger Brown, chief executive officer (CEO) of Seplat Energy Plc, from carrying out his official duties pending the determination of a suit.
Chukwuejekwu Aneke, the presiding judge, made the ruling in response to a motion ex parte filed on Wednesday.
The suit was instituted against Brown and other respondents by aggrieved stakeholders of the company over allegations of racism, favouring of expatriate workers, discrimination against Nigerians, and breach of good governance.
Moses Igbrude, Sarat Kudaisi, Kenneth Nnabike, Ajani Abidoye, and Robert Ibekwe are the defendants in suit no. FHC/L/402/2023 against the respondents, which are Seplat Energy, Brown, and Basil Omiyi, chairman, board of directors, Seplat.
The court restrained Brown as well as his proxies, privies, and agents from continuing to participate in the “day-to-day running and management of Seplat Energy or in any manner whatsoever pending the determination of [the] hearing and determination of the petitioners’ motion on notice for interlocutory injunction”.
It also restrained Omiyi, as well as all independent 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”.
Meanwhile, following a separate ex parte application, Aneke equally granted leave to the petitioners to serve the petition, any order of court, and all other processes to be issued subsequently in the matter on Brown and Omiyi “by pasting (sic) in the premises of Seplat Energy located at Ikoyi, Lagos”.
The court subsequently adjourned the suit to March 23, 2023, for hearing on the pending application.
MINISTRY OF INTERIOR REVOKES BROWN’S LICENCE
In a separate petition filed by their lawyer, Jeph Njikonye, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the applicants sought an order restraining Seplat and Omiyi from retaining Brown as the CEO of Seplat or retaining his services for Seplat in any other capacity.
The petitioners also 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”.
To support their case, the aggrieved stakeholders exhibited a petition sent to the minister of interior (against Brown ) by employees of Seplat.
They also exhibited a letter by Rauf Aregbesola, minister of interior, communicating the ministry’s decision on the said petition to the company.
In the letter dated March 3, Aregbesola had informed Omiyi of the revocation of Brown’s work permit, visa, and residence permit.
“I write to inform you that the ministry is in receipt of a petition from the solicitor to the concerned workers and stakeholders of Seplat Energy Plc accusing Mr. Rogers Thomson Brown, the CEO of the companies, of various allegations,” the letter reads.
“These accusations include racism, favouring foreign workers, and discriminating against Nigerian employees. Testimony was received from several witnesses, which supported the allegations.
“Mr. Roger T. Brown declined to attend despite two invitations, claiming to be unavailable even though we learnt he was in Abuja for other purposes at the time.”
The minister also accused Brown of being in possession of a combined expatriate residence permit and aliens card (CERPAC) “that was not based on validly issued expatriate quota approved by the ministry of interior resulting to the violation of relevant immigration laws and regulations”.
“As a result of these, the honourable minister has determined that Mr. Brown’s continued stay in Nigeria is contrary to national interest,” he wrote.
“Consequently, the ministry has withdrawn the work permit CERPAC, visa, residence permit and all relevant documents that authorised Mr. Roger Thomson Brown’s entry or stay in Nigeria.”
SEPLAT REFUTES ALLEGATIONS
Reacting to the matter, Seplat Energy refuted the allegations presented to the ministry of interior against Brown.
In a statement on Thursday, Omiyi said the allegations have not been brought to the attention of the CEO or Seplat Energy for a reaction.
“The orchestrated media reports are clearly calculated to spread false information. Seplat Energy will be engaging with the ministry to reject the impressions created by these,” he said.
“The board believes that these allegations are a spurious and vindictive reaction to the enforcement of corporate governance standards in the company by the board of Seplat Energy.”
Omiyi added that Brown will continue to operate as CEO from the Seplat office in the United Kingdom.
“Over the past decade, Mr. Brown has earned an unblemished record of service and leadership in the company,” he said.
“On 8th March 2023, the board of Seplat Energy unanimously passed a vote of confidence in Mr. Brown, who continues to discharge his duties and responsibilities as CEO from the SEPLAT UK office.”
Brown, a British national, joined Seplat in 2013 as the chief financial officer (CFO) and was selected as the company’s CEO in November 2019, but effectively assumed office in 2020.