Some stakeholders have reacted to the Federal High Court’s judgment which nullified the removal of Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as non-executive board chairman of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited.
President Buhari had in September 2021 appointed Ararume as the non-executive chairman of the NNPC Limited but later replaced him with Margret Chuba Okadigbo before the team’s inauguration.
But the lawmaker who disagreed with the president’s decision, approached the court to “determine whether his replacement did not contravene provisions of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the NNPC, Companies and Allied Matters Act 2010 and the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, amongst others.”
On Tuesday, Ekwo agreed with Ararume’s submissions, saying his removal was illegal while ordering his reinstatement.
About 24 hours after the judge’s verdict, the Federal Government in a statement signed by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina, vowed to appeal the decision.
“President Buhari has taken due notice of judgment by the Federal High Court, Abuja, restoring Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as the non-executive Chairman of Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).
“While the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation /Minister for Justice is yet to receive a formal copy of the ruling, the President affirms that due judicial process will be followed, and NNPCL has already taken steps to go on appeal.
“The Administration respects the Rule of Law, and nothing will be done outside it to resolve the matter, the President says.
“He sues for calm from all sides involved,” the FG’s statement read.
While an appeal is yet to be entered against the FHC judgment, a retired manager in one of the oil companies, who chose not to be named, said that Buhari has the constitutional right to nullify any appointment he makes.
“If the President in his wisdom went back and nullified the nomination of Ararume and nominated somebody else, that is not actionable.
“The president may have good reasons for withdrawing his nomination. I think Ararume’s matter or journey ended at nomination stage, it’s not a nomination that was screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate.
“It does not warrant going to court because the president has powers to nominate, appoint after confirmation by Senate and even remove,’’ he said.
Furthermore, an industry watcher, Dr. Ayomide Omotosho, said Ararume’s court action is putting the FG and the NNPCL in a bad light internationally.
“That is part of the powers of the Executive President under the Constitution, and this does not warrant anyone whose nomination is cancelled to go to court over this.
“There is a wider implication of this for the country and the newly incorporated company – NNPC Ltd in the eyes of the world particularly in the international oil industry in the light of the signing of the Petroleum Industry Bill into law by President Buhari in 2022.
“How will it be perceived by international investors and partners now that NNPCL has gone fully commercial and needs a lot of foreign and local investments,’’ he said.
Omotosho, who trained in U.S., added that Ararume had no point going to court since he was not confirmed by the Senate.
“So on what grounds did Ararume go to court to challenge the President’s action and asking that he should be reinstated and all his entitlements restored. This is not too good for the nation’s nascent or fledging and liberalized oil industry.
“We should not forget that the PIA of 2021 is one of the bold steps and audacious move to overhaul the country’s petroleum sector which now seeks to provide regulatory platform, corporate governance, legal and appropriate fiscal framework for the industry.
“The gains should be consolidated by all means to gain the confidence of the international community and not to rubbish such gains through frivolous and selfish interests,’’ he also said.
On his part, a media analyst, Mr Abu Abdullahi, also criticized Ararume’s action for being ungrateful to the President.
He said his litigation was is in bad taste and a wrong move which should be condemned in totality.
“Equally, the judgment should be denounced by lovers of this country and our `fragile’ oil industry.
“It could deter some partners from putting their money in the oil sector; the implications of what Ararume has done and the judgment are inimical to the economy of the country.’’
“I believe the government should go on appeal and challenge the judgment. Ararume did not show respect and gratitude to the President for considering him in the first place to be nominated for the job,’’ Abdullahi stated.
For a one-time union leader in the nation’s oil and gas sector who pleaded anonymity, the high court judgment can create instability in the oil sector in general.
“Is it everybody that the President nominates that pass through the Senate that were at the end of the day approved? If somebody was rejected by the Senate, will he or she now go to court to question his or her rejection?
“What Ararume has done by going to court and obtain judgment in his favour is giving Nigeria a bad image and also sending a wrong signal to the international community because NNPC is now a commercially-driven company.
“Now for him to have gone court will now show or give an impression of instability in the oil sector and sending wrong messages to our international partners and those who want to work with us,’’ he said.