MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
Seplat Energy Plc has petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC) to sanction Hon. Justice I.E Ekwo of the Federal High Court Abuja for ‘unethical, gross misconduct and abuse of judicial power” in granting ex-parte orders in several cases involving the Seplat and some of its shareholders.
In a 6-page petition dated 15th May 2023 and signed by Seplat’s Acting CEO/Chief Operating Officer, Samson Ezugworie, and addressed to the Chief Justice of the Federation and Chairman, National Judicial Council, Abuja, the oil firm asked the NJC to dispassionately investigate its complaint and ensure appropriate disciplinary action against the Hon Justice Ekwo.
The petitioner stated that the orders granted in SUIT NO: FHC/ABJ/CS/626/2023 between Juliet Ebere Nwadi Gbaka & 2 Ors.V Seplat Energy Plc & 13 Ors are designed to cripple Seplat operations.
It explained further that the orders granted by His Lordship in the above suit on 11th May 2023 in ‘very questionable circumstances are designed to hinder the affected Directors and Secretary of Seplat in the performance of their contractual and statutory duties to Seplat”.
Seplat stated that the SUIT NO: FHCIABJ/PET/8/2023 BETWEEN BONIFACE OKIEZIE & 3 ORS V.SEPLAT ENERGY PLC & 9 ORS filed on 13th April 2023 by some shareholders of Seplat whose shareholding is less than 0.0005% of Seplat’s entire share capital had cited alleged unfairly prejudicial conduct in the management of the affairs of Seplat.
Justice Ekwo was accused of making far-reaching orders and side-lined all these processes and ordered that directors of Seplat and its secretary should desist from further acting in their official capacities, and also ordered SEC to appoint some other persons to replace them on the 11th of May even though similar orders sought in the April petition have not been granted by His Lordship, and the various applications in SUIT NO: FHCIABJ/PET/8/2023 BETWEEN BONIFACE OKIEZIE & 3 ORS V. SEPLAT ENERGY PLC & 9 ORS, have been adjourned to 31st May 2023.
“It is evident that the approach of His Lordship will compromise the fair hearing of the applications in the April Petition. It is also amazing that the above Suit which was filed on the 8th of May 2023, and which was not listed on the cause list on the 9th and 11 of May 2023 respectively, was heard by His Lordship”, the petition added
“We believe that this can only be possible because of prior direct communication between His Lordship and Counsel to the Plaintiffs in the above Suit. This, we believe, is highly unethical’ , it stated.
Seplat also believes that it is an act of gross misconduct on the part of His Lordship
to gloss over various applications filed by Seplat and some of its directors and
Secretary, on 10’h of May 2023, challenging the competence of the Suit and the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the Suit.
“As it were, the orders made by His Lordship on 11th May 2023 will compromise the fair hearing of these pending applications filed by Seplat and other Respondents”.
Seplat said it “has every reason to believe that all the steps taken by His Lordship in the
above Suits are designed to favour the Plaintiffs and disfavour Seplat, its directors
and secretary. Seplat, its directors and Secretary’s position is corroborated by
other cases and events”
Seplat also disclosed that the Final Judgment in Suit No: FHCIABJ/PETI7/2023 BETWEEN AKINDURO ERIC AKINNIFESI & ANOR V SEPLAT ENERGY PLC was wrongly ignored by Hon Justice I.E. Ekwo
Some shareholders of Seplat were genuinely worried about the likely stalling of the Company’s 2023 AGM scheduled for 10t May 2023 and instituted the above suit, praying for mandatory orders for the meeting to be held.
They also sought an order that the directors and company secretary should not be removed from office or hindered in the performance of their duties by any person or authority. Final
judgment was delivered by Hon. Justice A. R. Mohammed of the same Abuja
Judicial Division of the Federal High Court.
The Petitioners succeeded in the Suit and the court ordered that Seplat’s AGM be held as scheduled and that the directors and company secretary should neither be removed from office nor hindered in the performance of their duties. A copy of the judgment was attached as SEPLAT 11 to the petition.
It is noteworthy that the above judgment was brought to the attention of His Lordship, Hon. Justice I. E. Ekwo by some of the Counsel representing the Respondents in Suit No: FHCIABJ/CS/626/2023 Between Juliet Ebere Nwadi Gbaka & 2 Ors. V Seplat Energy Plc & 13 Ors, via various processes filed by them on 10th May 2023. The exhibited judgment of Hon. Justice A. R. Mohammed alongside letters and processes notifying His Lordship of the subsisting judgment were also attached as SEPLAT 12.
Notwithstanding his Lordship’s attention being directed to the subsisting judgment
of a more senior Judge (Hon. Justice A. R. Mohammed) of the same Federal High
Court, His Lordship made orders on 11th May 2023, which contradict and indeed
have the capacity of overruling the judgment of Hon. Justice A. R. Mohammed
Seplat believes that it is improper for His Lordship, whose attention had been drawn
to the existing final judgment of a Brother Judge, to sit as an appellate court over such
judgment through the rendition of an interlocutory ruling which conflicts with the
said final judgment.
On the strength of the above Seplat invites the NJC to dispassionately investigate his
complaint and ensure appropriate disciplinary action against the Hon Justice Ekwo.