MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Seplat Energy Plc slated for Wednesday 10th May 2023 will, after all, hold as scheduled. What
could have possibly thwarted the AGM was over come as the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has adjourned the suit number
FHC/ABJ/PET/8/2023 filed by some minority shareholders in Boniface Okezie V. SEPLAT Energy Plc to May 31, 2023.
The presiding judge Hon. Justice Inyang Ekwo ordered that all the respondents should be served before the matter could be taken. All parties were represented except the 10th Respondent.
The Federal High Court declined to accede to the request by Boniface Okezie and four other alleged shareholders of Seplat Energy Plc who
filed Suit No. FHC/ABJ/PET/8/2023 seeking an ex-parte Interim Orders to restrain Seplat from holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) scheduled for Wednesday May 10, 2023.
The court adjourned hearing on the petitions filed by the Petitioners to May 31, 2023. The meeting would therefore hold as planned.
In a statement signed by Seplat’s Board Chairman, Mr. Basil Omiyi, the Company has refuted all allegations made in the petitions which, given their almost identical wording to a separate petition filed at the Federal High Court in Lagos, have been described as clearly being part of an orchestrated attempt to damage the company in response to its efforts to improve corporate governance by eliminating related party transactions and implementing other governance initiatives.
The presiding judge Hon. Justice Inyang Ekwo ordered that all the respondents should be served before the matter could be taken. All parties were represented except the 10th Respondent (the Corporate Affairs Commission).
The suit before Justice Inyang Ekwo was brought by Boniface Okezie, Bon. Bright Nwabuogwu, John Isesele, Okonkwo Timothy, and Augustine Ezechukwu (Petitioners/Applicants) against Seplat Energy PLC; company CEO, Mr. Roger Brown; Board Chairman, Mr. Basil Omiyi; as well as Independent Non-Executive Directors of the company, Dr. Charles Okeahialam, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu, Rabiu Bello, Mrs. Bashirat Odenewu, Emma Fitzgerald; Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Mrs. Edith Onwuchekwa, and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
All parties except the 1st Respondent (Seplat Energy PLC) informed the Court that they have not been served, as ordered by the Court. The 1st Respondent also informed the Court that they have filed an affidavit to show cause and a preliminary objection on jurisdiction and the fact that a similar petition is pending at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The Court ordered that the right thing should be done and that the 10th Respondent (CAC) should be served against the next hearing date.
The attempt by the counsel to the Petitioners to get the court to halt the AGM was opposed by each of the counsel for the Respondents. After listening to Kalu Onuoha, Esq. Counsel for the Petitioners; Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Counsel for Seplat; Matthew Burka, SAN, of Counsel for Roger Brown (who held brief of Dr. Hassan Liman, SAN) of Counsel for Rabiu Bello and Emma Fitzgerald; Uzoma Azikiwe, SAN, of Counsel for Basil Omiyi; O.A. Omonuwa, SAN, of Counsel for Dr. Charles Okeahialam and Prof. Fabian Ajogwu; and Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, SAN, of Counsel for Mrs. Bashirat Odenewu and Mrs. Edith Onwuchekwa, Justice Ekwo ruled that: “Parties are hereby ordered not to tamper with the res until issues are resolved.”
Meanwhile, Seplat has announced that the Federal High Court in Abuja has formally struck out the criminal charge brought by the Nigeria Immigration Service against the company and some of its Officers, adding that the Court has fully discharged all named defendants. The Charge was filed earlier by the Nigeria Immigration Service on 20th April, 2023 (RNS Number: 9385W). It was in relation to the immigration status of Seplat’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Roger Brown and the withdrawal of his immigration visa by the Ministry of Interior.
The Company had previously announced that it has submitted all required documentation to the immigration authorities and continues to cooperate with them.
With respect to Suit Number FHC/ABJ/PET/8/2023 brought before the Federal High Court in Abuja by Boniface Okezie & 4 ors V. Seplat & 9 ors, Seplat has said that its independent legal advisors have advised that the petition is an unlawful duplication of another petition already before the Federal High Court in Lagos (Suit No. FHC/L/CP/402/2023) filed by Moses A. Igbrude & 4 Ors V. Seplat Energy Plc & 2 Ors), where the Court recently vacated the Interim Orders against the Chief Executive Officer and adjourned the case to May 16, 2023.
In the new petition by Boniface Okezie, the Federal High Court in Abuja did not accede to the Petitioner’s request to restrain the Company from holding its Annual General Meeting on May 10, 2023. The court adjourned the matter to May 31, 2023, to enable the Petitioners to complete service on all Respondents.