Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed March 28, this year to rule in the N100 billion suit filed by Senator Ifeanyi Ararume challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to withdraw his initial appointment as non-executive chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).
Justice Inyang Ekwo, after taking arguments from counsels to Senator Ararume, President Buhari and Corporate Affairs Commission, fixed the date for ruling and possible judgment in the suit.
Ararume had dragged President Buhari before the Court praying it to declare his removal as NNPCL chief illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional adding that it is a total breach of Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) law under which NNPCL was incorporated.
Apart from asking the court to issue order to return him to office, Ararume also demanded N100 billion as compensation for the damages he suffered nationally and internationally over how his removal was carried out.
A mild drama had ensued during the Monday court session when counsels to NNPC Limited, Professor Kayinsola Ajayi and Etigwa Uwa staged a walkout on the Court over refusal by Justice Ekwo to separately hear applications they filed in respect to the suit.
Ajayi and Uwa had appeared before Justice Ekwo to represent the NNPCL in the suit by Ararume challenging his removal as the Chairman of oil firm by President Buhari.
Ajayi had sought to move three different applications comprising one; asking the Court to stay proceedings pending the appeal against the ruling of the Federal High Court delivered on January 11, 2023.
Ajayi, after identifying the processes filed by NNPC against the suit, argued that the motion seeking stay of proceedings must be heard separately and ruling delivered by the Judge before any other motion should be entertained.
Justice Ekwo however, informed the senior lawyer to move all the applications together and that he would deliver separate rulings in each of the applications so as to save judicial time of the Court.
Counsel to Ararume, Chris Uche (SAN), claimed that the motion for stay of proceeding had not been served on him.
However, Ajayi stood his ground to move the applications separately and that the Judge must give separate rulings on it one way or the other before any other issue.
Following the insistence of the judge to take all the applications together in line with the provision of the Practice Direction of the Federal High Court, Ajayi and his fellow senior advocate announced their withdrawal from the suit and immediately staged a walkout on the court.
During the proceedings, Ararume’s Counsel, Chris Uche, while adopting his final brief of argument, urged the court to invoke the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), to nullify the removal of his client as the Chairman of the NNPCL.
He informed the Court that President Buhari acted outside the law to remove Ararume after incorporating the oil company in his name and was billed for inauguration in the capacity.
Counsel to President Buhari, Abubakar Shuaib, prayed the court to dismiss the suit against his client on the grounds that it was statute barred at the time it was instituted, as he argued that Ararume’s suit offended Section 2(a) of the Public Officers Act and as such was incompetent.