Failure of Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) to file a counter affidavit in the N100 billion suit filed by Senator Ifeanyi Araraume against the Federal Government has again halted definite hearing on the suit at the Federal High Court Abuja on Wednesday.
Gatekeepers News reports that Araraume had instituted the suit against the FG, over his alleged unlawful removal as Chairman of the Board of NNPC after using his name to register the company at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the counsel to NNPC, Etigwe Uwa, SAN, told the court at the resumed hearing on Wednesday, that he had filed only a preliminary objection to the hearing of the suit.
The lawyer said that he had not filed a counter affidavit to the substantive suit, which is contrary to the order made by the court at the last adjourned date.
Uwa prayed the court to proceed with hearing of his preliminary objection and determine it one way or another before hearing the main suit.
However, the judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, drew the attention of the senior lawyer to the practice direction of the court.
Justice Ekwo said that both the substantive matter and any preliminary objection must be taken together in order to save judicial time of the court.
He held that he would not hear the preliminary objection alone until the counter affidavit to the substantive suit had been filed.
While urging the plaintiff’s legal team led by Chris Uche (SAN), Justice Ekwo said, “Let me give the NNPC legal team the opportunity to file a counter affidavit to enable me to look at the matter wholistically.”
“When I see the calibre of counsel in a matter like this my belief is that there will be an exposition of jurisprudence to develop the law,” Justice Ekwo noted, stressing that Konyin Ajayi (SAN) is an expert in Company Law and Etigwe Uwa (SAN) is a brilliant learned silk.
Earlier, Araraume’s counsel, Chris Uche, SAN, had reminded the judge that he had made an order that all processes must be filed and exchanged by parties before Wednesday’s sitting.
Uche prayed the court to proceed with hearing of the substantive suit as had been ordered at the last adjourned date
The judge, however, said he would give the NNPC another opportunity to file the counter affidavit.
Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until Jan. 23, for hearing of the suit.
Araraume filed a N100 billion suit against the federal government over his alleged unlawful removal as a non-Executive Chairman of the newly-incorporated NNPC.
The former Senator had asked for N100 billion as damages caused him in the alleged unlawful and unconstitutional way and manner he was removed from the NNPC board after using his name to incorporate the entity.
In the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/691/2022, Araraume formulated four issues for determination by the court.
One of the issue was whether in view of the provisions of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the NNPC, Companies and Allied Matters Act 2010 and the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, the office of the non executive chairman was not governed and regulated by the stated provisions of the law.
In addition, he asked the court to determine whether by the interpretation of Section 63 (3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, the president could lawfully remove him as non executive chairman of the NNPCL for any reason outside the provisions of the law.
Araraume further asked the court to determine whether the president could sack him without compliance with expressly stated provisions of the Articles of Memorandum of Association of the Company, Section 63 (3) of the PI Act 2021 and Section 288 of the CAMA Act 2020.
He, therefore, asked the court for an order setting aside his removal via a letter of Jan. 17, 2022 with reference number SGF.3V111/86.
The former lawmaker also asked the court for an order reinstating him and restoring him to office with all the rights and privileges of the office of the NNPC non executive chairman.