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Court reinstates Ararume as NNPC Chairman, awards N5 bln in damages against Buhari for his removal

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The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, restored Ifeanyi Ararume as the non-executive chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC).

The presiding judge, Inyang Ekwo in his ruling on Tuesday, awarded N5 billion as damages in favour of the former senator representing Imo North.

Buhari had appointed Araume as board chairman of the corporation in September 2021, but he was later sacked and replaced by Margaret Chuba Okadigbo on January 17, 2022.

Ararume had dragged Buhari before the court, praying that it declare his removal as the NNPC chairman was illegal, unlawful, and unconstitutional and that it was a total breach of the CAMA law under which the NNPC was incorporated.

Furthermore, he prayed for the court to issue an order to return him to the office and also demanded N100 billion as compensation for the damages he suffered nationally and internationally.

In her judgment, Ekwo voided Ararume’s sacking and awarded N5 billion as damages against Buhari and the NNPC, to be paid for the disruption of Ararume’s appointment on the grounds that the action of the President was arbitrary, unlawful, and illegal.

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The justice ordered that Ararume be immediately restored to office as the non-executive chairman of the NNPC.

The judge also declared null and void all decisions of the Board of Directors of the NNPCL carried out in the absence of Ararume.

The judge ruled that Buhari acted ultra vires, wrongful, illegal, null and void in the ways and manners in which Ararume was sacked after using his name to register the NNPC and that such an act could not stand in the face of the law.

In a notice of preliminary objection, Buhari said Ararume’s removal from the NNPC board as chairman was done in his capacity as a public officer by virtue of Section 251 (1) of the 1999 constitution.

The president further argued that Ararume’s suit was statute-barred, having been sacked on January 17, 2022, about seven months before the suit was instituted on September 12, 2022.

He also contended that the case, being an abuse of the court process, robs the court’s jurisdiction to hear and determine it.

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