Araraume, NNPC take legal battle to Court of Appeal


Senator Ifeanyi Ararume has described as an abuse of court process, the appeal filed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited seeking to upturn the judgment of a Federal High Court which had ordered his reinstatement as the Non-executive Chairman of the Board of the national oil company.

Uba Group

Ararume, argued that the appeal by NNPCL was not only incompetent and lacking in merit, but a waste of the precious time of the court which must be dismissed with huge cost.

His position was contained in his brief of argument dated and filed July 31, 2023, by his team of lawyers led by Chris Uche.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had in a judgment on April 18, ordered the immediate reinstatement of Ararume as NNPC’s Chairman.

The court had in its judgment held that his removal after his appointment by former President Muhammadu Buhari, was illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void and subsequently nullified the president’s action.

Besides, the court had also ordered the defendants which included Buhari, NNPC Ltd and the Corporate Affairs Commission, to pay Ararume the sum of N5 billion being damages he suffered following his unlawful removal as NNPC Board Chairman.

In addition, the court had declared as a nullity all decisions and actions taking so far by the board in the absence of Ararume.

Miffed by the judgment, the NNPC had approached the Court of Appeal, Abuja, to challenge the decisions and orders of Justice Ekwo of the Federal High Court delivered on April 18, 2023.

The NNPC in its appellant’s brief of argument dated June 30, but filed July 3, presented 18 grounds upon which it is challenging the entire decision of the trial court.

Specifically, the appellant through its lead counsel, Yusuf Ali, urged the appellate court to set aside the judgment in favour of Ararume, saying the trial court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the suit; the suit was statute barred; the trial court misled and mis-applied the relevant statutory provisions which led it to the wrong decisions; Ararume failed to adduce convincing, believable, cogent and compelling evidence in support of his suit; and that the trial court ought not to have entertained the suit on Originating Summons.

It was the argument of the appellant that the trial judge erred in law in holding that the president was wrong in removing Ararume as Board Chairman, adding that the constitution, PIA, 2021 as well as the NNPCL’s Memorandum and Article of Association, “gives the power to appoint and remove the the Non-Executive Chairman of of the appellant to the 2nd respondent, under the long established and judicially settled principle of he who have the power to hire can fire.”

According to the appellant, the trial court erred in law when it went ahead to hold that the case of the claimant was not statute barred, despite evidence that the suit was filed eight months outside the three months provided by the law.

On the second issue, NNPCL argued that the trial judge was wrong to have entertained the Ararume’s suit on Originating Summons, explaining that where facts in dispute are riotous, hostile and in conflict, Originating Summons is inappropriate.

Besides, the appellant accused Justice Ekwo of not giving them fair hearing when it refused to hear and determine their application for a stay of execution they had filed on January 20, 2023.

They therefore urged the court to determine the appeal in their favour and set aside the judgment of Justice Ekwo delivered on April 18, 2023.

Responding, Ararume faulted the appeal for being incompetent on the grounds that the said brief of argument was filed by a non-party in the suit.

According to Ararume, there was no proper appellant before the Court of Appeal because the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd that he sued was different from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company that filed the brief of argument and as such lacked the locus standi and the legal personality any brief of argument in this appeal or to prosecute same.

“We submit that this is not a case of misnomer, but consistent with the position and attitude of the “Appellant” as if the 2nd respondent defendant sued by the 1st respondent at the court below was still a parastatal of government.”


Also, Ararume urged the court to dismiss the appeal with substantial cost for being a gross abuse of court process.

According to him the trial court acted within its constitutional and statutory jurisdiction when it entertained, heard and determined his suit against the NNPC, then President Muhammadu Buhari and the CAC.

Ararume claimed that NNPC was wrong in challenging the court’s jurisdiction on the premise that his case was a labour or employment related matter which should be heard by the National Industrial Court.

“In view of the clear position of the 1st respondent as Director/Non-Executive Chairman of the appellant, it was wrong and incorrect to regard the 1st respondent as an employee of the appellant or employee of the 2nd respondent,” he added.

Ararume further argued that his case arose from the operation of the appellant as a corporate entity incorporated under the CAMA, 2020.

On the issue of protection Ararume in the reply filed by his lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche, pointed out that the provisions of Section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Act and Section 307 of the PIA, 2021 were not applicable to the suit as statutes of limitation.

According to him, an elected president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not a public officer, adding that the Public Officers Act was intended to protect the officer from detraction and unnecessary litigation but never intended to deprive a party of legal capacity to ventilate his grievance on the face of stark injustice.

Besides, Ararume submitted that the mode of commencement of the suit was appropriate being one of the interpretation of the provisions of the constitution, CAMA, 2020 and PIA, 2021, since there was no hostile or hotly contested facts.
In addition, he submitted that the necessary parties were before the court and as such there was no breach of the right to fair hearing of any non-party.