BY FESTUS OKOROMADU, ABUJA
The crisis bedeviling Roger Brown, the Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Energy Plc, took a new twist as the Board of Directors of the company wrote to inform the Nigerian Exchange Limited of the appointment of Samson Ezugworie, Chief Operating Officer, as the acting CEO.
The latest development, according to the Energy firm, followed a court order restraining Brown from running the company for a period of seven days.
Part of the letter announcing the development read: “Seplat Energy Plc reports that on March 9, 2023, it was served with court processes and ex-parte Interim Order of the Hon Justice C. J. Aneke of the Federal High Court, Lagos, Nigeria, restraining the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Roger Brown from participating in the running of the Company (for a period of 7 days).
“The interim orders are premised on allegations of unfair, prejudicial, and offensive acts by the Chairman, CEO and all of the Independent Non-Executive Directors (INEDs) of Seplat Energy.
“The allegations include that the CEO organised a site visit for a number of its major shareholders to the Company’s operations, cancelled some catering and landscaping contracts, and introduced a new job performance rating.”
While refuting the allegations, the Board stated that since Brown became the CEO in 2020, Nigerian nationals have been appointed to the company’s most important positions, including Chairman, Senior Independent Non- Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating officer.
The Board said it believed these allegations are a spurious and vindictive reaction to the Board’s enforcement of corporate governance standards and a determination to continue to uphold their fiduciary duties and loyalty to the Company.
The statement signed by the Chairman, Basil Omiyi, said “The Board of Seplat Energy has unanimously passed a vote of confidence in Brown as the CEO.
“The Order allows the Chairman, Mr. Basil Omiyi, and all the INEDs of Seplat Energy to continue running the affairs of the Company on the basis that it is in accordance with Nigerian law.
“Mr. Brown has delegated authority to Mr. Samson Ezugworie, Chief Operating Officer, to act as CEO during the period that he is required to step back from his executive duties.
“The injunction was filed by Messrs. Moses Igbrude, Sarat Kudaisi, Kenneth Nnabike, Ajani Abidoye and Robert Ibekwe, who purports to have shares in Seplat Energy Plc. Seplat will follow the due processes of law in responding to the allegations before the courts. At the same time, the Company will continue to maintain its operational excellence and act in line with the best corporate governance standards.”
Barely 24 hours to this development, Seplat had written to inform the Exchange what it called orchestrated media reports are clearly calculated to spread false information.
There have been various allegations that Brown is involved in acts of racism against Nigerians as well as favouritism of foreign employees of the firm.
Brown’s visa was said to have been revoked by the Federal Government.
The Board on Thursday informed the Exchange that it was working on the issues claiming that the media reports as false.
But it confirmed that Brown would be running the company from its UK office.
“Seplat Energy wishes to refute the false allegations against Mr. Brown, which have been presented to the Ministry of Interior and the public by certain petitioners, and which have not been brought to the attention of Mr. Roger Brown or Seplat Energy for a reaction.
“The orchestrated media reports are clearly calculated to spread false information. Seplat Energy will be engaging with the Ministry to reject the impressions created by these allegations.
“The Board believes that these allegations are a spurious and vindictive reaction to the enforcement of corporate governance standards in the Company by the Board of Seplat Energy.
“Over the past decade, Mr. Brown has earned an unblemished record of service and leadership in the Company. On 8th March 2023, the Board of Seplat Energy unanimously passed a vote of confidence in Mr. Brown, who continues to discharge his duties and responsibilities as CEO from the SEPLAT UK office.”