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NNPC fails to stop Ararume’s N100bn case against unlawful removal as board chairman

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Senator Ifeanyi Ararume

•As two SANs storm out of proceedings 

•Court fixes March 28 for judgment

The Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) yesterday failed to halt hearing in a N100 billion suit instituted against President Muhammadu Buhari over the alleged unlawful removal of Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as Board Chairman of the NNPCL, just as two senior lawyers representing the oil company in the suit stormed out of the proceedings.

Hearing in the matter filed by Ararume at the Federal High Court, Abuja had been stalled on two previous occasions by the NNPCL.

The plaintiff, Araraume had instituted a N100 billion suit against Buhari, over his alleged unlawful removal as Non-Executive Chairman of the newly-incorporated NNPCL.

Besides Buhari, the NNPCL and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) were second and third defendants respectively.

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had on January 11, adjourned the matter to January 23, for definite hearing.

When the matter up yesterday, the judge directed parties to identify and adopt their processes as their brief of argument in the matter.

Reacting, lead lawyer to the NNPC, Prof. Koyinsola Ajayi, drew the court’s attention to a motion for stay of proceedings challenging the January 11 of the Court, which had declined to take the NNPCL’s motion of preliminary objection to the substantive suit.

Ajayi, was of the opinion that the application for stay be taken and the court takes a decision one way or the other before progressing with the case.

Responding, Justice Ekwo declined, insisting that the court would take all motions together, including the substantive suit.

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After several attempts to make the judge take the application for stay first, failed, Ajayi, while observing that the position of the court has placed him at an uncomfortable position, asked the judge for permission to withdraw from the proceedings.

Responding, Ekwo reminded the lawyer that he was not the one who engaged Ajayi and as such the senior lawyer was at liberty to take whatever decision he seems good.

At this juncture, Ajayi withdrew from the proceedings and walked out of the court and was followed by Etigwe Uwa, SAN, who represented NNPC at the January 11 proceedings.

However, the court reminded Ajayi that a process already filed before a court was deemed adopted even if the lawyer refuses to do so.

The judge subsequently called on other parties to adopt their various processes.

Responding, Ararume’s counsel, Chief Chris Uche, 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.

Uche argued that Buhari acted outside the law to remove Ararume as Board Chairman after incorporating the oil company in his name and was billed for inauguration in that capacity.

But Buhari’s lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Shuaib, disagreed with Ararume and prayed the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it was statute barred at the time it was filed.

Specifically, Shuaib argued that Ararume’s suit offended Section 2(a) of the Public Officers Act and as such was incompetent.

Similarly, lawyer to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Mr Akeeem Mustapha SAN, told the court it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

Mustapha in exonerating the CAC claimed that his client did not play any role in the removal of Ararume, other than incorporating NNPCL as a limited liability company based on the document submitted to it.

He, however, submitted that Ararume’s appointment was political, adding that the president has the power to hire and fire.

He stressed that Ararume’s appointment had nothing to do with the CAMA law.

Shortly, after parties adopted their brief of arguments, Justice Ekwo announced that ruling and or judgment in the suit is fixed for March 28.

Araraume had asked for N100 billion to compensate for damages caused him by the alleged unlawful and unconstitutional way and manner he was removed as the NNPCL chief after using his name to incorporate the entity.

In the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/691/2022, the former Senator 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 is not governed and regulated by the stated provisions of the law.

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Kaduna, Kogi, Zamfara govts drag FG to Supreme Court over naira scarcity

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Worried by the effects the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s naira redesign policy is having on the residents of their states, the governments of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara have dragged the Federal government before the Supreme Court, seeking a restraining order to stop the full implementation of the policy.

In a motion ex-parte filed on their behalf by their lawyer, AbdulHakeem Uthman Mustapha (SAN), the three northern states are urging the apex court to grant them an interim injunction stopping the Federal Government either by itself or acting through the CBN, the commercial banks or its agents from carrying out its plan of ending the timeframe within which the now older versions of the 200, 500 and 1000 denominations of the Naira may no longer be legal tender on February 10, 2023.

The Plaintiffs in the suit are the three Attorneys-General and Commissioners of Justice of the three states, while the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), is the sole Respondent.

The Plaintiffs said that since the announcement of the new naira note policy, there has been an acute shortage in the supply of the new naira notes in Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara States and that citizens who have dutifully deposited their old naira notes have increasingly found it difficult and sometimes next to impossible to access new naira notes to go about their daily activities.

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They also cited the inadequacy of the notice coupled with the haphazard manner in which the exercise is being carried out and the attendant hardship same is wrecking on Nigerians, which has been well acknowledged even by the Federal Government of Nigeria itself.

The Plaintiffs further maintained that the ten-day extension by the Federal Government is still insufficient to address the challenges bedeviling the policy.

Recall that over the weekend, the CBN Governor at a press conference held in Lagos insisted that that the apex bank will not extend the deadline for swapping old naira notes with the newly redesigned ones.

In the suit filed at the apex court, the Plaintiffs have also filed a motion on notice to abridge the time within which the Respondent may file and serve his Counter-Affidavit to this Suit and an order for an accelerated hearing of this matter.

The states are seeking a declaration that the Demonetization Policy of the Federation being currently carried out by the Central Bank of Nigeria under the directive of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not in compliance with the extant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007 and actual laws on the subject.

They are also asking the court to make a declaration that the three-month notice given by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Central Bank of Nigeria under the directive of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the expiration of which will render the old Banknotes inadmissible as legal tender, is in gross violation of the provisions of Section 20(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007 which specifies that Reasonable Notice must be given before such a policy.

The Plaintiffs are also urging the court for a declaration that given the express provisions of Section 20(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, has no powers to issue a timeline for the acceptance and redeeming of banknotes issued by the Bank, except as limited by Section 22(1) of the CBN Act 2007. The Central Bank shall at all times redeem its bank notes.

The Plaintiffs further want the court to direct the immediate suspension of the demonetisation of the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Central Bank of Nigeria under the directive of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria until it complies with the relevant provisions of the law.

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In an affidavit filed in support of the suit and sworn to by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Kaduna State, Aisha Dikko, she averred that although the naira redesign policy was introduced to encourage the cashless policy of the Federal government, it is not all transactions that can be conveniently carried out through electronic means.

She maintained that several transactions still require cash in exchange for goods and services hence the need for the Federal Government to have sufficient money available in circulation for the smooth running of the economy.

Dikko also pointed out that the Federal Government has embarked on the policy within a narrow and unworkable time frame, and this has adversely affected Nigerian citizens within Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara States as well as their Governments, especially as the newly redesigned naira notes are not available for use by the people as well as the State Governments.

“That the majority of the indigenes of the Plaintiffs’ states who reside in the rural areas have been unable to exchange or deposit their old naira notes as there are no banks in the rural areas where the majority of the population of the states reside.

“Most people in rural areas of the Plaintiffs’ states do not have bank accounts and have so far been unable to deposit their life savings which are still in the old naira notes.

“There is restiveness amongst the people in the various states because of the hardship being suffered by the people, and the situation will sooner than later degenerate into the breakdown of law and order.

“The Plaintiff State Governments cannot stand by as they are duty-bound to protect citizens in their states and prevent the breakdown of law and order.

“I know that if the Federal Government of Nigeria had given sufficient and reasonable time for the naira redesign policy, all the current hardship and loss being experienced by the Plaintiffs’ State Governments as well as people in the various states would have been avoided.

“I know that the 10-day extension by the Federal Government is still insufficient to address the challenges bedevilling the policy. I also understand that the Federal Government cannot bar Nigerians from redeeming their old naira notes at any time, even though the senior notes are no longer legal tender.

“Unless this Honourable Court intervenes, the Government and people of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara State will continue to go through a lot of hardship and would ultimately suffer great loss as a result of the insufficient and unreasonable time within which the Federal Government is embarking on the ongoing currency redesign policy,” she stated.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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New Naira Notes: Why we didn’t dispense N6m in our vault — Sterling Bank

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Sterling Bank PLC has offered reasons why it did not disburse the N6 million in N200 denomination found in its vault in its Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State branch.

The Bank offered the explanation on Sunday night after a viral video showed that it had the money in its vault.

The discovery followed the visit of an official of the Central Bank of Nigeria to the vault of the bank.

The official, who identified himself simply as Owoeye, a Deputy Director, made the discovery public, ordering that the branch must commence the dispensing of the money the following morning at the latest.

Reacting in the statement on Sunday, Sterling Bank PLC said at the time the fund was discovered, it was yet to configure its Automated Teller Machine for the dispensing of N200 notes.

It said the new N1,000 and N500 notes in its possession at the time had been disbursed.

The statement, titled: “New Notes Distribution At Ado-Ekiti Branch,” said: “We would like to formally state the facts surrounding our branch in Ado Ekiti.

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“The Naira notes referenced were received prior to the re-configuration of the branch’s Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) to dispense the 200 Naira denomination.

“On January 23, 2023, a regulatory official visited our branch in Ado-Ekiti and the vault contained N 6,000,000 in N200 denominations.

“During the visit, the official observed that we had ran out of N1,000 and N500 notes on that day and were unable to load the N200 as the ATMs had not yet been configured to dispense N200 notes.

“At the time of the visit, the subsisting instruction was that the newly designed notes were not to be dispensed over the counter.

“All our ATMs have been dispensing the available quantities of the N1000 and N500 denominations of the newly designed currency as received since the commencement of the policy. We have also successfully reconfigured our ATMs nationwide to dispense N200 notes.

“All denominations can now be withdrawn from our ATMs and over the counter in line with regulatory pronouncement on February 2, 2023.

“We hereby confidently assure the public that the branch was not hoarding any funds and that Sterling remains at the forefront of ensuring that this exercise is a resounding success.

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“Together, we will all overcome this inconvenience and come out stronger.”

As reported earlier by The Eagle Online:
A video showing several bundles of new Naira notes hidden in a room at Sterling Bank PLC, Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State has been trending on social media.

The bank was said to have refused to dispense it through its five Automated Teller Machines for about two weeks.

A background voice, who identified himself simply as Owoeye, a Deputy Director with the Central Bank of Nigeria, stated that the bank officials claimed the ATMs were yet to be configured.

Owoeye said: “They have N6 million, which they collected from Central Bank of Nigeria for about two weeks but never disbursed any.

“They said they are yet to configure the ATM.

“I don’t know why that is so.

“I brought their attention to the penalty clause of N1 million per day because they have five ATMs

“So, they don’t have any reason for keeping this money.

“The Zonal Service Manager, Kunle Onipede, promised that latest 10am tomorrow, because I promised them that I will be here by 10am and I want to see the machine dispensing this money.

“This is Olumide Owolabi, Service Manager, Ado, and Motunrayo Babayemi.

“My name is Owoeye, I am a Deputy Director from CBN.”

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One injured as hoodlums attack Adamawa gov’s wife’s convoy

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Lami Ahmadu Fintiri

Hoodlums on Saturday attacked the convoy of the wife of Adamawa State governor, Lami Ahmadu Fintiri.

The police spokesman in Adamawa, Sulaiman Nguroje, confirmed the attack in a press release made available to journalists in Yola on Sunday.

He said her motorcade came under attack in Muchala town in Mubi Area as a group of thugs stoned the passing vehicles as they entered the village to attend a gathering of Catholic women.

The thugs armed with stones and sticks reportedly smashed the 18-seater bus conveying the press crew and injured one person identified as Dauda, a sound system operator at the Adamawa Government House.

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A member of the entourage who did not want his name mentioned because he was not authorized to speak on the matter told Daily Trust that Mrs Fintiri was unhurt and had since returned to Yola while Dauda who sustained injuries in his head was in stable condition.

The statement from the police warned that troublemakers would not go unpunished as the command was determined to ensure peace in the state, adding that operatives had been dispatched to arrest the attackers.

Nguroje said the state Commissioner of Police, SK Akande, had deployed operatives of the command drawn from the Special Rapid Response Team (SRRT) and other tactical squads in the area. “Those deployed are to checkmate and arrest the culprits, to coordinate timely response to distress calls and to prevent political gangsterism in the state.

“The CP has equally directed the Deputy Commissioner of police in charge of Operations to lead all divisional police officers, operational commanders and area commanders to ensure total domination of the public space and arrest troublemakers,” the statement read.

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