Immigration withdraws suit against Seplat Energy Plc
The Nigerian Immigration Service(NIS) has filed a notice of withdrawal of the Charge which it filed against Seplat Energy Plc and its directors. The Court papers obtained by our correspondent show that the Criminal Charge and the Notice of Withdrawal were both dated April 6, 2023.
NIS acting in the name of the Federal Government of Nigeria filed a Criminal Charge against Seplat and its Board at the Federal High Court on April 6, 2023, and the same day, filed a notice to withdraw/ discontinued the Charges. It is curious that only the news of the Charges was made known without mentioning that it was withdrawn immediately.
Analysts believe that the purpose of the filing the Charge was malicious and ill-conceived. Questions have been asked as to what the motives behind it were. Was it done to intimidate the Board?
What is clear is that there are a host of inconsistencies contained in the Charge. On the one hand, it was alleged that the CEO of Seplat was employed without a work permit. On the other hand, the Service alleged that the Board encouraged the CEO to accept employment without a work permit. The question is, could the Nigeria Immigration Service withdraw a work permit if it did not grant it?
Nigeria Immigration Service and the Ministry of Interior alleged that the work permit of the CEO was withdrawn on 3rd of March 2023, and alleged that he accepted employment without work permit, when it is general industry knowledge that the CEO was working with work permit since 2013.
However, it is public knowledge that the CEO has since March 3, 2023, been abroad in compliance with the law and as a believer in the due process of law. How then could the CEO be said to be working in contravention of the law when he has not been in Nigeria to undertake employment or duties as the Chief Executive Officer? All of these are glaring contradictions by the Nigeria Immigration Service on the unfounded allegations of some persons said to be unknown third parties.
Some are of the opinion that the Criminal Charge was ill-motivated, malicious and deliberate witch-hunting exercise conceived and pursued by those who want to run down Seplat Energy Plc. “Paragraph 5 of the affidavit of completion of investigation (filed in support of the Charge) shows that investigation was still ongoing. This amounts to a holding charge, which has been held by the Court as unconstitutional. The notice of withdrawal of work permit from the Ministry of Interior is full of contradictions. There are just too many contradictions which shows the Charge was filed out of malice.” I even heard that they did not serve the Charge and the Notice of Withdrawal on the Board of Directors” someone noted.
According to court sources, the defendants are yet to be served with the Charge, and interestingly, a Notice of Withdrawal or Discontinuance of the Charge was filed the same day the Charge was filed in court.
It is not unlikely that the withdrawal of the Charge was founded on what some have termed the contradictions in the Charge filed by the federal government agency, Nigeria Immigration Service, given that the Chief Executive Officer was appointed as Chief Executive since August 2020, and had served as the Chief Financial Officer since July 2013. The Chief Executive was known popularly to be instrumental in completing the dual listing of the company on the Nigerian and London Stock Exchanges, which was the first for a Nigerian corporate. He was also known to be instrumental in broadening the capital base of the company and increasing Seplat Energy’s footprint in Nigeria by acquiring oil and gas assets.
The withdrawal of his immigration documents was in March 2023, over 30 months after his appointment as Chief Executive and about 9 years and 9 months after his appointment as CFO.
Some anonymous sources have also concluded that the Criminal Charge is another typical example of unknown forces misleading an agency of the Federal Government to frustrate lawful businesses, destroy shareholders’ investments and harass law abiding citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and intimidate Seplat and its board for doing the right thing and upholding corporate governance.
Since the news of the cancellation of the immigration documents of the Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Energy Plc broke out, the company’s shares have suffered a sharp decline, and all manners of suits aimed at scuttling the smooth running of the business of the company have been filed in various courts both in Lagos State and the Federal Capital Territory against the company and the Board.
It now seems that the unending legal battles and trumped-up Criminal Charge is another case of ‘the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau”.
Time will tell, but clearly these inconsistencies will not help attract foreign direct investment. More likely, these actions end up shaking the confidence of foreign investors and scaring away good people from boards of companies.
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