Barely two weeks after it instituted a legal action against the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Seplat Energy Plc, Mr. Roger Brown, as well as the oil firm for allegedly breaching the extant provisions of the Immigration Act, 2015, the federal government yesterday withdrew the suit.
In a corporate notice to the Nigerian Exchange Limited, Seplat stated that it had become aware of the notice of discontinuance of the legal action. The Notice of Withdrawal/Discontinuance of the suit was issued by the Director Legal Services of the Nigeria Immigration Service and stated in part that “the Claimant hereby discontinues all the proceedings in this charge against the above-named Defendants.”
Seplat said it would, “continue to engage with the Ministry of Interior to bring closure to the false allegations presented to the Ministry as a result of which the residency status of its Chief Executive Officer was withdrawn.”
The federal government had on April 6, dragged the CEO alongside the Board Chairman, Mr. Basil Omiyi, the Independent Non-Executive Directors (INED) Dr. Charles Okeahalam, Mrs. Bashirat Odunewu, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu, Mr. Rabiu Bello, Ms Emma Fitzgerald, and Company Secretary/Legal Counsel, Mrs. Edith Onwuchekwa to court for allowing Mr. Brown to accept employment as the CEO of Seplat Energy PLC without the statutory approval of the Controller-General of Immigration.
The defendants in the suit marked: FHC/AB/CR/149/2023 were in addition accused of conspiring among themselves to allow Brown take over business as CEO of Seplat Energy Plc without the consent of the Minister of Interior, allowing Mr. Roger Brown, a non-Nigerian to accept employment as CEO of Seplat after withdrawal of his visa, resident, and work permits, and for refusing to apply for the Comptroller-General of Immigration’s approval before employing Mr. Brown both as Chief Finance Officer and CEO, contrary to the provisions of the Immigration 2015.
Count one of the charge had read: “That you on or before March 9, 2023 at Seplat Energy PLC Head Office 16 A Temple Road Ikoyi Lagos, within the Jurisdiction of the Honourable Court, did conspire among yourselves to allow Mr Roger Brown accept employment as CEO at Seplat Energy PLC without the consent of the Comptroller General of Immigration, contrary to Section 36 (1)(a) and 71 of the Immigration Act 2015 and punishable under Section 36 (2) and Section 71 (a) of the Immigration Act 2015.
The federal government had on March 3, revoked the visa, Resident Permit, and Work Permit of Seplat’s CEO, Roger Brown, over alleged racist practices, discrimination against Nigerian employees at Seplat, favouring of expatriate workers, and breach of good governance codes.
The letter to Seplat entitled “Withdrawal of Work Permit, CERPAC, Visa/Residence Permit of Mr. Roger Thompson Brown – CEO, SEPLAT Energy PLC” also read in part: “Investigation and records in the Ministry also revealed that Mr. Roger Brown was in possession of CERPAC that was not based on validly issued Expatriate Quota approved by the Ministry of Interior resulting to the violation of relevant Immigration Laws and Regulations.
“As a result of these, the Honourable Minister has determined that Mr. Brown’s continued stay in Nigeria is contrary to national interest.“Consequently, the Ministry has withdrawn the Work Permit CERPAC, Visa, Residence Permit and all relevant documents that authorised Mr. Roger Thomson Brown’s entry or stay in Nigeria”.
However, in a swift reaction, Seplat Energy, in a statement signed by the Board Chairman, Mr. Basil Omiyi had stated: “On March 8, 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.”