Seplat petitions NJC, calls for sanction of Justice Ekwo over alleged gross abuse of judicial power
Seplat Energy Plc has petitioned the National Judicial Commission (NJC) to sanction Justice I. E. Ekwo of the Federal High Court Abuja for alleged ‘unethical, gross misconduct and abuse of judicial power” in granting Ex-parte Orders in several cases involving the Seplat and some of its shareholders.
Seplat In a 6-page petition dated May 15, 2023 and signed by it’s Acting CEO/Chief Operating Officer, Samson Ezugworie, and addressed to the Chief Justice of the Federation and Chairman, National Judicial Council, Abuja, the oil firm asked the NJC to dispassionately investigate its complaint and ensure appropriate disciplinary action against the Hon Justice Ekwo.
The petitioner stated that the orders granted in suit numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/626/2023 between Juliet Ebere Nwadi Gbaka and two others against Seplat Energy Plc and 13 others are designed to cripple Seplat operations.
It explained further that the orders granted by His Lordship in the above suit on May 11, 2023 in ‘very questionable circumstances are designed to hinder the affected Directors and Secretary of Seplat in the performance of their contractual and statutory duties to Seplat”.
Seplat stated that the suit marked FHC/ABJ/PET/8/2023 between Boniface Okiezie and three others against Seplat Energy Plc and nine others, filed on April 13, 2023 by some shareholders of Seplat whose shareholding is less than 0.0005% of Seplat’s entire share capital had cited alleged unfairly prejudicial conduct in the management of the affairs of Seplat.
Seplat accused Justice Ekwo of making far-reaching orders and side-lined all these processes and ordered that directors of Seplat and its secretary should desist from further acting in their official capacities, and also ordered SEC to appoint some other persons to replace them on May 11, even though similar orders sought in the April petition have not been granted by His Lordship, and the various applications in Suit numbered FHC/ABJ/PET/8/2023 between Boniface Okiezie and three others against Seplat Energy Plc and nine others have been adjourned to May 31, 2023.
“It is evident that the approach of His Lordship will compromise the fair hearing of the applications in the April Petition. It is also amazing that the above Suit which was filed on the
8th of May 2023, and which was not listed on the cause list of May 9 and 11, 2023 respectively, was heard by His Lordship”, the petition added
“We believe that this can only be possible because of prior direct communication between His Lordship and Counsel to the Plaintiffs in the above Suit. This, we believe, is highly unethical’, it stated.
Seplat also believes that it is an act of gross misconduct on the part of His Lordship to gloss over various applications filed by Seplat and some of its directors and Secretary, on 10’h of May 2023, challenging the competence of the Suit and the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the suit.
“As it were, the orders made by His Lordship on May 11, 2023 will compromise the fair hearing of these pending applications filed by Seplat and other respondents”.
Seplat said it “has every reason to believe that all the steps taken by His Lordship in the above Suits are designed to favour the Plaintiffs and disfavour Seplat, its directors and secretary. Seplat, its directors and Secretary’s position is corroborated by other cases and events.”
Seplat also stated that the Final judgment in suit numbered FHC/ABJ/PET/7/2023 between Akinduro Eric Akinnifesi and others against Seplat Energy Plc was wrongly ignored by Justice Ekwo
“Some shareholders were genuinely worried about the likely stalling of the Company’s 2023 AGM scheduled for May 10, 2023 and instituted the above suit, praying for mandatory orders for the meeting to be held.
“Seplat also sought an order that the directors and company secretary should not be removed from office or hindered in the performance of their duties by any person or authority. Final judgment was delivered by Honourable Justice A. R. Mohammed of the same Abuja
Judicial Division of the Federal High Court.
“The petitioners succeeded in the suit and the court ordered that Seplat’s AGM be held as scheduled and that the directors and company secretary should neither be removed from office nor hindered in the performance of their duties. A copy of the judgment is attached as Seplat.
“It is noteworthy that the above judgment was brought to the attention of Justice I. E. Ekwo by some of the Counsel representing the Respondents in suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/626/2023, between Juliet Ebere Nwadi Gbaka and two others against Seplat Energy Plc and 13 others via various processes filed by them on May 10, 2023. The exhibited judgment of Hon. Justice A. R. Mohammed alongside letters and processes notifying His Lordship of the subsisting judgment are attached as Seplat 12.
“Notwithstanding his Lordship’s attention being directed to the subsisting judgment of a more senior Judge (Hon. Justice A. R. Mohammed) of the same Federal High Court, His Lordship made orders on May 11, 2023, which contradict and indeed have the capacity of overruling the judgment of Hon. Justice A. R. Mohammed
“Seplat believes that it is improper for His Lordship, whose attention had been drawn to the existing final judgment of a Brother Judge, to sit as an appellate court over such judgment through the rendition of an interlocutory ruling which conflicts with the said final judgment.
“On the strength of the above Seplat invites the NJC to dispassionately investigate his complaint and ensure appropriate disciplinary action against the Justice Ekwo.”