Two senior lawyers, Kayinsola Ajayi and Etigwa Uwa, on Monday organized a strike against a Federal High Court judge in Abuja amid a hearing into the alleged illegal removal of Ifeanyi Ararume as non-executive chairman of NNPC Limited early last year. .
The protesting lawyers, both Senior Lawyers of Nigeria (SAN), had appeared in court to represent the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC limited).
Undaunted by the development, the judge, Inyang Ekwo, ensured the hearing would continue after the lawyers’ strike on Monday.
Other attorneys in the case adopted their final directions, and the judge set March 28 for sentencing at the end of the hearing.
Ararume had sued Chairman Muhammadu Buhari along with NNPC Limited last year, begging the court to declare his dismissal as non-executive chairman of the company “unlawful, unlawful and unconstitutional”.
In the resumption of the hearing on Monday, Mr Kayinsola, a law professor who led a team of lawyers on behalf of NNPC Limited, sought to argue an application urging the court to halt proceedings pending an appeal against his ruling by the January 11.
Mr. Kayinsola maintained that his request for suspension of the proceedings should be heard separately and that the ruling issued by the judge should be heard before any other request.
The problems began when the judge asked Mr. Kayinsola to transfer the application along with two others that were pending in court.
Ekwo, known for his shrewd management of court time, said he would issue separate rulings on each of the requests at a later time.
But Mr. Kanyinsola insisted on filing the request for stay of proceedings against the judge’s directive even after Mr. Ararume’s lawyer, Chris Uche (SAN), said he had not yet been notified of the request.
But the judge stood his ground and ordered the lawyer to proceed with the hearing as he ordered.
ALSO READ: FEC authorizes NNPC Ltd to invest N1.9trn in 44 federal highways
Immediately after Mr. Ekwo ordered the NNPC lawyer to transfer his three applications, Messrs. Kayinsola and Uwa announced their withdrawal from the case, organizing a strike in court.
Lawyers present closing arguments
Following the withdrawal of NNPC Limited’s lawyers from the proceedings, Mr. Ararume’s lawyer, Mr. Uche, adopted his final pleadings.
He urged the court to invoke the Business and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) to quash Mr Araraume’s removal as Chairman of NNPC Limited.
The plaintiff’s lawyer informed Mr. Ekwo that Mr. Buhari violated the law by removing Mr. Ararume after incorporating the oil company in his name and being billed for the inauguration in capacity.
But Buhari’s lawyer, Abubakar Shuaib, asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit as time-barred.
In his argument, Mr. Shuaib said that Mr. Ararume’s claim offended Section 2(a) of the Public Servants Act and, as such, was “incompetent”.
In addition, Akeem Mustapha (SAN), representing the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), who is also a defendant in the lawsuit, urged the court to decline jurisdiction over the lawsuit.
He argued that the CAC had nothing to do with Mr. Ararume’s dismissal, adding that it only incorporated NNPCL as a limited liability company based on the document presented to it.
After hearing the lawyers’ arguments, the judge set March 28 for the trial.
Ararume sued the president and begged the court to declare his dismissal as NNPC board chairman “unlawful, unlawful and unconstitutional.”
He argued that his removal by Mr. Buhari vide letter of January 17, 2022 with reference number SGF.3V111/86 was a violation of the CAMA law under which NNPCL was incorporated.
The plaintiff urged the court to order his reinstatement to office.
Additionally, Mr. Ararume demanded N100 billion in damages he suffered as a result of his “illegal” removal from office.
He also sought a court order immediately reinstating him and restoring him to office with all the rights and privileges due to the position of non-executive chairman of the NNPC.