Civil society and good governance advocacy organisation, Make a Difference Initiative (MADI), has dismissed the claims by Seplat Energy PLC that the Federal Government of Nigeria had withdrawn the four-count criminal charges in suit No. FHC/AB/CR/149/2023 slammed against the company; the CEO, Mr. Roger Brown; the Chairman, Board of Directors, Mr. Basil Omiyi; and others over alleged criminal breach of Nigeria’s immigration laws and regulations.
MADI also advised the Federal Government to resist all pressure to discontinue the charge in the face of local and international pressure mounted on it to do so.
It said its investigation showed that the purported Notice of Withdrawal/Discontinuance of the criminal charge, which also saw six Independent Non-Executive Directors (INED), namely, Dr Charles Okeahalam, Prof Fabian Ajogwu, Mrs Bashirat Odunewu, Mr Rabiu Bello, Ms Emma Fitzgerald, and the Company Secretary/Legal Counsel, Mrs Edith Onwuchekwa, dragged before a Federal High Court in Abuja, was a stunt, as a mere cursory review of the conflicting timeline of events shows gross abuse.
The group, which has consistently followed and spoken out on the allegations of racism, discrimination against Nigerian employees, favouring of foreign nationals, breach of good governance standards, and violation of Nigerian immigration laws and regulations resulting in criminal charges against Seplat and its leadership, also argued that the sequence of events did not support the purported notice being brandished by Seplat.
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MADI made the assertions in a statement by its Executive Director, Lemmy Ughegbe, on Thursday, in reaction to the said corporate announcement by Seplat.
The group said: “Our attention has been drawn to a misleading claim by Seplat Energy PLC that the FG had withdrawn the four-count criminal charges against the company; the CEO, Mr. Roger Brown; the Board Chairman, Mr. Basil Omiyi; and six Independent Non-Executive Directors (INED) for allowing Mr. Brown to accept employment as the CEO of Seplat Energy PLC without the statutory approval of the Controller-General of Immigration, conspiring among yourselves to allow Mr. Brown take over the 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.
“We state that this cannot be true, as our investigation revealed that the so-called notice of withdrawal/discontinuance did not follow due process of the law and does not have the appropriate approval for such an action.
“Our investigation further revealed that although the defendants are doing everything possible to thwart the legal proceedings by hook or crook, the criminal charges against Seplat and its offending directors remain live as at today.
“In any case, a mere Notice does not amount to a dismissal of the case, as the court will need to hear the Motion. Even then, Immigration will then tell Nigerians whether the laws of the land broken by those charged has been cured and if a Nigerian immigrant worker in the UK could flagrantly breach their immigration laws and regulations and get away with it.
“The Federal Government must resist all pressure to discontinue the charge as we are aware that Seplat Energy Plc is exploiting the company’s resources to prevail on the government to discontinue the charges against them.
“Government must stand tall and firm in its resolve to bring these officials of Seplat to book”, the CSO said.