By Ogochukwu Isioma
Civil rights advocacy groups made up of 10 credible organisations under the aegis of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on Monday, backed the reinstatement of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume as the non-executive Chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL).
They spoke on the platform of HURIWA at a press briefing in Abuja.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said President Muhammadu Buhari must comply with the order of Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja which reinstated Araraume and set aside all decisions and resolutions of the Board of the NNPCL made in the absence of Araraume from 17th January 2022 till date.
The group further stated that the sum of 5 billion naira awarded by the court as damages for Araraume’s wrongful removal must be swiftly paid because going by Section 63 (3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021 and Section 288 of Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020, the Senator cannot be removed in the manner he was removed by the President on January 17, 2022.
HURIWA carpeted the Presidency for saying that the judgment of the court on the reinstatement of Araraume would be challenged by the NNPC after Justice Ekwo held that President Buhari acted ultra vires of his powers.
It said Justice Ekwo held that the president’s decision to remove Araraume was wrongful, illegal, null, and void.
Buhari had in January 2022 dropped Araraume as NNPC Board Chairman, a few months after he announced him as the company’s chairman in September 2021. The President in his u-turn, appointed Senator Margrey Chuba-Okadigbo, wife of the late former President of the Senate, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, to replace Araraume and to represent the South-East.
However, Araraume approached the court to declare his removal illegal not after the NNPC used his name to register NNPCL as a director and simultaneously as Board Chairman and that such brazen act cannot stand in the face of the law.
The court, last week, ruled in favour of Araraume and reinstated him because President Buhari’s action was grossly unconstitutional.
“Aside that the Presidency has said that the reinstatement would be challenged in court, some mushroom civil society groups sponsored by persons angry by the reinstatement of Araraume started a smear campaign against Araraume and hinted on a protest against the judgment in Abuja next week,” HURIWA said.
HURIWA’s Onwubiko added, “We in HURIWA, Association of African Writers on Human and Peoples Rights (AFRIWRITE), Initiative for Transparency and Social Rights, Organisation for Promotion of Child Rights, Support Democracy Group, Initiative for Peace and Accountability, Youths Supporting Youth for Rule of Law, hail the reinstatement of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume as NNPC Limited Non-Executive Chairman by the court and we demand swift obedience to rule of law because the appointment of Araraume to head the new NNPC which was backed up by CAMA was violated aggressively by President Muhammadu Buhari who dropped his name after he had been announced and had even started work.
“This is a clear breach of the Petroleum Industry Act which primarily seeks to end political and government interferences in the administration of the NNPC which by the new registration under CAMA ceases to be a corporation run hy government but a company limited by shares and registered under CAMA.
“The attempt to make the victory of Araraume to appear like he is fighting President Buhari is wrong. Why should Araraume not seek legal redress when his fundamental right to fair hearing under section 36(5) of the constitution was breached?
“We condemn any form of procured attack by fake civil society groups targeting the court judgment and condemn the futile time-wasting exercise by government to head to Appeal Court without first complying with the judgment which is binding and the enrolled order already served on the parties by the litigant/plaintiff (in this case Araraume).
“We must state here that the NNPCL Chief Executive Officer, Mele Kyari, has no hand in all of these because the decision of President Buhari is political and never followed prescribed steps by CAMA. So NNPC’s CEO is not funding these misplaced attacks but someone within the new NNPCL who has lost out because of the well considered judgment is the one buying phantom and amorphous groups to attack the judgment and the plaintiffs.”
The coalition reminded President Buhari of the primacy of Rule of Law without which any nation deteriorates in standards of governance and nosedive into the abyss of anarchy and doom. “The truth as made abundantly clear by law scholars is that the principle of Rule of Law is a fundamental pillar of any democratic society. It ensures that all citizens, including those in positions of power, are held accountable for their actions and that justice is administered fairly and impartially. Nigeria, like any other democratic country, must uphold the Rule of Law to ensure the protection of its citizens’ rights and freedoms,” HURIWA said.
”We remind President Muhammadu Buhari that he has a legal, constitutional obligation, duty and ultimately, the responsibility to ensure that the Rule of Law is upheld during his tenure. This means that he must ensure that all citizens, including those in positions of power, are held accountable for their actions. It also means that he must work to strengthen the institutions responsible for upholding the Rule of Law, such as the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.
”To finish on a clean slate, President Buhari must prioritize the Rule of Law and take concrete steps to address any perceived or actual violations of it such as the blatant attempt to deny Citizen Ifeanyi Ararume of his legally protected fundamental rights and freedom from arbitrary removal from a lawfully guaranteed job. This includes ensuring that all citizens are treated equally before the law, regardless of their social status or political affiliation. It also means that the government must be transparent and accountable in its actions, and that there must be consequences for those who violate the law. We commend the Federal High Court for restoring and highlighting that respect for the due process of the law is strategic for the sustenance of constitutional democracy and free market economy.
“Finally, it is essential that the government works to build public trust in the Rule of Law by engaging in open and honest communication with citizens about its actions and decisions. This will help to ensure that Nigeria remains a democratic society that upholds the Rule of Law and protects the rights and freedoms of all its citizens. Ultimately, we urge President Muhammadu Buhari to accept the well considered decision of Federal High Court and constructively dialogue with Ifeanyi Araraume to seek amicable ways and means to enforce the verdict in such a way that all parties will be happy that it ended well instead of the government deciding to fritter public funds in appealing against this quality judgment which in our thinking is a wild goose chase and a time wasting gimmick. President Muhammadu Buhari must be convinced to finish well on May 29th and not on a bellicose tone,” HURIWA added.