…warns FG against withdrawing charges

A civil society and good governance advocacy organization, Make a Difference Initiative, has advised the Federal Government to resist the pressure to discontinue the charge against Seplat Energy PLC.

MADI equally dismissed the claims by Seplat that the Federal Government had withdrawn the four-count criminal charges in suit No. FHC/AB/CR/149/2023 slammed on the company; the CEO, Mr Roger Brown; the Chairman, Board of Directors, Mr Basil Omiyi; and others over an alleged criminal breach of Nigeria’s immigration laws and regulations.

It said its investigation showed that the purported notice of discontinuance of the criminal charge, which also saw six independent non-executive directors dragged before a Federal High Court in Abuja, was a stunt as revealed by a review of the conflicting timeline of events shows gross abuse.

The group also argued that the sequence of events did not support the purported notice being brandished by Seplat.

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group said, “Our attention has been drawn to a misleading claim by Seplat Energy PLC that the Federal Government had withdrawn the four-count criminal charges against the company; the CEO, Mr Roger Brown; the Board Chairman, Mr Basil Omiyi; and six Independent Non-Executive Directors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 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 alive as of today.

“First, how come the notice of discontinuance was dated 6th April 2023 and only surfaced in court on 19th April 2023? This raises more questions than answers.

“Secondly, the purported Notice of Withdrawal/Discontinuance was stamped and dated 6th April 2023, the same date the four-count criminal charge was filed against Seplat and its leadership. Could the same FG be filing the charges and the Notice of Withdrawal at the same time?

“Thirdly, if the FG filed a Notice of Withdrawal/Discontinuance on 6th April as stamped on the suspicious document, how come the four-count criminal charges were served on Seplat on 11th April? Why did the FG and the court have to effect the service of a supposedly withdrawn and discontinued lawsuit?

“Fourthly, Seplat’s, its Directors’ and CEO’s lawsuit against the Nigerian Immigration Service was heard on 13th April. How come Immigration did not inform them or the court that the criminal charges against them had been dropped? Instead, the lawsuit was heard and their prayers not to be arraigned were denied.

“In any case, a mere Notice does not amount to the dismissal of the case, as the court will need to hear the motion. Even then, Immigration will then tell …