Immigration breach: CSO dismisses Seplat’s notice of discontinuance on criminal charges

A 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a Difference Initiative (MADI) has dismissed the claims by Seplat Energy PLC that the federal government of Nigeria had withdrawn the four-count criminal charges in suit No. FHC/AB/CR/149/2023 slammed against the company; the CEO, Mr.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; Chairman, Board of Directors, Mr. Basil Omiyi; and others over alleged criminal breach of Nigeria’s immigration laws and regulations, describing it as “fraudulent”.

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.

MADI made the assertions in a statement by its Executive Director, Lemmy Ughegbe, in reaction to the said corporate announcment 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The group said: “Our attention has been drawn to a misleading claim by Seplat Energy PLC that the FG had withdrawn the four-count criminal charges against the company; the CEO, Mr.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 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.

“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 actually 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 the 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 denied.

“In any case, a mere Notice does not amount to 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”.      

While raising the alarm over what it termed as Seplat’s constant acts of deception, the group insisted “heads must roll over this latest perfidy”.

“MADI condemns in strong terms the desperation of Seplat’s Independent Non-Executive Directors, who obviously do not mean well for  the company, which people have laboured to build. 

“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 government to discontinue the charges against them

“Government must stand tall and firm in its resolve to bring these officials of Seplat to book. 

“Their acts of desperation and deception on the matter is as always alarming and everyone that partook in this attempt to bring this shame upon the FG and the laws of land deserve to be persecuted”, the CSO concluded.

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