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Alleged racism: Seplat’s CEO hands over to COO

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The Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Energy PLC, Roger Brown, has stepped down from office following the order of a Federal High court in Lagos.

The court restrained Brown, from parading himself as the firm’s CEO, pending the determination of a suit filed against him and others by aggrieved stakeholders of the company.

The aggrieved stakeholders accused Brown of racism, favouritism for expatriate workers, discrimination against Nigerians, and breach of good governance.

In a statement signed by the Chairman of the board of Seplat, Basil Omiyi, on Friday, the embattled CEO has delegated authority to the Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Samson Ezugwore, to act as CEO during this period.

The statement revealed that Seplat has been served the court processes and the ex parte order of Justice Chukwuejekwu Aneke of Federal High Court, Lagos. Nigeria, “restraining the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Roger Brown from participating in the running of the Company [for a period of 7 days].”

According to Seplat, the court order was premised on allegations of unfair, prejudicial, and offensive acts by the Chairman, CEO and all of the Independent Non-Executive Directors of Seplat Energy.

The allegations include that the CEO organised a site visit for a number of its major shareholders to the company’s operations, cancelled some catering and landscaping contracts, and introduced a new job performance rating.

Refuting the claims, Seplat Energy said that Nigerians have been appointed to the company’s most important positions, including Chairman, Senior Independent Non-Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating officer, since Roger became CEO in 2020.

The board stated that the allegations levelled against it were reactions to its enforcement of corporate governance standards and a determination to continue to uphold its fiduciary duties to the company.

Part of the statement read, “The Order allows the Chairman, Mr Basil Omiyi, and all the INEDS of Seplat Energy to continue running the affairs of the Company on the basis that it is in accordance with Nigerian law.

“Mr. Brown has delegated authority to Mr. Samson Ezugwore, Chief Operating Officer, to act as CEO during the period that he is required to step back from his executive duties.

“Seplat will follow the due processes of law in responding to the allegations before the courts. At the same time, the Company will continue to maintain its operational excellence and act in line with the best corporate governance standards.”

The defendants in the suit no. FHC/L/402/2023 include Moses Igbrude, Sarat Kudaisi, Kenneth Nnabike, Ajani Abidoye, and Robert Ibekwe.

The case was adjourned to March 23, 2023, for a hearing on the pending application.

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Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior has revoked Brown’s work permit, visa, and residence permit over allegations of racism and discrimination.

The aggrieved stakeholders had exhibited a petition to the Minister of Interior against Brown by employees of Seplat, as well as a letter by the Minister of Interior communicating the ministry’s decision on the said petition to the company.

The Ministry of Interior, in a letter dated March 3, 2023, and addressed to the chairman of Seplat’s board, conveyed its decision revoking Brown’s work permit, visa, and residence permit.

In its letter revoking Brown’s visa, work and residence permits, the ministry accused the British national of shunning invitations issued to him.

The letter entitled, ‘Withdrawal of Work Permit, CERPAC, Visa/Residence Permit of Mr. Roger Thompson Brown – CEO, SEPLAT Energy Plc’ signed by Akinola M. Adesina, director 2, citizenship and business for the minister, addressed to the chairman board of directors of SEPLAT, partly read, “I write to inform you that the Ministry is in receipt of a petition from the Solicitor to the concerned workers and stakeholders of Seplat Energy PLC accusing Mr. Rogers Thomson Brown, the CEO of the companies of various allegations.

“These accusations include racism, favouring foreign workers and discriminating against Nigerian employees. Testimony was received from several witnesses, which supported the allegations. Mr. Roger T. Brown declined to attend despite two invitations, claiming to be unavailable even though we learnt he was in Abuja for other purposes at the time.

“Investigation and records in the ministry also revealed that Mr. Roger Brown was in possession of CERPAC (Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card) that was not based on validly issued Expatriate Quota approved by the Ministry of Interior, resulting to the violation of relevant immigration laws and regulations. As a result of these, the minister has determined that Mr Brown’s continued stay in Nigeria is contrary to national interest.

“Consequently, the ministry has withdrawn the Work Permit CERPAC, visa, residence permit and all relevant documents that authorised Mr Roger Thomson Brown’s entry or stay in Nigeria.”

On Thursday, Seplat had denied the allegations levelled against Brown.

In a statement signed by Omiyi, the board of Seplat denied the allegations and said its CEO would be operating out of its United Kingdom office.

Part of the statement read, “The Board believes that these allegations are a spurious and vindictive reaction to the enforcement of corporate governance standards in the Company by the Board of Seplat Energy. Over the past decade, Mr. Brown has earned an unblemished record of service and leadership in the Company. In March 2023, the Board of Seplat Energy unanimously passed a vote of confidence in Mr. Brown, who continues to discharge his duties and responsibilities as CEO from the SEPLAT UK office.”

It was also revealed that the company will be engaging with the Interior ministry on the matter which they claimed wasn’t brought to the attention of the CEO.

Brown joined Seplat in 2013, as the Chief Financial Officer and was made the company’s CEO in November 2019. He effectively assumed office in 2020.

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