Make A Difference Initiative (MADI), a human rights and good governance advocacy group, has urged the Federal Government to prosecute Mr. Roger Brown, the embattled CEO of Seplat Energy Plc and the Board of Directors for breaching the country’s immigration laws.
The group also lauded the interim order of the Federal High Court, Lagos, barring Brown from parading himself as, or continuing to operate as the CEO of Seplat or working for Seplat in any other capacity pending the determination of the suit brought against him by shareholders of Seplat over his indictment for racism by the Federal Government.
The court also restrained the Chairman, Board of Directors, Seplat Energy, Mr. Basil Omiyi, and all the Non-Executive Directors under him from continuing to run the affairs of the company in an illegal, unfair, prejudicial, and oppressive manner pending the hearing and determination of the Petitioner’s Motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction.
Mr Lemmy Ughegbe, the Executive Director of MADI, who addressed a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, also commended the Federal Government for revoking the work permit, visa, and residence permit of Brown for breaching the nation’s immigration laws.
He noted that the Federal Ministry of Interior’s bold step in investigating allegations of racism, favouritism of foreign workers and discrimination against Nigerian employees levelled against the Seplat CEO.
Recall that the Ministry had written the management of Seplat Energy and Brown of the outcome of its investigation over the allegations brought against the latter, which he refused to appear before it to defend despite several invitations.
“Investigation and records in the Ministry also revealed that Mr. Roger Brown was in possession of CERPAC that was not based on validly issued Expatriate Quota approved by the Ministry of Interior, resulting in the violation of relevant Immigration Laws and Regulations. As a result of these, the Honourable Minister has determined that Mr. Brown’s continued stay in Nigeria is contrary to national interest, “the ministry of interior stated in the said letter.
“This is one move that will help to restore the dignity of Nigerians in their own land and sound as a warning note to expatriate workers and firms who discriminate against Nigerians and treat them like slaves in their fatherland.
“Our organization condemns in totality the corporate lies told by Seplat at paragraph two of its statement dated 9th March 2023, where it claimed that the allegations and petitions by the aggrieved Nigerian staff at Seplat Energy “have not been brought to the attention of Mr. Roger Brown or Seplat Energy for a reaction,’’ Ughegbe said.
The Ministry of Interior stated in their letter conveying the sanctions against Mr. Brown that he was invited to the investigative panel twice and that he snubbed it.
“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.
“We are equally in possession of letters dated 9th February and 15th February inviting Brown to the investigative hearing. But he ignored both out of disdain for the Nigeria and Nigerian government. We wonder if a Nigerian citizen or corporate entity would dare such impunity and disdainful treatment of UK government and people on UK soil,” Ughegbe also said.
Insisting that an end must be put to foreigners treating Nigerians as second-class citizens, at best, or as slaves at worst in their own country, MADI Executive Director said many foreign nationals running businesses in Nigeria treat citizens with utmost disregard and put them through dehumanizing conditions.
“We must bring this to an end. We frown at the obvious dereliction of duty, complicity, and irresponsibility of Seplat Board led by Mr. Basil Omiyi, a Nigerian national, in quickly taking sides with the oppressors of our people on their own land,” he said.
“It is failure of leadership and complicity on the part of Omiyi-led Board that Mr. Brown freely perpetrated such racist and discriminatory practices in Seplat without any preemptive measures or sanctions by the Board Chairman and the Non-executive Directors whose responsibility it is to ensure that Seplat is run in accordance with the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Good Governance Codes for which the company was known until recently.
“It is even a greater display of irresponsibility that the Omiyi-led Board failed to employ internal mechanisms to interface with the employees to resolve the matter before they were left with no choice than to seek the intervention of the Ministry of Interior.
“It a crying shame and lack of patriotism on the part of Board to quickly come to the defence of Roger Brown with a vote of confidence while also describing the allegations as “spurious” even without any form of investigation on its part.
“It hurts that a Board of Directors headed by a Nigerian would so slavishly and irrationally throw the citizens of Nigeria under the bus in their own country.
“MADI is aware that Seplat is a strategic asset to Nigeria, as it supplies the gas used in generating nearly 40% of the power utlised in Nigeria, hence anything that affects the discharge of such service amounts, in our estimation, an organised economic sabotage.’’
Ughegbe demanded as follows: “MADI calls on Seplat’s CEO, Roger Brown; the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mr. Basil Omiyi; and the Non-Executive Directors under him, to honourably resign and immediately or be sacked by the Board.
“Seplat must be rescued from the hands of those minded to run the affairs of the company in an illegal, unfair, prejudicial, and oppressive manner and without regards to good governance,” he added.
“MADI calls on the Federal Government of Nigeria to immediately prosecute Mr. Brown and Seplat for flagrant breach of the relevant Immigration Laws and Regulations.
“The 8th March statement by Seplat’s Chairman to the effect that the Board passed a vote of confidence in Brown and that he “continues to discharge his duties and responsibilities as CEO from the Seplat UK office” is an affront to the clear decision of the FG that “Mr. Brown’s continued stay in Nigeria is contrary to national interest” and also to the consequent revocation of his immigration documents.
“Section 58 Immigration Act 2015 provides, “It is an offence for any employer of persons liable to repatriation to discharge any such persons without giving notice to the Comptroller-General of Immigration, or for any such employed person to be redesigned, or change his employment, without the approval of the Comptroller-General of Immigration….”
“Section 105 (1) provides, “Where an offence under this Act or any other relevant law committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed on the instigation or with the connivance of or is attributable to any neglect on the part of a director, manager, Secretary of the body corporate, or any person purporting to act in any such capacity, the officer or person is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of three years or to a fine of two million naira or both.
“Section 105 (2) provides, “Where a body corporate is convicted of an offence under this Act, it is liable to a fine of five million naira and a court may issue an order to wind up the body.”