Nigeria’s federal government has filed criminal charges against Seplat Energy PLC, its chief executive officer (CEO), Mr Roger Brown, and the board chairman, Mr Basil Omiyi, over alleged breach of extant provisions of the Immigration Act 2015.
The government also charged the independent non-executive directors (INED), Dr Charles Okeahalam, Mrs Bashirat Odunewu, Prof Fabian Ajogwu, Mr Rabiu Bello, Ms Emma Fitzgerald, and company secretary/legal counsel, Mrs Edith Onwuchekwa.
In the suit with charge No. FHC/AB/CR/149/2023 filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja on 6th April 2023, the FG accused the defendants of 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 themselves 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 Act 2015.
The four-count charge reads: “That you on or before the 9th day of March, 2023 at Seplat Energy Plc Head Office 16 A Temple Road Oluholloway Ikoyi Lagos, within the Jurisdiction of the Honourable Court, did conspire among yourselves to allow Mr Roger Brown accept employment as CEO at Seplat Energy PLC without the consent of the Comptroller General of Immigration, contrary to Section 36 (1)(a) and 71 of the Immigration Act 2015 and punishable under Section 36 (2) and Section 71 (a) of the Immigration Act 2015.
“That you…did conspire among yourselves to allow Mr Roger Brown take over business as Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Energy PLC without the consent of the Minister of Interior, contrary to Section 36 (1) (b) and punishable under Section 36 (2) and Section 105 of the Immigration Act 2015.
“That you, on or before the 9th day of March, 2023 at Seplat Energy PLC Head Office 16 A Temple Road Oluholloway Ikoyi Lagos, within the Jurisdiction of the honourable court, you as director, secretary, members of board of directors of Seplat Energy PLC as the case may be, did instigate, encourage, connive, by neglect on your part, allow Mr. Roger Thompson Brown, a non- Nigerian to accept employment as Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Energy PLC even after withdrawal of his immigration documents, contrary Sections 36, 71 and 105 of the Immigration Act 2015 and punishable under Sections 36(2) 105(1) of the Immigration Act 2015.
“That you did refuse to make an application to the Comptroller-General of Immigration for his permission before employing Mr. Roger Thompson Brown both as Chief Finance Officer and Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Energy PLC, contrary to Section 38(1) of the Immigration Act 2015 and punishable under Section 38(5) of the Immigration Act 2015”.
It was gathered that the defendants have been served, but no date has been fixed for the arraignment.
The federal government on 3rd March revoked the visa, resident permit, and work permit of Seplat’s CEO, Roger Brown, over alleged racist practices, discrimination against Nigerian employees at Seplat, favouring of expatriate workers, and breach of good governance codes.
It was also alleged that Mr Brown refused to honour investigation invitations by the ministry in the course of its investigation.
The letter to Seplat entitled, “Withdrawal of Work Permit, CERPAC, Visa/Residence Permit of Mr. Roger Thompson Brown – CEO, SEPLAT Energy PLC” also read in part: “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 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”.
However, in a swift reaction, Seplat Energy, in a statement signed by Omiyi, said, “On 8th 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 Seplat UK office.”