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Alleged Racism: Seplat’s CEO Steps Aside, Hands over to COO
Seplat Energy PLC yesterday announced that its Chief Executive Officer, Roger Brown, a Briton, has stepped down from office following the order of a Federal High Court in Lagos last Wednesday.
The court had 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.
The statement announcing Brown’s resignation was signed by the Chairman of the board of Seplat, Basil Omiyi, who stated further that the embattled CEO had delegated authority to Seplat’s Chief Operating Officer, Samson Ezugwore, to act as CEO during this period.
The statement revealed that Seplat had been served the court processes and the ex parte order of Justice Chukwuejekwu Aneke of Federal High Court, Lagos, “restraining 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 had 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.
The statement reads, “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 case was adjourned to March 23, 2023, for a hearing on the pending application.
Recall that the Ministry of Interior has revoked Brown’s work permit, visa, and residence permit over allegations of racism and discrimination.
The Ministry, 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.
Seplat has denied the allegations levelled against Brown.
In a statement signed by Omiyi, the board of Seplat denied the allegations.
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.