Roger Brown, the chief executive of London and Lagos-listed Seplat Energy, has been “restrained” from running the company for a week by a Nigerian court.
Seplat is a Nigeria-focused independent, producing about 17,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day from resources spread among seven onshore and Niger Delta licences.
On 9 March, Justice CJ Aneke of the Federal High Court in Lagos issued interim orders “restraining the chief executive officer Roger Brown from participating in the running of the company for a period of seven days”, according to a statement released this morning by Seplat.
On the London Stock Exchange, the company’s share price was down 2.5% at £1.11 ($1.32) at press time, having already fallen yesterday when news of the problem first emerged in the Nigeria press, triggering an initial response from Seplat.
The company said yesterday’s interim orders “are premised on allegations of unfair, prejudicial and offensive acts by the chairman, chief executive officer and all of the independent non-executive directors [INEDs] of Seplat Energy”.
Seplat said that among the allegations against Brown are that he organised a site visit to the company’s operations for some major shareholders, cancelled some catering and landscaping contracts and introduced a new job-performance rating.
Seplat said it “refutes the allegations” and noted that since Brown became chief executive in 2020, Nigerian nationals have been appointed to the company’s most important positions, including chairman, senior independent non-executive director, chief financial officer and chief operating officer.
The company said: “These allegations are a spurious and vindictive reaction to the board’s enforcement of corporate governance standards and a determination to continue to uphold their fiduciary duties and loyalty to the company. The board… has unanimously passed a vote of confidence in Brown as the chief executive.”
As a result of the restraining order, chairman Basil Omiyi and Seplat’s INEDs are running company affairs “on the basis that it is in accordance with Nigerian law”.
Brown has delegated chief operating officer Samson Ezugworie as acting chief executive for the next seven days.
Seplat noted that the injunction was filed by Moses Igbrude, Sarat Kudaisi, Kenneth Nnabike, Ajani Abidoye and Robert Ibekwe “who purport to have shares in Seplat Energy PLC”.
Reporting from local news services suggested the allegations within the injunction relate to discriminatory practices against Nigerians.
Yesterday, Seplat said there was an “orchestrated” media campaign against the company that is “clearly calculated to spread false information”.
Seplat said it will “follow the due processes of law in responding to the allegations before the courts [and] will continue to maintain operational excellence and act in line with the best corporate governance standards”.