Austin Avuru counters Seplat over sack as director

Austin Avuru

Co-founder and pioneer CEO of Seplat Energy Austin Avuru has called on the public to disregard the termination of his appointment as a non-executive director of the company.

The company had in a letter dated December 22, 2021, and signed by its legal director and company secretary, Edith Onwuchekwa, said it terminated Mr. Avuru’s appointment due to alleged breaches made by him. It said that his actions contravened the company’s “corporate governance policies and fiduciary duties.” The letter also called for Avuru’s resignation.

However, Avuru’s lawyers Osaro Eghobamien and Folabi Kuti of Perchstone said that the letter by Seplat was made to “malign” his reputation, adding that the board’s decision was “ill-advised”, “grossly mischievous” and “fictitious”.

“Our client had taken a dignified position on the issues leading to the ill-advised action. This is clearly evidenced by Seplat Energy’s letter dated January 9, 2021, confirming our client’s dignified position, and urging our client to act with confidentiality, which is customary to our client’s impeccable character.

“In a dramatic summersault and by letter dated December 22, 2021, received by our client at about 6 pm, Seplat Energy purports to terminate the appointment of our client from the Board.

“This was followed by a public announcement the next morning without as much even giving our client the opportunity to respond to a letter, content of which were otherwise grossly mischievous. We will immediately respond to the fictitious allegations, and reserve our client’s rights

“The general public is hereby advised to discountenance Seplat Energy’s publication of December 23, 2021,” Avuru’s lawyers said.

Avuru took Seplat public in a historic 2014 dual listing on the London and Nigerian stock exchanges,

The company has, however, been under pressure in recent months with several banks tackling its chairman Ambrosie Orjiako over unpaid loans.

Xavier Rolet, an independent non-executive director, resigned from his position two days after a Federal High Court in Lagos granted Zenith Bank interim orders of Mareva injunctions against Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited (SEPCOL) and Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited owned by Orjiako and others.

Orjiako in November announced that he would step down from the Seplat board after the company’s annual general meeting in May 2022 even though he is not due to retire until 2023.

This story has been updated.