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Just in: Seplat Board reacts to CEO’s ordeal, says allegations false

Contrary to initial media reports earlier this week that the CEO of leading indigenous oil and gas giant, Seplat, Roger Brown Thompson has been stripped of his work/resident/visa permits over racism and other discriminatory allegations, the Board of the company has reacted, saying it’s all false from the pit of hell after all.
Business Hilights recalls that, Thompson, the British born banker turned oil industry icon was accused, according to news reports “of racism, favouring of foreign workers, and discriminating against Nigerian employees levelled against him by employees of the company.”
A statement signed by the Board Chairman, a former Mobil Unlimited boss, Basil Omiyi, averred that “Seplat Energy wishes to refute the false allegations against Brown, which have been presented to the Ministry of Interior and the public by certain petitioners, and which have not been brought to the attention of Roger Brown or Seplat Energy for a reaction…The orchestrated media reports are clearly calculated to spread false information. Seplat Energy will be engaging with the Ministry to reject the impressions created by these allegations.”
Omiyi added that the board believes that the allegations are “a spurious and vindictive reaction to the enforcement of corporate governance standards in the company.” Continuing, it added that “Brown has earned an unblemished record of service and leadership in the company…He will continue to work from the UK office.”
From fact check, Business Hilights can authoritatively confirm that from Seplat’s corporate governance processes, Roger Brown is not in a position to “favour foreign workers” or “discriminate against Nigerians” especially when viewed from the fact that in Seplat, appointments and remuneration are not handled by the CEO. What he can offer, is at best suggestions which may be accepted or rejected by the Remuneration Committee or REMCO which is chaired by the Senior Independent Executive Director (SINED). Seplat as per its 2022 annual report employs 596 people and while the number of expatriates is not listed, the website informs us that the expatriates are drawn from five different nationalities.”
Details from Nigerian’s oil and gas statistics show that Seplat operates OMLs 4, 38 and 41, 40, 53, 55 and OPL 283 as part of its suite of offshore assets and a robust mid-stream gas portfolio via Oben gas processing Plant and ANOH Gas processing plant notes on its website that “Roger Brown joined Seplat in 2013 as chief financial officer before being appointed CEO in August 2020” following the retirement of pioneer CEO, Austin Avuru, the cerebral oil man who has been a poster boy for Nigeria’s indigenous oil and gas industry.

Seplat CEO, Roger Brown Thompson

Basil Omiyi’s reference to “a spurious and vindictive reaction to the enforcement of corporate governance standards” is telling, because Seplat Energy has remained one of Nigeria’s best run companies, especially in its transparent reporting, adherence to best practices and the institution of internal mechanisms to deal with the sort of allegations that have been made against their CEO.

During Seplat’s road show for its dual listing, the company was commended widely as a Nigerian Oil and Gas company, built on a foundation of world class standards of corporate governance with a very credible board, and a very competent management team led by a well-respected oil industry expert, Austin Avuru.
As CEO, Austin Avuru alongside the board and management designed and instituted critical board policies that encompassed Related Party Transactions (RPT), Whistle Blowing, Conflict of Interest, Anti-Bribery/Corruption and Human Resources policy of Equal opportunity.
If Roger Brown flouted these rules, why were they not presented to the board which is composed of Executive Directors, Non-Executive Directors and Independent Executive Directors (INEDs) and a Senior INED who is seen as “watch dog of the board?” And if these steps were not followed, how did allegations from staff get to the Ministry of Interior?
Seplat also has a robust whistle blowing policy headed by the “Business Integrity” department and regarded as one of the best in the industry. In order to ensure that staff are not scared to report infractions, the company commissioned KPMG to help build a forensic investigation unit to set up the IT infrastructure to allow for the reporting and effective investigations of infractions that would support the Business Integrity department with forensic investigations.
In the period between January 2015 and July 2020, 26 members of staff (including Senior Management staff) were disengaged having been found culpable of grave infractions, leading Seplat to build a reputation in the industry as a company with zero tolerance for corruption and corporate malfeasance.
From the above, whereas the basil Omiyi’s board response failed to explain why the embattled CEO did not attend to the ministerial invitations ahead of permits withdrawal, there are strong indications that more responsive reactions are expected from both the Seplat Board and the Nigerian Government to avoid a negative signal being sent out to prospective foreign investors especially in the nation’s oil and gas industry.

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