By Kingsley Adegboye
Architects Registration Council of Nigeria ARCON, has initiated a process challenging a court order that restrains it from conducting any qualifying examinations for Nigerian architects pending the determination of a suit.
Justice Muawiyah Baba Idris of a High Court sitting in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory Judicial Division, had recently given the order in a suit initiated by 13 persons.
The plaintiffs include Ibrahim Kabir, Ayodeji Kolawole, Andy Imafidon, Dike Emmanuel, Opiribo West, Abimbola Ajayi and Emmanuel Ekeruche.
Others are Nicholas Musa, who sued on behalf of himself and other interested registered architects; Ademakinwa Olajumoke, Babjide Awonubi, Siyanbola Kukola and Emmanuel Adewunmi, who also sued on behalf of himself and other aggrieved persons that sat and passed the qualifying examinations conducted by the Nigerian Institute of Architects NIA.
They sued ARCON and NIA as well as their presidents who are Arc. (Sir) Dipo Ajayi and Arc. Njoky Adibe respectively.
Following a motion ex parte by the plaintiffs, filed on May 30, 2019 and moved July 30, 2019, Justice Idris, a vacation Judge, after hearing plaintiffs counsel ordered:
“An order of interlocutory injunction restraining ARCON from conducting and/or purporting to conduct any qualifying professional examinations by whatever name or form for the registration of architects in Nigeria whether by themselves, agents, servants, and/or privies, whatsoever and howsoever from purportedly conducting such examination pending the hearing and determination of the originating summons.
The matter was then adjourned to August 8, 2019. But due to power failure, the court could not sit as planned. Thursday August 22, was then fixed for the hearing.
Days after the order, ARCON filed a preliminary objection challenging the order.
Specifically, according to ARCON, which regulates the profession and practice of architecture in Nigeria, two requests have been placed before the court. One: an order of the court dismissing or striking out the whole matter for want of jurisdiction and, secondly; an order discharging and or setting aside the court’s interlocutory order dated July 30, 2019.
The Federal Government’s agency is also asking the court for such further or other orders it may deem fit to make in the circumstances.
Justifying its reasons for the objection, ARCON said the court lacks the requisite jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter ab initio since the Federal High Court has the exclusive jurisdiction.
Two, ARCON says the plaintiffs/respondents lack the locus standi to institute the action, contending that some of them are not registered and are not suing on behalf of NIA.
Three, both the third and fourth defendants Ajayi and Adibe were not personally served with the originating process in accordance with the rules of the court.
Fourth, the matter was fixed for hearing during the annual vacation of the court without the consent of the defendants in accordance with the rules of the court.
Fifth, the order by the court on July 30, 2019 based on the claimants’ ex parte application moved the same date was a breach of the defendants’ constitutional right to fair hearing.
The preliminary objection was supported by a 10-paragraph affidavit, stating why the Abuja High Court must hands off the matter.
According to the applicants, the first defendant is an agency of the Federal Government and only the Federal High Court is conferred with the exclusive jurisdiction to entertain any legal claim against her.
The affidavit averred to by one Casmir Amadi of Veritas Chambers, contends that both Ajayi and Adibe were not properly served with originating and other processes and therefore not made necessary parties for the court to have jurisdiction over them.
It also says that the plaintiffs having no locus standi to initiate the process in the first instance and have not disclosed any reasonable cause of action.
The applicants, for a matter to be heard during vacation, the parties involved, that is both plaintiffs and defendants shall collectively request for a date.
They contend further that the defendant did not make any request or grant any consent in making request from the court in accordance with the rules of the court for the court to fix a date for hearing during vacation.
To them, the claimants’ suit was brought in bad faith, just to waste the precious time of the court and as a ploy to distract the first defendant from discharging its statutory duties.
Hearing resumes Thursday August 22, 2019.