Court Declines Jurisdiction, Strikes out Injunction Order, Suit, Says ARCON


Bennett Oghifo

Architects’ Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) has said that a Federal Capital Territory, Abuja High Court struck out a suit challenging its authority to conduct any scrutiny of those seeking to become registered architects.

A statement by ARCON said the court took the action after concluding that the plaintiffs approached the wrong court to seek legal redress.

It said Justice Muawiyah Baba Idris, who also declined jurisdiction over the matter, vacated an injunction order, he had made on 30th July 2019, restraining ARCON from carrying out any process that would have led to registration of new architects.

The statement said the judge specifically said the proper place to file such suit was a Federal High Court, because ARCON was an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“After analysing the arguments for and against the order and the court’s jurisdiction, the judge struck out the suit, saying only the Federal High Court has the jurisdiction to entertain such suit.”

The statement said efforts by ARCON’s lawyer to move the court to award cost against the plaintiffs in favour of the Council did not succeed, as Justice Idris said there was no evidence of cost incurred before him and therefore declined to make any order on cost in favour of ARCON.

The statement said piqued by ARCON’s planned programme towards registration of new architects, some persons, including other plaintiffs, who sat for the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) qualifying exams but are yet to be registered architects, approached the court.

They sued ARCON, NIA, Arc. (Sir) Dipo Ajayi, ARCON President and Arc. Njoku Adibe, President, NIA, as first to fourth defendants, respectively.

According to the statement, Justice Idris, who first reviewed the case and submissions of counsel, said, “Having taken cognisance of the facts of this case and argument of counsels for both sides, and citing section 251 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, only the Federal High Court can adjudicate upon this matter. Therefore, this court lacks jurisdiction, and so, I decline jurisdiction.”

Justice Idris added: ”And for want of jurisdiction, this case is accordingly struck out and the order of this court made on 30th July, 2019, is accordingly struck out.”

In the final analysis, the court struck out the suit for lack of jurisdiction and discharged the order of injunction made on 30th July 2019.

The statement said two weeks ago, the same judge had refuted an interlocutory order purportedly claimed by the plaintiffs that the court had made against ARCON restraining it from registering new architects pending the determination of a matter before it.

“The Judge, in the open court, had said he never granted such order and expressed surprise where the purported order emanated from.

“Although, the judge had denied the interlocutory order, however, in his judgment on Monday, the judge said: The order made by this court on 30th July, 2019, against the defendants, is hereby struck.”

Justice Idris had issued the order following an ex-parte application moved by the plaintiffs’ lawyer.

Addressing the court then, ARCON’s lawyer, Nnabuike Edechime, had said that, it appeared the plaintiffs misled the court in granting such order, the statement said.

Responding, the Judge said: ”I never grant such order. I don’t have such order before me”, the judge insisted.

Moving the substantive matter, Nnabuike Edechime, ARCON’s lawyer had said the court could not grant interlocutory injunction during vacation but an interim injunction.

Besides, he said that proper parties have not been brought to the court, as both the third and fourth defendants were yet to be served.

Barrister Nnabuike said being a Federal Government agency, such matter was on exclusive legislative list of the Constitution and within exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court and therefore, FCT High court could not hear such matter.

To them, the claimant’s 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.

He then urged the court to dismiss the suit, adding that it is vexatious, and an attempt to waste the precious time of the court.

The statement said counsel to the applicants, S.N Mbaezike, who contended that all the processes filed by ARCON were done out of time, could not be attended to by the court.

Responding to the issue of ex parte application upon which the purported interlocutory order was granted, plaintiffs’ counsel said he never moved motion ex parte but motion on notice. He added that the error must have been committed by the registry, the statement said.