The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions has spurned a call for public hearings on the amendments of enabling Act/Rules and Regulations of Surveyors Council of Nigeria (SURCON).
The Surveyors-General of all the states of the federation had in a petition dated July 28, 2023, and signed by the Surveyor-General of Rivers State, Noel D.C. Elenwo, on behalf of all the states Surveyors-General, urged the Nigerian Senate to stop the alleged amendments on policies and provisions of the SURCON enabling Act/Rules and Regulations by the Surveyors Council of Nigeria (SURCON).
The Surveyors-General in their petition alleged that such amendments would impact negatively on the constitutional powers of the state governors with regards to Land Administration and States Survey Laws.
They also alleged that the office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation has been carrying out surveying and mapping within the states without recourse to the Surveyors-General of the respective states, among other allegations.
But the Senate Committee headed by Senator Neda Imasuen noted that there were sufficient evidences to establish that the issues raised in the petition were pending before the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division.
The committee stated this when the representatives of the Surveyor-General of the Federation and the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors appeared before the Committee.
The Surveyor-General of the Federation, Adebomehin A. Adeyemi, and the President of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS), Dr. Matthew O. Ibitoye, had earlier urged the Senate Committee to ignore the petition on the grounds that the issues raised in the petition were pending before the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division in Appeal Number: CA/LAG/CV/1144/2022.
Specifically, Ibitoye, in a letter addressed to the chairman of the Committee, stated that all the issues raised on the SURCON Guidelines of 2020, the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the SURCON Act, are subject of a pending appeal, in Appeal No: CA/LAG/CV/1 144/2022 between the Surveyor-General of Lagos State and others against Adaranijo and others at the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, following a judgment of Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The letter reads: “In order to respect the dignity of the court and the rule of law, we shall not delve into the issues raised in the statutory provisions and all that concerns it, as it is subjudice. We also humbly urge this committee to treat the issues as subjudice. For ease of reference, we have attached the judgment of the Federal High Court, Lagos; the ruling on the injunction pending appeal, the Notice of Appeal and the appellants brief of arguments in the case.
“The law is clear that in the hierarchy of laws, an Act of the National Assembly supersedes a subsidiary legislation made pursuant to the Act. The law is also very clear that a subsidiary legislation made pursuant to the main Act, must not run contrary to the main Act.
“It is a fact that the rules and regulations relied upon by the petitioners to have vested power in them, runs contrary to the SURCON Act which vest all the power on Survey practice in Nigeria in SURCON only. See Section 4d of the SURCON Act, which vests in the Surveyors Council of Nigeria (SURCON), the power to regulate and control the practice of the surveying profession in all its ramification in Nigeria.
“We vehemently oppose the petitioners’ submission that our members who are private practitioner are unethical professionals, who work with land grabbers to encroach on public land and sell same, without any evidence before this honourable chambers, to substantiate their claims.
“We need to state unequivocally, that the activities of our members as one of the regulated professionals in Nigeria do not in any way tamper with the administrative powers of any constituted authority in Nigeria, as our members are law-abiding,” he said.
In response to the allegation of award of contract against the current president of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors who was sworn in on June 23, 2023, he stated that “he has not been awarded any contract from OSGOF. The president further confirmed that he is an academic, who is still in active lecturing job in a public institution.”
Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court, Lagos in a judgment delivered in August 2022, held that the Lagos State House of Assembly acted unconstitutionally in enacting the Section 5 of the Survey Law of Lagos State, which requires surveyors to obtain written consent of the Surveyor-General of Lagos State before carrying out survey on any state land or land acquired by the Lagos State Government.
The plaintiffs led by Adaranijo Ibikunle Ganiyu Rafiu had in December 2020 instituted an action at the Federal High Court, Lagos through their counsel, Osaretin Ogbebor, against the Surveyor-General of Lagos State and other necessary parties, for violating the relevant statutes in respect of survey practice in Lagos State.
In the well contested case, the court affirmed that the Surveyors Council of Nigeria is the only body vested with authority to regulate and control survey practice/profession throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Justice Osiagor held further that the Surveyors Council of Nigeria (SURCON) has the powers to issue the guidelines for the conduct of Survey Practice in Nigeria 2020 in exercise of its powers to regulate and control survey practice/ profession in Nigeria and that the Surveyor-General of Lagos State being a member of SURCON, is bound to follow and apply the guidelines for the conduct of survey practice in Nigeria 2020, in Lagos State.
The court also held that the Surveyor-General of Lagos State lacks the power to deny the plaintiffs or any registered surveyor consent to conduct survey on any parcel of land in Lagos State (whether owned by the Lagos State Government, corporate bodies or private individuals) and that he also lacks the power to reject copies of survey plans submitted by the plaintiffs and every other Registered Surveyor in Nigeria] for lodgment.
The decision of the Federal High Court, Lagos on the issues remains valid, pending the determination of the appeal.