Court voids Okoli, Olutoye’s expulsion, restrains ESVARBON on licences
RESPITE has come the way of embattled but prominent members of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Messrs. Emmanuel Osita Okoli and Daramola Olutoye, as a Kaduna Federal High Court, citing illegality and irregularity, voided their purported expulsion from the institution.
The judgment, delivered recently, came almost four years after the duo was said to have been expelled from the nation’s realtors’ fold, a decision some felt was against the spirit of constitution that NIESVs.
But the relief may be cut short, if the NIESV seeks appellate court’s intervention and wins. However, as at press time, there was no information that the judgment by Evelyn N. Anyadike, had been appealed against.
Be that as it may, both members have won the litigation pertaining their alleged expulsion from practising estate surveying in Nigeria and beyond.
On allegation said to be inimical to what the nation’s estate surveyors are known, the body, during its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in 2011 had raised and adopted a motion to expel the embattled members from the institution.
But rejecting the consensus by some, a judicial intervention was sought with requests to among other things declare the purported expulsion as null and void.
Led by Emmanuel Osita Okoli, Mrs Cecilia Bola Okoli and Mr. Daramola Olutoye had sued The Registered Trustees Of The Nigerian Institute Of Estate Surveyors And Valuers, Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registered Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON), NIESV’s President and National Secretary at the time, Mr. Bode Adediji and the National Secretary, Mr. Rowland Abonta.
Briefly, the plaintiffs’ case as stated before the court was that they were members of the first defendant, NIESV until the March 12, 2011, when the first and third plaintiffs, Okoli and Olutoye, were expelled during NIESV’s AGM.
It was stated that, prior to the expulsion, Olutoye had instituted suits against the third defendant, ESVARBON both at the Magistrate and High Courts. But Osita Okoli was not a party to the said suits.
At the said AGM, it was said that, member, one Samuel Ukpong, who also testified as the first defendants’ witness had moved a motion seeking to expel the Okoli and Olutoye from the institution of NIESVs on ground that they were responsible for filling several suits against the institution.
It was said that the embattled members were not given opportunity to respond or defend the allegations against them in the motion.
This, according to them, was contrary to the extent constitution of NIESV. And after adopting the motion for expulsion from the institution, their names were consequently published in several newspapers. The Registered Trustees of NIESVs also requested the second defendant, ESVARBON to close their respective practice offices.
Citing discordance with the constitution of NIESV, the plaintiffs wanted the court to hold that: their purported expulsion was null and void, a declaration that the AGM of NIESV acted in excess of its constitutional power and a declaration that only the council of the NIESV is empowered by constitution of the Institution to discipline and or expel members of the institution.
They also wanted a declaration that the motion moved by one Samuel Ukpong for the expulsion of the 1st and 3rd Plaintiffs from the institution not having been brought within the contemplation of the constitution of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers was null and void and that a failure on the part of the institution to have given the duo the opportunity to be heard before pronouncing their expulsion negated the spirit of the constitution of institution and their right to fair hearing guaranteed under the 1999 constitution.
It was also requested by the plaintiffs that the court should declare that the act of the defendants of ordering the closure of the premises of business of the first and second plaintiffs wherein the second plaintiff was never expelled or suspended by the institution for any act whatsoever was gross violation of the second plaintiff’s right to practice as an estate surveyor and was hence null and void.
On the whole, they therefore, sought an order setting aside the purported’ expulsion, as well as restraining ESVARBON from withdrawing their licenses as estate surveyor and valuers and / or closing down their offices or doing anything whatsoever and howsoever,
in pursuance of the purported expulsion.
In its reaction, the defendants claimed that Osita Okoli instigated the Olutoye to institute suits against the due to his inordinate ambition to become NIESV president. They also initiated other suits against NIESV and its officers.
It was also alleged that the first plaintiff also formed a dissident group within the institution and used the group to truncate the activities of NIESV and to initiate a lawsuit against it.
Besides, it was alleged that both Osita and Olutoye set damaging text messages and e-mails to members of NIESV and used state apparatus, mainly the police to harass and intimidate those who were not in tune with Osita’s ambition to become the president in order to frustrate the AGM and the election of its officers
It was contended that: “All these negative activities of first and third plaintiffs prompted the motion that heralded their expulsion. The contents of the motion was read to the first and third plaintiffs and copies served on them after which explanations were also demanded from them. The first and third plaintiffs refused to react to the motion and instead worked out of the AGM.”
Thereafter, NIESVs said the motion was then put to vote and the first and third plaintiffs were expelled on the decision of an overwhelming majority of members present at the AGM.
Meanwhile, the cause of the case, the court overruled some objections raised by the defence, describing one of the attempts as an abuse of court process; the court also dismissed the objection raised on service.
Drawing the curtain on a lone issue, whether the expulsion of both first and third plaintiffs were in done in compliance with the provisions of 2005 constitution of the first defendant, the court held the disciplinary power of NIESV is vested in the council and that the AGM of first defendant does not have the power to investigate and or penalize any member of the first defendant for professional misconduct.
The court added: “Even if the AGM has such power, the procedure followed by them in the expulsion of first and third plaintiffs is not in the spirit of their constitution.”
Lashing out on the defendants’ counsel attitude to the proceedings, the court held: “The only thing I gather from their behaviour is that the three of them is acting in concert to frustrate the hearing of this case from inception till now…No wonder they refused to file any written addresses because honestly they have nothing to canvass.”
Finally, Justice Anyadike, who did not make any order as to cost, decided all the issues in favour of the plaintiffs.