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HND graduates contest ARCON’s plan to transfer suit

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Legal moves by the Architect Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) to seek transfer of the suit filed against it by Higher National Diploma (HND) graduates to Lagos have met a stiff opposition.

The HND graduates had dragged their professional body, ARCON to a Federal High Court, Akure for allegedly discriminating against their certificates.Usually, the graduates were allowed to rise to the pinnacle of the profession through the Finals I and II examinations after a long duration, which was suspended in 2016.

Also, HND graduates who had acquired further qualifications such as PGD, MSc and PhD were disallowed from writing the Professional Practice Examination (PPE) and Architects Competence Programme (ACP) by ARCON.

Consequently, the aggrieved HND holders have in the suit urged the court to reinstate their rights by compelling ARCON to recognise the Finals Iand II exams for HND holders.

They also asked the court to compel ARCON to recognize and accept PGD certificate as obtainable in other sister professional bodies such as Nigerian society of Engineers (NSE), Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS) among others.

Finally, they further want the court to compel ARCON to fully recognized HND holders who had PGD, MSc and PhD for the ACP and PPE.The prayers hinged on the fact that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently directed that the Higher National Diploma (HND) certificate will remain a legal tender in Nigeria and that holders of such certificate be recognised as the equivalent of first-degree holders without discrimination in remunerations and limit to progression in the work place, architects in Nigeria have not complied with the position.

Similarly, the National Council on Establishments (NCE) had in a circular dated March 26, 2018, approved Post Graduate Diploma (PDG) as a bridge to acquiring a master’s degree in the relevant field to qualify HND holders into officers’ cadre.

In the circular signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ndubuisi Osuji on behalf of the Head of Service, NCE also allowed those who posses professional qualifications and professional bodies approved by it and included in the schemes of service such as the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN), the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN) among others in addition to the HND are also eligible for conversion into officer cadre and can advance beyond senior grade level 14 (SGL 14).

They contended that while other professional bodies in environmental science have long complied, the regulatory body for architects in Nigeria, ARCON has not. But in a motion on notice filed by counsel to ARCON, the regulatory body is seeking a court order transferring the matter to Lagos on the ground that that the cause of action do not arose from Akure, neither does the defendant lives in Akure.

At the hearing of the matter before Justice Audu Dogo last week, ARCON contended in the motion supported by a six-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Adeniyi Otegbade, the assistant director, regulation of ARCON, that it will be very inconvenient to drag it and her witnesses to Akure instead of Lagos or Abuja where it has offices and keep her records to defend the case.

Opposing the motion, the plaintiffs urged the court to strike out the whole process to wit – the purported application, the affidavit in support and the written address filed on 14/01/2019 same being incompetent and since there is nothing upon which the affidavit in support of the applicant’s application can rest.

They submitted that since the Defendant in has filed its statement of defence and submitted to the jurisdiction of the court by not stating specially in its defence its grounds and reasons for transfer of this case in it statement of defence, the court is very well empowered by the law and the Constitution of Nigeria to hear this case to its conclusion.They also contended that the application was brought in bad faith to delay the hearing and justice of this case.

The plaintiffs also argued that applications for the examination programmes where done through online and not in Lagos or Abuja and also about three of the plaintiffs reside in Akure, hence the matter be heard in Akure. According to them, it will be in the interest of justice that the application is rejected.Ruling on the application has been fixed for April 11, 2019.


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