By Babajide Okeowo
An Appeal Court in Ibadan Judicial Division has finally ruled that draughts men are barred from undertaking any job that deals with submitting, preparing, signing and counter-signing any type of building plan in the country.
This judgment is coming after an eight-years legal tussle involving Nigerian Association of draughtsmen, Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) and Ogun State Government.
In reading the lead judgment in the appeal brought by the Nigerian Association of draughtsmen against ARCON and Ogun State Government, Justice Folasade Ojo described the appellant as an association of businessmen and women, hence no law permits them to draw architectural plans.
With this verdict, their lordships including Ojo, Abba Mohammed and Abdul-Azeez Waziri upheld a lower court’s verdict, which had agreed with the architects’ council.
The draughtsmen had rejected Ogun State High Court’s verdict and approached the Court of Appeal, Ibadan, under the aegis of Nigerian Association of Draughtsmen, approached the court with a goal to overturn the decision.
They contended that the trial court was wrong to uphold the Ogun State Urban and Regional Planning Law 2005, which had restrained its members from preparing, signing, countersigning and submitting for approval, any type of building plan.
Specifically, the case of the appellant at the lower court was that consequent upon the then Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Bola Ajibola’s authourisation and consent, the appellant took immediate steps and was registered as Nigerian Association of Draughtsmen to practice its profession as draughtsmen and with a certificate of Incorporation in 1989, which according to them empowered them to prepare, submit and counter sign any type of building without hindrance from any quarters.
But, 19 years before their registration, ARCON, the seventh respondent, had published a public notice wherein it restrained members of the draughtsmen from preparing, submitting and counter-signing any building plan save for domestic building within the then Western State.
That notice led to a suit between Nigerian Union of Registered Draughtsmen against Ogun State and ARCON as respondents.Judgments in that suit were in favour of the draughtsmen, as the court declared the public notice by ARCON illegal and ultra vires.
That decision was not appealed.But in 1990, 16 years later, the same issue resurfaced in another suit.
The matter, however, was settled by parties via a consent judgment.
Still, nobody appealed the consent judgment.
Following their relief from the court, the draughtsmen continued their business until June 4, 2012 when ARCON relying on the Architects Registration Act Cap A 19 LFN, 2004, wrote a letter to Ogun State Government and its agencies and requested them to stop collecting building plans from the draughtsmen.
Unsatisfied with the directive, the draughtsmen in 2013 filed another suit before Ogun State High Court.
In the suit, it contended that it had a subsisting consent judgment in its favour, hence, no organisation could hinder its members from undertaking any job of designing and submitting architectural designs to the ministry for approval.
The group contended that the trial court was wrong to have set aside the consent judgment on the ground that it was made per incuriam (gotten wrongfully).
While the appellant maintained that it got an unchallenged judicial verdict in its favour, ARCON argued that the appellant could rest on a consent judgment that was delivered ignorantly by the lower judge.
The architects’ council said the trial judge while upholding the consent judgment failed to take into consideration provisions of the Architects (Registration Etc) Act, which has effectively and bindingly regulated the subject matter that bothers on architectural design and presentation of such designs for approval.
In their verdict, the Appellate Court, which noted that Architects (Registration, etc) Act was amended before the consent judgment, said the court that entered the consent judgment had a duty to take into consideration ARCON’s Act before adopting the terms of settlement as its judgment, but it failed to do so.
Their lordships added: “Definitely, if the lower court had considered the Act, it would not have adopted the terms of settlement as its judgment. “With all the above in mind, I agree in toto with the lower court that the consent judgment was entered per incuriam.
The parties in the case in which the consent judgment was given did not disclose a material fact.“There is therefore a ground for the lower court to set aside the consent judgment and I hold.
I therefore hold that the consent judgment is no longer valid and subsisting. The lower court was right when it set it aside on the ground that it was entered per incuriam,” the lordships added.According to the court, “members of appellant, members of the appellant who are not registered architects are not entitled to prepare architectural plans and drawings and I hold.”
The court also concluded that, “since the appellant is not regulated by any statute and is not contemplated within the Exclusive Legislation competence of the National Assembly by virtue of item 49 in the Exclusive Legislative List, the inevitable conclusion is that its members are not competent or qualified to prepare, submit, sign or counter sign any type of building plan and I so hold.”