Legal battle over the regulation of real estate transactions in Lagos state is expected to move to the appellate court, following the lower court’s affirmation of the government’s power to regulate the sector.
The Guardian learned that the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON) and the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) have met with their lawyers and agreed to appeal the judgment.
ESVARBON and NIESV had dragged the Lagos State Government and its Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, before a Federal High Court, Lagos, as the authorities move to regulate all real estate transactions within its domain.
In the suit, which has the Lagos State Government and the State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, as first and second respondents respectively, the applicants in their originating motion, claimed that they are the ‘sole body’ created by law in Nigeria to determine persons who are to become estate surveyors and valuers.
ESVARBON, the first applicant, specifically claimed that by virtue of Section 2 of the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria Act Cap E13 LFN 2007 and Section 1 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, it was unconstitutional for Lagos State Government to create an entity known as the Lagos State Estate Agency Regulatory Authority (LASRERA) that compels registration of all estate surveyors and valuers practising in the State.
The applicants also argued that under Section 4 (6) – (9) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) or any other Section or Schedule of the same Constitution, the Lagos State House of Assembly lacked the legislative power to enact a bill to regulate the practice of estate surveying and valuation.
Consequently, the applicants sought an order restraining the respondents whether by themselves, agents, servants, and/or privies from implementing, enforcing, in any way or manner whatsoever and howsoever giving effect or further effect to the directives of compulsory registration with Lagos State Government.
The applicants’ application was supported by a 24-paragraph affidavit with seven (7) exhibits attached thereto and marked “Exhibits 1 -7” respectively, sworn to by one Felix Ikre an assistant registrar in the 1st applicant’s office.
In opposition, the respondents filed a Counter affidavit of 28 paragraphs deposed to by one Bosede Fasayede, a chief state counsel in the attorney general’s chambers with an exhibit attached marked “Exhibit LASG” as well as a written address dated and filed on the 30th day of November 2020.
The respondent urged the court to determine whether having regard to the provision of Section 4(2) and (3) of the Constitution, Lagos State Government has the power to enact the Lagos State Real Estate Agency Regulatory Authority Law, 2007 Law of Lagos State, Cap L28, Laws of Lagos State, 2015.
They also filed a notice of preliminary objection dated November 30, 2020, praying the court for an order striking out the applicants’ suit as presently constituted.
The objection was based on the ground that the action was wrongly commenced by way of judicial review against the executive and legislative actions of the respondents.
The respondents argued that the action by its nature is a challenge to the constitutionality of the actions of officials of Lagos State Government under a law enacted by the House of Assembly of Lagos State and therefore not one of the matters within the judicial competence of the Federal High Court as conferred by Section 251 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
They further challenged the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
In a judgment delivered on March 22, 2021, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, found the respondents/applicants’ notice of preliminary objection, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to adjudicate on the matter meritorious.
The judge consequently struck out the originating motion for lacking in merit.
Reacting, Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), said the court by the verdict upheld the powers of the Lagos State Government to establish a regulatory agency for estate agents trading in Lagos State.
The state further called on all practitioners to abide by the Lagos State Estate Regulatory Authority (LASRERA) law and register with the agency in line with the determination of the government to protect the general public, ensure genuine persons and organisations possess the required platform to practice their trade.
But the applicants said they would appeal the verdict at the court of appeal, expressing confidence that the lower court’s decision will not stand the test of time.