Loan Palaver, , ICAN , Dr Catherine Okparek,
A Federal high court sitting in Lagos south west Nigeria has struck out suit instituted by the former President of Institute of chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN) Dr Catherine Okpareke, against ICAN.
The judgement was delivered by Zoom on 7th of June,2021.
The former ICAN boss filed the suit urging the court to determine whether by virtue of paragraph 1.2.0.(e) and 1.2.5.of chapter 1 of the professional code of conduct and guide of members,and section 12(1)(a)of the ICAN Act cap 185 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 her failure to repay personal loan of N15 million borrowed from one Mrs Ada Chidume Okoro amounts to professional misconduct capable of being investigated and tried by ICAN Disciplinary Tribunal.
The presiding judge,Ayokunle Faji, in his judgement, declared that, the suit instituted by Dr Okpareke was premature and pre-emptive, incompetent and accordingly struck out.
According to affidavit sworn to by a litigation officer Rasaq Adamo and filed before the court by a Lagos lawyer Chibuzor Okpara, the deponent averred that Catherine Okpareke who was the 42nd president of the Institute of Chartered Accountant, sought and obtained a friendly loan of N15million from one Mrs Ada Chidume- Okoro,also a chartered Accountant; to compliment her logistics to finance the purchase and shipment of goods to Ghana.
It was her promise and firm undertaken to Mrs Chidume-Okoro that on successful execution of the business,she would repay her the borrowed sum with interest as a sign of good faith and appreciation, unfortunately the business failed,she lost her investment and her benefactor’s loan of N15MILLION till date.
Despite the loss of her investment,she was still committed to the refund of the money borrowed from Ada Chidume-Okoro.
However, while she was struggling to recover from the shock of loss of her investment,she became seriously ill and had to be flown to the United State of America for medical attention since 2018 and she had been away from Nigeria on health ground till date, and while still away,she is still committed to repay her obligations including that of Mrs Ada Chidume-Okoro.
Consequently,Dr Okpareke was surprise when she was informed of professional misconduct bordering on the said personal business transaction between her and Mrs.Ada Chidume-Okoro.She has also been arraigned before the disciplinary Tribunal of the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria on matters bordering on personal transactions as against professional issues.
Consequently,it will be overall interest of Justice for the court to determine whether the disciplinary Tribunal of ICAN possess the jurisdiction to mediate and or subject a member to disciplinary measures on account of personal business transactions.
However,in a counter affidavit swron to by the officer of ICAN Adedamola Adedokun and filed before the court, by a Lagos lawyer Funke Loko,the Accounting body averred that it received a complaint dated November 6,2017 together with a sworn affidavit dated 7th June,2017 against Dr.Catherine Okpareke.
In the said complaint which had 5 exihibits attached, the complainant Mrs.Ada Chidume-Okoro alleged that sometime in August 2016, the plaintiff approached her for a personal loan of N15million to carry out urgent business, that the plaintiff would in return repay the complainant within two weeks the sum of N45 million re-presenting the interest and the principal sum and the complainant claimed that she shortly thereafter advanced the said sum to the plaintiff.
However the plaintiff had since failed and neglected to repay the principal loan amount and the agreed interest despite repeated demands.
That upon receipt of the complaint and in line with its procedures by a letter dated December 19,2017 the panel secretariat requested for the plaintiff’s comments to the complaint within 14 days of receipt of the letter, subsequently reminders were sent, the plaintiff and the complainant were summoned to appear before the panel investigating the matter.but the plaintiff failed to turn up,thereafter the matter was referred to Accountants Displinary Tribunal for prosecution on act of professional misconduct.
Surprisingly, the plaintiff instead of continuing the process at the Tribunal filed this legal action in order to sidetrack the Tribunal’s jurisdiction despite being aware the ICAN’s decision can only be appealed against at the Court of Appeal.
Consequently the defendant is urging the court to dismiss the suit,as the plaintiff is not entitled to the reliefs sought in her originating summons
However, Justice Faji in his verdict,said “With clear provision of section 21(6)and (7), the plaintiff has jumped the gun by going to the high court for a declaration. Despite section 235 of the Constitution, the legal procedural steps must be utilized fully before jurisdiction can vest.
It also seems to me that the process in section 12(5) of the ICAN Act can only come into play after the exhaustion of the internal remedies created by law and after the Tribunal has reached a verdict.There should be fidelity to the internal mechanisms created by law for members of a professional association.
This action therefore seems to be premature and pre-emptive. It is incompetent and is hereby struck out.”