A lawyer walks through the compound at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi district in Lagos, Nigeria, May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

The Federal High Court in Ibadan has stopped the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria from forcefully registering as members anyone involved in providing information technology and computer services.

Justice N. Ayo-Emmanuel said the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria Act (Control and Supervisory Regulation) 2010 did not expect it to be engaging in trivialities.

Rather, the judge said the Act established the Council to create core professionals in the computer industry.

He was delivering judgment in case No FHC/IB/CS/23/2009 filed on May 13, 2009, by an Ibadan-based IT retail firm, Citadel Oracle Concept Limited.

Citadel Oracle had sought the order of the court to restrain the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria from compelling its managing director, Benjamin Joseph, and the staff of the company to register as its members against their will.

In its application, counsel to the company, O. Echo, asked the court to declare that as a limited liability company, Citadel Oracle did not fall within the category of organisations expected to register with the computer professionals group.

Besides, Mr Echo also asked the court to declare that Computer Professionals lacked the capacity to compel Citadel Oracle to register with it.

The institution of the suit followed an incident in which Citadel Oracle’s offices and the business outlet at Ajibade House, Iya-Olobe Area, Ekotedo, Ibadan, were broken into and normal business activities disrupted by Computer Professionals’ officials on April 28, 2009.

Citadel Oracle demanded a N700,000 payment as damages for losses the company suffered during the incident.

In a counter application, Computer Professionals wanted the court to rule that considering the statutory responsibilities of Computer professionals and the business of Citadel Oracle, the former has the right to demand the registration of the latter with it.

Also, the group asked for an injunction restraining Citadel Oracle from continuing to render computer professional services of repairing and maintenance of computer systems, provision of information technology (IT) services, and selling of computer accessories, consumables and other electronic products without registering with the Council as members.

In addition, the group asked the court to direct Citadel Oracle to pay N9.6 million to it, being the amount the company and ten of its staff ought to have paid to regularize their membership.

The payment, the council said, would cover the purchase of registration forms, payment of registration and annual renewal/subscription as a corporate body and individual members since 2009 when they ought to have registered.

In delivering its judgment, the court reviewed the provisions of the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria Act; Control and Supervisory Regulations 2010; and Services Constituting Practice as a registered member of Computing Professional Regulation, 2015.

Section 1(1) and (2) of the Act said the objective of the Council was for advancing the knowledge of computer science and the use of computational machinery and techniques.

To be qualified to be registered as a member of the defendant (Computer Professionals), the Act said prospective members must meet all criteria set down.

In his ruling, Justice Ayo-Emmanuel said going by the provisions of the two laws, it was clear the Council was created for the interest of core professionals who must write and pass certain examinations to be qualified to be members.

Consequently, he said the Council could not be seen to be compelling everybody, including traders on the streets who sell or repair computers, or those who have anything to do with Information Technology, to register with it against their will.

“The above-quoted provisions of the Act are very clear and unambiguous and as such must be given its ordinary and grammatical meaning,” the judge said.

“The Act tends to create core professionals in the computer industry, which can be regulated like any other profession. The Act does not make room for trivialism.

“In implementing the Act, the defendant cannot be seen to be compelling everybody, including traders on the streets who sells or repairs of computers or who has anything to do with Information Technology to be registered with it. That will definitely be outside the objective of the Act,” he said.

Justice Ayo-Emmanuel rejected Citadel Oracle’s request for a N700,000 compensation without records of its daily sales.

The judge also dismissed the counter-claim filed by the Council for a declaration that Citadel Oracle’s refusal to register with it was unlawful.

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