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Exclusive! Court intervenes in Lagos Motor Boat Club Crisis

Coker, through his lawyer filed an Originating Summons asking the court to determine 19 issues that bother on the running and conduct of elections according to rules, regulations and bye- laws of the club. Pinheiro also filed an application for interlocutory injunction seeking to restrain the defendants from conducting the AGM.

The deepening crisis that hit a Lagos elitist club, Lagos Motor Boat Club, Ikoyi, Lagos took a legal dimension two days ago when a member, Babajide Coker filed a suit before a Federal High Court, Lagos seeking to stop the club from holding its Annual General meeting scheduled to hold on Thursday, June 17,2021 and the subsequent elections.

The suit which was filed by Coker’s lawyer, Kemi Pinheiro SAN, have the Registered Trustees of the club, Dr Dapo Majekodunmi, Mr Babajide Balogun, Babashola Alokolaro, and Ladi Ani Mumuny as defendants.

Coker, through his lawyer filed an Originating Summons asking the court to determine 19 issues that bother on the running and conduct of elections according to rules, regulations and bye- laws of the club. Pinheiro also filed an application for interlocutory injunction seeking to restrain the defendants from conducting the AGM.

Besides, the lawyer in a letter dated June 15, 2021, and addressed to the ‘Commodore’ of the club reminded the defendants of the consequences of not abiding by the processes filed before the court.

The letter reads:

“We write as solicitors to Babajide Coker of 24B, Elegba, Festival Drive, Oniru Estate, Lagos (“Our Client”), an Ordinary Member of the Registered Trustees of the Lagos Motor Boat Club “the club”).

On the instruction of our client, we instituted Suit No: FHC/L/CS/578/2021 between Babajide Coker v. Registered Trustees of the Lagos Motor Boat Club and 6 Ors. challenging, inter alia, the disenfranchisement of our client in the elections in respect of officers and members of the committee of the club held sometimes in October, 2020 and his subsequent expulsion, albeit unlawful, which was purportedly “commuted” to a six-month suspension.

Contemporaneously with the filing of the above suit, we also filed on behalf of our client a motion on notice for interlocutory injunction, seeking the following reliefs:

(1.) AN ORDER OF INTERLOCUTORY INJUNCTION, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit, restraining the Defendants/ Respondent whether by themselves or through the trustees, administrators, officers, and employees of the 1st Defendant/ Respondent or the Respondents’ nominees, privies, agents, proxies, servants or such other person(s) howsoever described from holding, conducting or proceeding with the 1st Defendant/ Respondent’s Annual General meeting scheduled to be held or conducted on the 17th day of June, 2021 or any other designated day or time and/ or any other general meeting or meeting of the 1st Defendant, howsoever described.

(2.) AN ORDER OF INTERLOCUTORY INJUNCTION, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit, restraining the Defendants/ Respondent whether by themselves or through the trustees, administrators, officers, and employees of the 1st Defendant/ Respondent or the Respondents’ nominees, privies, agents, proxies, servants or such other person(s) howsoever described from conducting or proceeding with elections, whether at its Annual General Meeting or at any meeting whatsoever, into the offices of officers or members of the Committee of the 1st Defendant/ Respondent or any other office affected by the reliefs sought in this suit.

Copies of the Originating Summons and the Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction are attached as Annexures A and B respectively.

The position of the law is that where a dispute has been submitted to a Court for adjudication, and more particularly where there is also pending before that Court an application for interlocutory injunction, the party against whom the suit is brought and the order of injunction is sought is under an inescapable obligation to refrain from taking any further action (s) with respect to the subject matter of litigation. In Ebebi & Ors. v. Denwigwe & Ors. (2011) LPELR-4909(CA) the Court held categorically that:

“On the position of the law, that where proceedings are pending before a court wherein injunctive reliefs are sought, the party against whom the injunctive reliefs are sought, is under obligation to refrain from doing that which is sought to be restrained, even when no temporary order of injunction may have been granted; See also Adefarati V. Governor Ondo State (2006) 1NWLR (pt.960) 145 at 157”

On the strength of the foregoing, we advise that the Club desists from taking any step(s) that is capable of having an impact on the pending suit and the reliefs sought in the motion on notice for injunction, including but not limited to conducting the club’s Annual general Meeting scheduled for the 17th day of June, 2021 and/ or proceeding with the elections into principal offices in the Committee of the club at any such Annual general meeting or any other meeting of the club, howsoever described.

Any step taken during the pendency of this suit towards conducting any Annual general Meeting of the club and/ or proceeding with the elections into principal offices of the Committee at the club’s scheduled Annual general meeting or any other meeting of the club, howsoever described, will not only amount to an affront to the authority of the Court but will be a contemptuous act punishable under Section 126 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 which provides that:

 any person who conspires with another to obstruct, prevent or pervert or defeat the course of justice is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years”.

In light of the above therefore, should the club take any step in obvious disregard for the Court and the pending motion on notice for interlocutory injunction, we shall not hesitate to commence against the principal officers of the club proceedings relating to contempt of Court.

The club is therefore advised to hold all actions and/ or businesses in abeyance pending the determination of parties’ rights in the above captioned suit”.

Gavel International had on January 21, 2021 reported the crisis that has threatened to tear the club apart. The story was titled “Lagos Motor Club Crisis Deepens”.

Below is the story:

Lagos Motor Boat Club, the elitist and exclusive club of the nouveau riche in Lagos is in crisis that is threatening to tear it apart, if care is not taken.

What started as regular election of the officers of the club has gone awry to the extent that two senior members, Senator Olatokunbo Ogunbanjo, and Mr Babajide Coker have been suspended indefinitely.

On their own part, the two, believing the suspension is wrong and illegal, have briefed a lawyer to sue the club, and those behind their suspension, to uphold their rights as bona fide members.

The Lagos Motor Boat Club is one of the legacies of the British colonial government, handed down to the Nigerian elites before Independence. It is an incorporated Association founded in January, 1950 but registered on the 12th of May, 1950 with registration number 271 with the following as its aims and objectives. It is also duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

Trouble started in October 2020 when Mr Coker signified his intention to run as an executive member of the club. His decision to run was premised on the service he rendered to the club in 2019, which all members of the club claimed to be very successful.

However, before he could place his nomination, the Commodore, Dapo Majekodunmi, upon instructions of the club trustee, Prince Francis Awogboro, instructed Coker not to run. Coker, seeing no reasonable reason not to contest, went ahead, got two members, Senator Ogunbanjo, and Lanre Towry-Coker, to signe his nomination form..

Now, the rule of the club states that once nomination is placed on the club’s board, no one is permitted to remove or deface it. But Prince Awogboro, seeing the name of Coker on the board, allegedly got angry and canceled the names and that of the nominees.

Not satisfied, the trustee caused a query to be written to Coker by the Secretary of the club, Babajide Balogun, demanding an explanation for going against the verbal instruction that he should not run.

The query stated: “You will recall the communication made to you verbally by the Commodore on the direction issued by the Trustee, Prince Awogboro that as a consequence of the disorder and tension ongoing in the club, you refrain from participating in the upcoming club elections. It is now noted that your name now appears in the nomination’s board. Kindly provide an explanation why you have seemingly chosen to disregard the said directive”.

Coker was given four days, October 20, 2020 to reply to the query. His reply was found to be unsatisfactory and subsequently, he was expelled from the club.

Coker’s expulsion did not go down well with Ogunbajo and Towry-Coker. At the Annual General Meeting(AGM) of the club on November 5, 2020, Sen Ogunbanjo raised serious objection to the expulsion in what another member called “in eerie silence from all members of the club”.

Again, this objection did not go down well with Prince Awogboro and Ogunbanjo was prevailed upon to apologize to the elderly trustee.

Unsatisfied with the apology, Prince Awogboro wrote a petition to the Secretary. The petition was dated November 10, 2020.

He stated: ” I wish to draw your attention to night of the AGM on the 5th of November, 2020.whereby Senator Tokunbo Ogunbanjo in a speech unprecedented at the AGM insulted and disparaged me and the office of a Trustee in view of members, management, and the staff. I must confess heard(sic) defies believe;

As a Yoruba man and an elder, to hear a Yoruba man young enough to be my son uttering a proverb that amounts to disrobing me of my dignity and disgracing me publicly. He assaulted the foundation of my person, my culture, and my role in the club as a trustee. I was only restrained by the Almighty God in His wisdom from intemperate action;

His allegations and comments on the office of the trustee are grave and undermine our club as an institution, as well as bring the affairs of the club to disrepute;

I must state that as the custodian of this great club I must defend it and protect it to the best of my ability. I presume the meeting was recorded and the details of his speech can therefore be recalled. I hereby respectfully request an immediate investigation of this incident, and that a hearing be conducted by the committee”.

Flowing from the trustee’s petition, a query was issued to Senator Ogunbanjo to explain why disciplinary actions should not be taken against him over his conduct at the AGM. The senator replied, asking for the records of the meeting. He was directed to contact the office for the video recording of the meeting. He did and replied to the query.

The committee, not satisfied with his reply, asked him for further explanations, and to appear before the committee. Ogunbanjo obliged.

On December 8, 2020, the club in a letter signed by the Honorary Secretary, Babasola Alokolaro suspended Sen Ogunbanjo indefinitely.

The letter reads: “We further reviewed your response to Prince F.O Awogboro’s petition dated 10th November, 2020. We have also considered the information you provided to us at our meeting with you this evening;

On the preponderance of the evidence put before us, we find your conduct at 2020 Annual General Meeting, and complain by Prince F.O Awogboro has put the club into disrepute and prejudicial to the common purpose of the club. Accordingly, in line with the provisions of rule 8 of our club rules, the committee has decided to suspend you indefinitely from the Lagos Motor Club, with immediate effect.

Since the suspension, things have not been the same in the club. It has pitched members in different opposites. A member told thegavel.com.ng “Letters are just flying up and down. It’s getting more interesting, to say the least.

Of interest is the fact that legal practitioners in the club seems to be in midst of the crisis, pitting themselves in opposing camps. This include Demola Akinrele SAN, Eyimofe Atake SAN, Ogunbanjo, Yinka Akinkugbe, and a host of others.

Thegavel.com.ng investigations revealed that the parties may soon be heading for the courts in resolution of the crisis. Already, a party may have written a petition to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to intimate the regulatory body on the crisis within the club.

The long knives is drawn and only time will tell if the members will sheath their swords and safe the elitist club.

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