Federal High Court sitting in Abeokuta has ordered fresh investigation into the financial misappropriation leveled against the President of Abeokuta Club, Engr. Tokunbo Odebunmi.
Similarly, the court also awarded sum of two million naira as a cost in favour of the applicant, ESV. Babatunde Dokunmu who was illegally suspended from the club for revealing the alleged fraud.
It could be recalled that the financial allegation amounting to whopping sum N53m was brought into limelight by Dokunmu, one of the club members, while he urged the club management to investigate the matter.
In the beginning, Babatunde Dokunmu had earlier alleged that the President of the Abeokuta club, Engineer Tokunbo odebunmi had misappropriated the sum of fifty three million naira, the club money.
This led to the decision of the club to set up a panel to investigate this. The panel under Hon. Justice Bode Popoola, a retired High Court Judge invited Dokunmu to come and prove the allegations within 48 hours.
In his response, Dokunmu requested for a new date as he was on holiday outside the town as at that period. But in a twist, the panel did not find it funny, instead placed Dokunmu on six months suspension from the club activities.
In a suit no FHC/AB/CS/66/2021 filed at the Federal High Court in Abeokuta, an aggrieved member, Dokunmu had approached the court to challenge his unwarranted and illegal suspension from the club activities for some strange reasons.
Joined in the law suit from 1st-5th respondents were: The Incorporated Trustees of Abeokuta Club; Chief Olatunde Abudu (Life President); Engineer Tokunbo Odebunmi (President); Honourable Justice Bode Popoola (rtd.), and Chief Sesan Okutoro (Secretary).
An order of the court directed the club to constitute an independent panel to investigate the alleged misappropriation of the club’s money. A declaration that the suspension is illegal, unconstitutional null and void.
Justice Deinde Soremi led panel opined that Dokunmu was unduly punished. Submitted further that the panel that suspended Dokunmu was investigatory or merely advisory and not judicial or quasi-judicial body and therefore set aside the decision of the lower panel and considered the suspension null and void.
The court was also asked to deny the respondents the benefit of hiding behind the legal entity of the 1st Respondent to perpetrate fraud.
In a Counter Affidavit, the respondents argued that the 2nd,3rd, 4th and 5th defendants being officers of the 1st Defendants are not liable for their actions in the cause of duties assigned to them by virtue of their position.
In her preliminary rulling, the trial judge, affirmed that “Overall in the light of motions and objections on the position of the 2nd – 5th Respondents, the names are hereby struck out for being incompetent”
“Contrary to the respondent’s position that the respondent is a voluntary association, it is true that an investigative body exercising quasi-judicial functions, like the respondent in the circumstances of this case is bound to observe the rules of natural justice.”
In his rulling Hon Justice O. O. Oguntoyinbo said the court is constrained to agree with the position of the respondents. “Not only did the respondents hold the meeting, it went further to suspend the applicant.
“The case would have been entirely different if the applicant had ignored the respondent’s message or had intentionally declined to attend without giving a valid reason.”
The remaining area of conflict was then limited to whether from the circumstance of the case, the applicant was denied his constitutional right of fair hearing. Also, whether or not the suspension of the applicant from the Abeokuta Club is valid
Countering this claim, the applicants counsel submitted that by the facts before the court, the applicants has established fraudulent misappropriation of the club’s money, thus the 3rd respondent, Engineer Tokunbo odebunmi ‘s name must be mentioned.
“Since the decision to suspend the applicant was taken in breach of his right to fair hearing, it is only logical that the suspension amounts to nullity, consequently, the issue is also resolved in favour of the applicant ”
The judge also concluded by ordering fresh investigation into the financial misappropriation and award the sum of two million naira as a cost in favour of the applicant.