An Estate Association Cannot Disconnect Access To Electricity/Water Supply. Daily Law Tips (Tip 635) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)
Among the fundamental human rights in Nigeria, is the right to join and not to join an association. Association is FREE; no person can be forced to join an association. An association can only bind and control its members. Hence, persons bound by decisions of an estate’s association are the members of the association and not all residents and owners in the estate. Being an owner or resident of an estate or residential community cannot automatically make a person, a member of an association in the estate, unless the person agrees to join and did freely join such association.
I am not ignorant of the ugly practise, where estate developers and managers force/trick property owners, residents and tenants into their so called Estate Owners and Residents Associations. Some even include clauses deeming purchasers of property/tenants as automatic members of association of owners/tenants. This is nonsense and a clear violation of human rights of all persons forced/deceived into such association or made to obey the directives of such associations. You cannot force any person to associate and relate with his neighbor, co-owners, co-residents or colleagues, even if it is for the person’s good or common good of all. Association is free and not by force.
Hence, a person can be a resident or owner of a property in an estate, without being a member of the association of residents/owners/Landlords/tenants in the estate. Any provision in any constitution, agreement or decisions of an association in or of an estate/quarters/street/community that forces, deems or automatically makes people members is illegal, unconstitutional and a waste of time. Laughably, some constitutions/descisions of estate association include that all other forms or types of associations are prohibited in the estate. This is illegal and unlawful. No person, group of persons or association can limit, prohibit or stop the formation of lawful associations, it is a fundamental human right. Only a court of law can limit or restrict a fundamental human right.
On the main issue of this work, the decision of an association to buy an equipment cannot be forced on non-members of the association. Electricity supply and equipments are public utilities and only approved utility company staff can disconnect a user/customer in strictly adherence to the Connection and Disconnection Regulations of Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC). My earlier publications on Electricity Connection and Disconnection are available via the link below: https://sabilaw.org/?s=Disconnection+
It is a criminal offence for any person to disconnect or tamper with electricity installations in any part of Nigeria, including in estates, quarters and streets. It is an offence punishable with 21 years imprisonments. Details of this offence is contained in my earlier work via the link below:
If an estate/association discovers and generates its own electricity (with permit/license from NERC) or water supply, such utilities cannot be said to be public. Hence, the estate/association determines who gets access to such utilities. This is not the case where electricity or water supply is from the national grid/supply system/waterworks, in this case it is only the concerned company/government agency in charge of such utilities that determines who gets supply and not an estate/association.
Where an estate or association purchases an equipment for the generation, transmission or supply of public utilities, that is at best a commendable kind gesture. It does not accord ownership of public utilities on such estate or association. Consequently, all persons, including strangers and non-members of the estate association have equal rights to the concerned pubic utilities.
A simple example is where owners of plots 1, 2 and 3 teams up to repair a public road after contacting plots 4, 5, and 6 to join and the later refused. Owners of Plots 1, 2 and 3 having done the road, cannot stop owners of plots 4, 5, and 6 and the general public from access the public road. It is a public road to be maintained by government, so any private effort to assist government on the road is charity and there is no rewards, entitlements or preferential treatment.
Below are the words of the courts on the issue of associations and their conducts:
“In the exercise of his right to freedom of assembly and association, a citizen has no right to infringe on another’s enjoyment of the same right. It is the right of every citizen to decide which association or group of persons are in the best position to protect his interests. No association or group of persons can arrogate to itself the authority to make that determination on behalf of another.” Per KEKERE-EKUN ,J.S.C ( Pp. 42-43, paras. D-E ) in the case of REGISTERED TRUSTEES OF ASSOCIATION OF TIPPERS AND QUARRY OWNERS OF NIG v. YUSUF & ORS (2011) LPELR-5024(CA)
We must all learn to live freely without violating rights of others. Persons whose rights have been violated or may be violated, can go to court and seek restraining orders as well as huge monetary damages against the concerned associations and the persons behind them. Speak to your lawyer today!
1. Sections 1, 40, 319 and 320 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
2. Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission’s Connection and Disconnection Procedures For Electricity Services, 2007.
3. Sections 1(10) and 5 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, 1983.
4. The judgement of the Court of Appeal (on association must be free) in the case of REGISTERED TRUSTEES OF ASSOCIATION OF TIPPERS AND QUARRY OWNERS OF NIG v. YUSUF & ORS (2011) LPELR-5024(CA)
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