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Woman sues colleagues over alleged misconduct trial

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For setting up a panel, which she considered unconstitutional to try her over an allegation of misconduct, an estate surveyor and valuer, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Ilori, has sued the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) at the Federal High Court, Lagos.

She is asking the court to order the respondents to pay her N25million damages for the inconveniences, out of pocket expenses, and the opprobrium she suffered as a result of the “unlawful/wrongful proceedings and publications thereof”.

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The other respondents in the suit are the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON) and Sir Nweke Umezuruike.

The applicant, through her counsel Mr J.D. Oloyede, said they subjected her to public opprobrium through the publication of her trial in social media and national daily.

She is praying for a declaration that Section 13 (1) of the Estate Surveyors and Valuers’ Decree No. 24 of 1975 (now CAP E. 13 LFN 2007) is unconstitutional, null and void, and of no effect whatsoever because it is inconsistent with Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, which guarantees fair hearing.

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She is also praying for a declaration that there is no investigating panel of NIESV that is recognised as a juristic person known to law and capable of suing and being sued for the purpose of disciplining an erring member of the NIESV in terms of the charge numbered ESVDT/27/7/01/20202 (between Investigating Panel vs ESV (Mrs) Toyin llori).

The plaintiff wants the court to declare that the constitution of the NIESV panel, headed by Umezuruike to try her, breaches all known rules of natural justice, particularly Section 36, Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Mrs Ilori is praying the court to hold that the whole proceedings of July 27 and 28, 2020, in so far as they offend constitutional provisions, amount to a nullity and must be set aside in relation to the plaintiff.

She is also seeking an order invoking the provisions of Section 315(3) of the Constitution and declaring null and void the provisions Section 13 (1) of the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Decree No. 24 of 1975 (now CAP E. 13 LFN 2007) for being unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect to the extent of its inconsistency with Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution.

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She also seeks an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Tribunal from further proceeding with her trial, as well as an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Tribunal, ESVARBON or NIESV from further publication of the proceedings of the tribunal concerning her.

The plaintiff said Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees the fundamental right to a fair hearing, therefore the rules and practice of fair hearing must mandatorily be observed in all tribunal proceedings, be it administrative, judicial, or quasi-judicial.

“The ESVARBON Tribunal Panel as constituted, as well as the conduct of its proceedings, is in breach of the fundamental rules of fair hearing, particularly the ones relating to the impartiality of such tribunals.

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“It is a fundamental requirement that any panel empowered to determine rights and impose sanctions on a person shall strictly comply with rules of natural justice and discharge its duties in a manner to underscoring its independence, which feature is absent in ESVARBON,” the applicant said.

According to her, she was falsely accused of “surreptitiously colluding” with Messrs Oserepal Nigeria Ltd to secure and execute compensation/valuation jobs, especially that of the Calabar-Oban-Ekang Road in Cross River State.

She said she was given 14 days to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against her, but just seven days into the 14 days, she was asked to appear before the panel to answer for a case of misconduct.

“I was never availed any written report or complaint from any person or quarters to warrant the investigation and trial,” she said.

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She said on getting to the venue of the ESVARBON Disciplinary Tribunal, she discovered that a four-man panel had been set up to try her.

The applicant said the fact that the tribunal was set up before the 14 days had elapsed, and without being allowed to respond to the accusatory letter, showed that the panel had arrived at a pre-determined conclusion.

Worse still, she said after the day’s proceedings, ESVARBON “resorted to social media and other dailies to publish reports” of her being prosecuted.

She said the Tribunal subsequently adjourned indefinitely, which is “a ruse to cover up for the shoddy preparation for my unwarranted prosecution”.

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Mrs Ilori said the delay in the trial has put her goodwill and integrity in her professional capacity under great stress, “especially due to the barrage of misinformation in tabloids and other platforms seen and read all over the world.”

She said: “Two very good clients of mine have withdrawn lucrative jobs from me on account of all they have read about me on account of my persecution by the defendants.”

The applicant also filed a separate motion seeking an order for a stay of further proceedings of the Tribunal pending determination of the substantive suit.

“Irreversible damage will occur if this proceeding of ESVARBON Disciplinary Tribunal/Panel against the plaintiff/applicant has not stayed,” Mrs Ilori said.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the matter.

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