The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, has called on the just inaugurated Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON) disciplinary tribunal, to ensure integrity and fairness in the course of performing its duties.
Citing the trust reposed in the tribunal members, Onnoghen made the charge at the inauguration of the 12-man tribunal member, headed by Sir Nweke Umezueruike, with an assessor, who is an appointee of the CJN, Barrister Kenneth Ahia and Ifeanyi Uzonwanne. the Registrar, ESVARBON, as the Secretary.
Other members of the tribunal include President of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuer (NIESV), Rowland Abonta, Messrs Peter Ozili, Victor Alonge, Olurotimi Onabanjo and Joachin Onyike, an Associate Professor.
Others include Messrs Elsie Richard, Stephen Mayaki, Sola Fatoki, Omotola Nwazomoh and Prof. G.O. Udo, all estate surveyors.
While inaugurating the tribunal, a notary public, barrister Okafor, who performed the duty on behalf of the CJN, urged members to be above board in discharge of their duties.
According to him, the tribunal is the most important extra-judicial tribunal in the country given the fact that its decisions are appeal-able only to the highest court in the land.
He said with this responsibility placed on them, it shows the trust of the CJN on the member, thereby urging them not to let Onnoghen and the entire public down.
Comparing the ESVARBON’s tribunal to other professional bodies’ tribunal, Okafor said while others’ decision were appeal-able at the Court of Appeal, the one for the estate surveyors could only be appealed at the apex court in the land.
In his reaction, the Tribunal chairman said the tribunal, which is empowered by section 13 of the ESVARBON Act, would no longer wait for all matters to be reported to it.”Therefore, going forward, the tribunal is empowered to take up any matter over which it has cognizance.
“According to the Act that establishes the tribunal, it charges it with the duty of considering and determining any case referred to it by the investigating panel and any other case of which the tribunal has cognizance”,said Umezueruike, who vowed to rid the estate surveying’ fold of bad eggs, promising to discharge its duties without fear of favour.
According to him, while every registered person believes that the Board has the big stick, not many of them have seen the big stick wielded, which may have made people feel the board is toothless or that it has teeth but does not bite.
Sir Umezueruike stressed that the tribunal will start work with an impending case, which the investigative panel has already established a prima facie case.
The tribunal, he said will prove to the Nigerian public that it is serious and will work without fear or favour.
He therefore urged members of the public to come out with any grievances against any registered members.
The chairman added: “While every registered person believes that the board has the big stick, not many have seen the big stick wielded. That may have made people feel that the board is toothless or that it has teeth but cannot bite.
“In the area of enforcement of discipline, it is no longer going to be business as usual. The board may have waited for cases of professional misconduct to be reported to it, without using the powers conferred on it by Section 13 of the Act setting it up. That section charges the tribunal with the duty of considering and determining any case referred to it by the investigating panel and any other case of which the tribunal has cognizance.”
According to him, no group can call itself a profession unless there are rules guiding the practitioners. “Over the years, we have heard complaints of professionals who have not behaved properly. The board has not been able to show to members of the public that proper behaviour is expected of all members. The board will not just enforce discipline, but is also willing to wield the big stick.
“Having noticed that, and willing to guide the Board and the tribunal to start taking on such cases of which it has cognizance, I wish to take this opportunity to encourage members of the public not to continue shying away from making complaints to the Board. People should not just complain if they suffer loss by the action of the registered persons. There is now hope for redress,” he added.