From Matthew Irinoye, Lagos
Justice James Tsoho of a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, yesterday, declared as unconstitutional for the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), to impose new number plates on motorists in the Country.
The judge made the pronouncement while delivering judgment in a suit filed by a lawyer, Emmanuel Ofoegbu, against the FRSC.
The plaintiff had filed the suit on September 30, 2013 through a Human Rights Activists, Mr Ogedi Ogu of “The Source” challenging the power of the Commission, to impound vehicles of motorists who failed to acquire the new numbers.
It would be recalled that the plaintiff had sought a declaration that the threat by the respondents to impound vehicles of motorists, who failed to acquire the new number plates, was invalid and unconstitutional.
In his statement of facts, the plaintiff averred that the old plate numbers were issued under the provisions of the National Road Traffic Regulations (NRTR) 2004.
He contended that the NRTR 2004, is a subsidiary legislation made under the FRSC Act, Laws of the Federation as revised in 2004.
According to the plaintiff, the NRTR 2012, in Regulations 230 (2), provides that “the revocation of the 2004 Regulations, shall not affect anything done, or purported to be done pursuant to that Regulation”
Ofoegbu maintained that there is no law made in accordance with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which prohibits the use of the old plate numbers, or declares its use as an offence.
The lawyer had also argued that the threat by the respondent to impound vehicles and arrest motorists who failed to comply with the October 1 deadline, was a gross violation of the provisions of 36 (12) of the constitution which guarantees the rights of individuals.
He had therefore urged the court to declare as unlawful, the threat by the respondent, to arrest motorists using the old plate numbers, because there is no law validly made in accordance with the constitution, prohibiting its user
The applicant had also sought an order of injunction restraining the defendants from impounding vehicles or otherwise arresting or harassing motorists who failed to acquire the new plate number.
However, while delivering the judgment, Justice Tsoho held that it was unlawful for the respondent to impose the new number plates on motorists, where there was no existing law permitting same.
“The issue of redesigning new number plates by the respondent, is not covered under the provisions of any law in Nigeria.
“The respondent cannot force Nigerians to acquire new plate numbers by impounding cars, without the backing of any legislation to that effect.
“I hold that the act of the respondent amounts to an arbitrary use of power, and is therefore illegal and unconstitutional.
“Judgment is therefore entered in favour of the plaintiff, and all the reliefs sought is hereby granted, I so hold” he said