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Friday, 28 March 2014

FRSC Can’t Impound Vehicles With Old Number Plates – Court



FRSC OFFICERS
Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court Lagos yesterday declared that the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) had no legal authority to impose new number plates on motorists in the country.
The judge also held that the ongoing exercise by the FRSC to replace the old number plate with a new one is illegal and unconstitutional because there is no law empowering it to carry out the exercise.
Justice Tsoho made the declaration yesterday while delivering judgment in a suit filed by a Lagos lawyer, Emmanuel Ofoegbu, against the FRSC.
Ofoegbu, in the suit, had challenged the power of the commission to impound vehicles of motorists who failed to acquire the new numbers, arguing that there is no law validly made in accordance with the constitution prohibiting the use of the old number plate.
Justice Tsoho agreed with the lawyer, declaring that it was unlawful for the FRSC 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 are hereby granted, I so hold,” the court held.
The plaintiff, who had filed the suit on September 30, 2013, 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 number plates were issued under the provisions of the National Road Traffic Regulations (NRTR) 2004, a subsidiary legislation made under the FRSC Act, Laws of the Federation as revised in 2004.
Ofoegbu averred that there is no law made in accordance with the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which prohibits the use of the old number plates, or declares its use as an offence.
Meanwhile, the FRSC has stated that it will appeal against the judgement on number plate.
When contacted over the issue, the FRSC had in a statement made available yesterday by the Corps Commander public education officer, Jonas Agwu, said, “Contrary to media reports emanating from an earlier Federal High Court verdict sitting in Lagos, the Federal Road Safety Corps wishes to affirm that the court judgement did not vacate its statutory powers to design and produce  the new number plate but stated that the Corps lacks statutory authority to fix deadline for the enforcement of the number plate.”
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