A Federal High Court in Lagos has stripped the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, of its power to impose fine on traffic offenders.
Justice James Tsoho, declared that the FRSC not being a court of law could not on its own impose fine on offending motorists as punishment for traffic offences.
A lawyer, Tope Alabi, had sued the FRSC, asking for N10 million as damages for impounding his car and imposing a fine of N3, 000 on him.
Also joined as defendants in the suit were the National Assembly and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke.
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The lawyer had prayed the court to declare that only a court of competent jurisdiction could pronounce a person guilty under Section 10 (4) and 28 (2) of the FRSC (Establishment Act), 2007 and Regulation 143 of the Nigerian Roads Traffic Regulation, 2011.
Justice Tsoho, in his judgement, said FRSC resorted to “legislative absurdity” when it imposed a fine of 3, 000 on Alabi rather than the N2, 000 statutorily prescribed.
“The point must be made that it is a cardinal principle of natural justice that no person be condemned without being heard. It is in observance of this that a person alleged to have committed an offence has to respond to such allegation before a court of law during trial,” he held.
The judge pointed that Section 28(2) of the FRSC Act, 2007, which empowers the corps to fine motorists, was in conflict with Section 6 of the Constitution and, as such, it could not stand.
He said, “Basically, an unconstitutional legislation is null and void. That is, therefore, the effect of Section 28 (2) of the FRSC Act, 2007, which has purportedly conferred power on the second defendant (FRSC) to impose fine, which is a judicial function. Such power is unconstitutional and unenforceable. The FRSC is not constitutionally vested with judicial powers and cannot and should not under any guise purport to function as a court with competence to impose fine on alleged offenders.’
Tsoho said much as the FRSC seems to have passionate zeal for traffic law enforcement, it cannot be allowed to do so in breach of constitutional provisions.
“It is necessary to add that even in respect of strict liability offences, a court of law should appropriately declare the guilt of an alleged offender and then impose fine. FRSC’s function should not go beyond issuance of mere notices of offence,” he stressed.