Monday, November 3, 2014 6:17 pm
The Court of Appeal, Lagos, has granted the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) the permission to go ahead with the new number plate.
Justice Shagbaor Ikegh, gave the ruling in a judgment on Friday which was released to newsmen on Monday in Lagos.
The plaintiff, Mr Emmanuel Ofoegbu, had filed a suit against the FRSC before a Federal High Court, Lagos, challenging the Oct. 1, 2013 deadline set for motorists to change their number plates, or face the threat of their vehicles being seized by the agency.
“I would allow this appeal in part; for the avoidance of doubt, this appeal only succeeds in part to the effect that regulations 2012 has legal force, and is enforceable from Oct. 1, 2013, the administrative date set by FRSC.
“The part of the decision of the lower court declaring the regulation 2012 unconstitutional is hereby set aside,” Ikegh ruled.
Justice John Tsoho of the lower court had on March 26 described as unconstitutional the threats by FRSC to impound vehicles of defaulters, including the applicant’s vehicle(s) over the redesigned plates.
Tsoho held that although the FRSC had statutory powers and responsibilities, it was overreaching itself by its proposed action since there was no penal law under which same could be executed.
The judge had held that the FRSC could not force it upon Nigerians, a hastily conceived policy, without an enabling legal framework.
He said nothing had invalidated the old number plates, describing the plans by the FRSC as dictatorial and an arbitrary use of power contrary to the constitution.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the lower court, the FRSC had approached the appellate court, seeking an order to upturn the verdict.
The FRSC, in its appeal, had raised four issues for determination — whether the trial court was right when it took notice of newspaper publication on the alleged threat to impound vehicles of defaulters.
It also urged the appellate court to decide whether the trial court was right to hold that the National Road Traffic Regulation (NRTR) 2012 was a hastily conceived policy without a legal framework.
The FRSC had also queried the locus standi of the respondent to have initiated the suit at the lower court, and whether the court was right to have granted an injunction in his favour.
The court, however, upheld the validity of the NRTR 2012, adding that by the provisions of Section 5 of the FRSC Act 2007, the National Assembly had delegated the authority to the agency to so act.
“In respect of the issue of fear of impounding the vehicle of the respondent by the appellant, Section 35(1) of the constitution makes personal liberty of a person an issue of fundamental human right.
“The application of the respondent was brought to protect his personal right to liberty and protection of his movable property, therefore, the appellant has no legal framework to enforce regulation 2012 as it relates to impounding the respondent’s vehicle.
“The respondent would have the standing to sue to enforce his rights,” the court held.
On the issue of locus standi, the appellate court held that the respondent disclosed a sufficient personal interest on the face of the application.
Ikegh said: “I find no substance in the argument that the respondent lacked the locus to have brought the action at the lower court.
“He has the locus standi to bring the action as rightly held by the said court.”
On the issue of reliance on newspaper publications, the appellate court held that although the trial court was in error to have relied on same without the reaction of the appellant, there was, however, evidence in the form of affidavit in support.
The court, therefore, discountenanced the newspaper report, adding that the decision of the lower court that the respondent proved his case can still stand based on the affidavit.
On the issue of injunction granted by the lower court, the appellate court held that the Federal High Court granted exactly what was requested by the respondent for his benefit.
Ruling on the issue of validity of the regulations 2012, the court held: “The effect of regulations 230 (2) of 2012 preserves the NRTR 2004.
“Its effect is that all acts done under the 2004 regulation would remain valid until the time frame expires.
“The lower court was, therefore, right in issuing an injunction to protect the respondent’s right to enjoyment of the number plate issued on March 18, 2013 which expired on March 17, 2014.