PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE USE
ABUJA: SUNDAY, 9 NOVEMBER, 2014.
Our attention has been drawn to some media reports concerning the statutory functions of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) which gave erroneous impressions on some recent judicial pronouncements.
Conscious of the negative implications that such insinuations could have on unsuspecting members of the public and in view of the need to clear the air on the matter, we wish to point out that while there were cases decided against the FRSC in the recent past, there were equally others that were in favour of the Commission, as delivered both at the High Courts and the Court of Appeal.
It is pertinent to further state that in the hierarchy of courts and based on the principle of decided cases, the decisions of Appellate Courts are superior to those of Lower Courts. Accordingly, we wish to state that the recent Court of Appeal judgment in favour of FRSC in the case of FRSC vs. Emmanuel Ofoegbu supersedes that of the High Court judgments.
For the avoidance of doubt, some of the highlights of the decided cases involving FRSC from January 2014 to 31st October, 2014 are that of 7th March, 2014, in Suit No.FHC/AB/CS/164/2013 between Kabir Akingbola Esq. and FRSC & 3 others. The Plaintiff/Applicant had filed an Originating Summons under the Fundamental Human Rights Enforcement Procedure at the Federal High Court, Abeokuta where he sought for judicial determination of the following, among others;
- Whether the Federal Road Safety Commission had the requisite powers to impose fines summarily on the applicant for allegedly committed traffic offence without being tried by a judicial tribunal?
- Whether seizure of the car of the applicant did not amount to breach of his right to own property?
- Whether the Respondent’s act of impounding the applicant’s car with his professional wig and gown did not amount to breach of his right to life?
After considering the case of both parties, the Federal High Court, Abeokuta held, inter-alia, that neither the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, 2007 nor the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2012 had any provision making the determination of their authority final, and that applicant had every right to have refused to pay the fine stipulated in the Notice of Offence and to have opted for a judicial interpretation which the Notice of Offence indicated. Applicant however opted to pay the fine before complaining. Therefore, the Applicant failed to prove a case of violation of his Fundamental Rights and his application was dismissed in favour of the FRSC.
In another case of 26th March, 2014- Suit No FHC/L/CS/436/09 between Bren Williams Nigeria Ltd vs. FRSC instituted at the Federal High court, Lagos by the applicant, he sought the following reliefs;
- A Declaration that the defendant (FRSC), its officials, servants and/or agents had no constitutional power or authority to arrest, detain the 2nd Plaintiff.
- A Declaration that the defendant (FRSC) its officials and/or agents had no constitutional power or authority to arrest, detain and impose fines on the 1st Plaintiff in respect of its pick-up van with registration number CG 691 MUS.
- A Declaration that the defendant had adjudged the 2nd Plaintiff guilty on the spot at Ikorodu by ordering the 2nd Plaintiff to proceed to Epe to pay a fine of N3,000 stipulated in the Notice of Offence while the pick-up van was being detained.
- Order of perpetual injunction restraining the FRSC from further arresting, detaining and imposing fine charges on the 1st Plaintiff’s pick-up van.
Hon. Justice JT Tsoho, presiding, held, inter-alia, that FRSC was statutorily entitled to arrest the plaintiff’s vehicle for road traffic violation and having done so, without more, the plaintiffs could not establish a case of false imprisonment as alleged and so the plaintiffs’ action failed, and the prayer for perpetual injunction was unfounded and unconscionable. The Court further held that it would not inhibit the defendant (FRSC) from performing its statutory functions.
Furthermore, on 26th March, 2014, in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1332/13 between Emmanuel A. Ofoegbu and FRSC, the plaintiff sought the following reliefs among others;
- An Order of the court declaring that threatening to arrest and/or arresting the plaintiff and/or impounding his vehicle as from 1/10/2013 or any other date for using a number plate pursuant to the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2004 without any law validly made in accordance with the 1999 Constitution prohibiting the use of the said number plate and/or declaring its use, an offence and prescribing penalty thereof in a written law was a violation of applicant’s fundamental rights under Section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution.
- An Order of Injunction restraining the FRSC from arresting the applicant or his vehicle for using the said number plate…etc.
Justice JT Tsoho, presiding, held, inter-alia that, FRSC had no statutory powers to set deadlines for change over the new number plates since there was no enabling law to that effect. This decision was immediately appealed against by the FRSC and on 31st October, 2014, and the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos, unanimously held that FRSC had statutory powers in line with the 1999 Constitution under the FRSC (Establishment) Act, 2007 and National Road Traffic Regulations, 2012 to regulate the use of number plates and to set deadlines for change over to new ones as provided for in the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2012.
On 30th June, 2014, in Suit No. A/136/2014 – Chief Ajefo Ekwo vs. FRSC, in a case instituted by the Plaintiff/Applicant at the Anambra State High Court Awka, the applicant had sought the following reliefs;
- A declaration that the mandatory directive issued by FRSC to all motorists presently registered to re-register their vehicles for the purpose of replacing their old number plates with new ones was illegal and unconstitutional.
- A declaration that FRSC had no authority or power under any existing law to enforce compliance with the said directive.
- A declaration that FRSC had no powers under any existing law to discontinue the use of old vehicle registration licences and driver’s licences and direct the issuance of new vehicle registration licences and driver’s licence in place of existing ones.
- A declaration that FRSC had no powers under the law to engage in the production of motor vehicle number plate and driver’s licence.
- A declaration that FRSC had no powers to impound any vehicle which failed to re-register and obtain new number plates.
- Order of perpetual injunction restraining the FRSC or its agents from putting into effect the mandatory directive for abrogation of existing vehicle number plates etc.
The Chief Judge of Anambra State, Hon. Justice peter Umeadi, after considering the case of both parties held, inter-alia, that the FRSC (Establishment) Act, 2007 and the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2012 are existing laws made pursuant to the 1999 Constitution and that the FRSC legitimately derived its powers to produce and regulate the use and design of vehicle number plates and driver’s licence as well as arresting suspected offenders and detaining vehicles that violate road traffic regulations under the existing law.
In the case of 4th July, 2014 between Gideon Ndubuisi vs. FRSC, Suit No. OKP/HC/15/2013, the applicant had challenged the powers of FRSC to impound his vehicle and impose fines when he had not been tried and found guilty by a competent court. The Benue State High Court sitting at Otukpo and presided over by Hon. Justice DE Igoh, held, inter-alia that FRSC was statutorily empowered to arrest applicant and impound his vehicle for committing road traffic offences.
Yet in the case of 26th September, 2014, Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1234/13, between Tope Alabi vs. FRSC & 2 others, the applicant had filed an action at the Federal High Court Lagos, seeking among others, a declaration that his arrest, seizure of his driver’s licence, vehicle papers and imposition of fines by the FRSC without an Order of court was illegal, null and void. Hon. Justice JT Tsoho presiding held, inter-alia, that FRSC had no powers to impose fines and that such would amount to usurpation of court functions.
We appeal to members of the public to contrast this decision with the earlier one in the Bren Williams case by the same court. Consequently, an Appeal against this decision is being processed.
On 31st October, 2014, in deciding the case between FRSC vs. Emmanuel Ofoegbu, in Suit No. CA/L/412/2014, the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos, overruled the judgment of the Federal High Court (supra) decided in March, 2014, and held, inter-alia, that the FRSC (Establishment) Act, 2007 and the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2012 were valid laws made pursuant to the 1999 Constitution and that the provisions of the NRTR, 2012 were enforceable from 1st October, 2013, the deadline earlier set by FRSC.
We have taken pains to briefly highlight the above cases so that members of the public would have a clear perception of issues involved as well as the current position of the law. We believe that there are enough judicial pronouncements to the fact that FRSC has adequate legal and statutory backing to perform its functions as stated in the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, 2007 and the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2012.
It is also evidently clear that those brandishing the judgment in the Tope Alabi case as delivered in September, 2014 as against the plethora of other cases from the Federal and State High Courts that were in favour of FRSC which emphasized the constitutional powers of FRSC to arrest erring road traffic offenders, impound vehicles used to commit such offences and impose statutorily stipulated fines for such offences are deliberate mischief makers bent on misleading unsuspecting members of the public for reasons best known to them.
More importantly, the October 31st 2014 judgment of the Court of Appeal in FRSC vs Emmanuel Ofoegbu made it abundantly clear that FRSC has statutory and constitutional powers to arrest, detain vehicles of road traffic violators, regulate and set deadline for the usage and renewal of motor vehicle licenses, number plates and driver licenses.
The Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Boboye Oyeyemi therefore, appeals to members of the public to disregard such people, and urges road users to obey extant road traffic laws and regulations in their overall legal and safety interests. Corps Marshal Oyeyemi assures members of the public that FRSC and its operatives will continue to perform within the ambit of the law, and seeks the understanding and collaboration of all citizens as we strive to evolve a safer road environment that would be immensely beneficial to all of us as individual road users and our nation at large.
Finally, as the year winds to a close, the Corps Marshal appeals to all road users to use the road carefully so that we can all have a crash-free, peaceful and joyful yuletide celebration.
Superintendent Route Commander,
Media Assistant to the Corps Marshal and Chief Executive,
Federal Road Safety Corps,
National Headquarters, Abuja.
9 November, 2014