Jubilation as court removes FRSC’s power to fine motorists

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Jubilation as court removes FRSC’s power to fine motorists
 Christopher Oyimadu   

A federal high court in Lagos has declared void powers of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to impose fines on motorists for traffic offences.
John Tsoho, a judge, held that the commission could not turn itself into a court of law by punishing those who commit traffic offences.
Tope Alabi, a lawyer, had approached 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 Act 2007.
Other defendant in the suit was the attorney-general of the federation.
The judge also awarded N1million damages in favour of the plaintiff because officials of the FRSC had confiscated his vehicle and driver’s licence.
Tosho said while FRSC was statutorily empowered to arrest and fine traffic offenders, a closer look at the definition of the word “fine” meant a pecuniary criminal punishment or civil penalty payable to the public treasury.
“In the instant case, however, the involvement of the element of arrest takes the imposition of fine by the FRSC to the realm of criminal punishment,” he said.
“From these definitions, it is obvious that the act of sentencing is a judicial action or exercise, and imposition of fine connotes conviction for an alleged offence.
“It is, thus, very clear that the FRSC, not being a court of law, cannot impose fine, especially as it has no powers to conduct trial.
“Hence, the exercise of the statutory powers given to the defendant under the Act as pertain to imposition of fine is clearly a usurpation of judicial powers exclusively vested in the courts.
“In the circumstances, I endorse the plaintiff’s submission that by virtue of section 1(3) of the constitution, the power to impose fine conferred on FRSC by the enabling act is null and void to the extent of its inconsistency with the constitution.”
Tsoho held that the FRSC resorted to “legislative absurdity” when it imposed a fine of 3,000 on the plaintiff, rather than the N2,000 statutorily prescribed.
“FRSC’s function should not go beyond issuance of mere notices of offence,” he ruled.
“It is a cardinal principle of natural justice that no person can 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.”
According to the judge, the plaintiff was issued a notice of offence Sheet on April 4, 2013, but FRSC did not take him to court for five months before the plaintiff filed his suit on September 9, 2013.
“The vital question to ask is how long would it take the FRSC to reasonably commence prosecution of a traffic offence?” he asked.
“The plaintiff was not under obligation to wait indefinitely for redress due to FRSC’s inaction or laxity.
“I hold the view that the confiscation of the vehicle was unnecessary in the first place, though the FRSC spiritedly sought to justify it.”
The judge then granted 11 of the 14 reliefs sought by the plaintiff, awarding N1million in his favour instead of the N10 million prayed for.
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PROFILE OF IKECHUKWU ANYANWU Ikechukwu Anyanwu is an Imo State born Nigerian. An Author, Public Speaker, Humanitarian, Blogger, Media Guru and Start-up Coach. He has inspired millions through Arise Africa Network Platform He Is Into Education, Media, Entertainment, Showbiz and Hospitality Industry. Having calved a nitche for himself as a leadership expert, human capital development and management consultant. He is currently the Chairman, Online Media practitioners Association of Nigeria, Imo State Chapter. Ceo Arise Africa Magazine, Founder Arise Africa Network – a non-profit organization. Face of Arise Africa, Managing Consultant GCFN Consult. Member, Imo State Bloggers Association. Ag National President, Association of Pageant CEO’s of Nigeria Human Resource Specialist and Leadership Coach with astute impact on many seeking to maximize their skills, intellectuals and innate potentials He has a track record of reproducing leaders and helping them to gain dominance within their nitch. Mr Anyanwu after a rich career that spanned for 18 years having worked as Human Resources Manger, Outlet Manager Rennys Foods Limited from 2004 – 2019, Management Consultant for various Quick Service Restaurants in Abuja, Enugu, Rivers State, Abia, Ebonyi, Kogi and Imo State is now focusing on helping young people to discover, develop their talents. He has built lots of platforms for young people of Africa to express their talents. He is passionate about writing, consulting, coaching and training. He blogs regularly via www.ariseafrika.com and has a thriving social media followership. He is a graduate of Sociology/Anthropology, Imo State University whose passion is to impart knowledge by educating, equipping and empowering young minds for the future. He is an alumni of Living Word Training Center He is also the West African Representative of All African Media Networks He is married to Mrs Carol Anyanwu and blessed with 3 sons.

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