Court strips FRSC of power to fine motorists for traffic offences

A Federal High Court in Lagos has voided the powers of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to impose fines on motorists for traffic offences.

Justice John Tsoho held that the FRSC could not turn itself into a court of law by punishing those who commit traffic offences.

A lawyer, Tope Alabi, 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.

A copy of the judgment made available to newsmen in Lagos on Wednesday quotes Justice Tsoho as declaring the sections null and void for being inconsistent with Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution.

The judge also awarded N1 million damages in favour of the plaintiff because officials of the FRSC had confiscated his vehicle and driver’s licence.

According to him, while FRSC was statutorily empowered to arrest and fine traffic offenders, a closer look at the definition of the word “fine” means a pecuniary criminal punishment or civil penalty payable to the public treasury.

Justice Tsoho said: “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.

“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,” the judge held.

Besides, Justice 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.

“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,” he said.

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 Sept. 9, 2013.

“The vital question to ask is how long would it take the FRSC to reasonably commence prosecution of a traffic offence?

“The plaintiff was not under obligation to wait indefinitely for redress due to FRSC’s inaction or laxity,” the judge added.

“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, adding that he also awarded N1million in his favour instead of the N10 million prayed for.

Justice Tsoho held that the FRSC acted under the belief that it was statutorily empowered to do so, adding that its innocent mistake constituted a mitigating factor as to the quantum of damages.

(NAN)


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  • sirjoka

    Very good. I know they will appeal it and win. How can a single person arrest you, impose a fine on you and be the one to collect such money. No sane society acts like this. Same analogy goes to the VIO’s. Establish a traffic court where offenders are tried and also establish a fund to collect all fines and use the funds to maintain roads and A&E’s in hospitals and buy ambulances.

  • the_adviser

    No problem, if they don’t want to pay the penalty, FRSC should take them to court to plead their case in front of a judge making sure the court is inaccessible to the offender. If he lives in V I let him attend court at Igando at 5.00pm or 8.00am. He will think twice.

    • Emeka

      You just made no sense

      • the_adviser

        What is your option Mr Sensible? You are humourless.

        • Emeka

          Sorry, i Just thought I should point it out to you, how you have no sense. No offence. Its just obvious. Thanks

          • the_adviser

            Have you ever heard about “tongue-in-cheek” in your life? Sorry Your English doesn’t reach that level yet. Pity

          • Omo Akin

            From your first post, there is nothing “tongue-in-cheek” in all you have posted. In civilized societies, the police or any other traffic authority gives you a ticket for traffic offence. You can either contest the citation in the ticket or choose to pay the penalty prescribed for that citation in the court that covers the place the alleged offence occurred. Whether you pay or contest the citation occurs in court. So when this Judge is telling the FRSC to do the right thing, you are suggesting another tactic by which FRSC can extort Nigerians. I always wonder why people who are paid with public fund want to inflict as much hardship as possible on the same public they are supposed to serve just to extort the helpless Nigerians.
            Mr. FRSC, there nothing “tongue-in-cheek” in all these. Nigerians don’t deserve this mindless and callous punishment from all and sundry in public service.

          • the_adviser

            I don’t reply to faceless people.

          • Emeka

            Again, i cant help but indicate to you how silly those comments are. Unfortunate.

          • the_adviser

            Na you sabi. Go elsewhere and make your own comment.

    • Remi

      Hello mr slave. i am sure you have heard that an offence cannot take place in lagos and you take the case to maiduguri. Must they be fined? How do you tackle extortion by these officials who use this power to enrich themselves? we have to continuously improve our society and remove these slave mentality imposed by anybody in uniform.

      • the_adviser

        You are too crude to get a reply. If you think V I and Igando are in Maiduguri, That’s your business.

  • abujakenneth

    I want to also use this medium to appeal to FRSC to organise their capturing during issuance of Drivers Licence. I have attempted severally to be attended to but all in vain because of the crowd. I suggest that they resort to giving appointment instead of the brazen madness that fuels corruption

  • otitokoro

    Pure genius you are,Sir. It is hard for me not to laugh out loud.