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Still on the number plate( l)

I have kept mum, preferring to allow legal experts to jaw jaw and outdo themselves on the floor of the Court. My major concern has…

I have kept mum, preferring to allow legal experts to jaw jaw and outdo themselves on the floor of the Court. My major concern has been to ensure that the media and motorists are properly educated on the issues. Between the first and subsequent rulings that followed, the major thrust has been on the number plate enforcement deadline with one case hiding under the same subject to discuss the fundamental human rights of motorists arrested for violating the provisions of the law as it relates to the use of number plate on vehicles. In all of these, the legality or illegality of the Number plate has not been in contention as no court has vacated the powers of the Federal Road Safety Corps in this area as provided by the 2007 Establishment Act of the FRSC,.
 I know that we are familiar with the Lagos ruling although I intend to refresh our memories with the issues. Before I do so, did you follow the Abuja Ruling which was to some extent similar with the Lagos ruling. Do you still recall the most recent ruling  from Awka,theAnambra State capital, where the Court held   that the  Corps has full powers to arrest and prosecute defaulters in accordance with the Commission Establishment Act of 2007.Unfortunately,the Awka ruling caused a little stir when its ruling that the Commission by virtue of the 2007 Establishment Act is empowered to arrest and prosecute motorist who fail to comply with the change over to the new number plate after 1 August 2014was interpreted by the media to mean that the Corps had fixed a new deadline for enforcement. I am relieved that the Corps was quick to put records straight by restating its position deferring enforcement following the suspension of the June 30th 2014 deadline by the Joint Tax Board-the umbrella body of the Chairmen of Board of internal revenue who are statutorily empowered to fix road taxes and prices for number plates and drivers licenses. …
Following the Lagos ruling and another that followed, the Corps as a responsive lead agency and in keeping with the position of the JTB which immediately suspended the earlier fixed deadline and deferred enforcement. The statement read thus; Contrary to media reports, the Federal Road Safety Corps wishes to reiterate that it has not fixed a deadline for a nationwide enforcement of the new number vehicle number plate and driver’s license. This is coming on the heels of inundated media reports and on-line publications of a proposed plan by the FRSC to commence a nationwide clamp down on vehicle owners/ motorists from 1st August, 2014 for non-compliance with the directive on the new vehicle number plate and driver’s license.
For avoidance of doubt, the Corps wishes to state that it still stands on the earlier resolve to defer enforcement of the new number plate and driver’s license following the suspension of the 30th June 2014 deadline for a change to the enhanced motor vehicle number plate by the Joint Tax Board which is statutorily mandated to determine road taxes including prices of number plates and driver’s license. The Joint Tax Board is an umbrella body of State Chairmen of Boards of Internal Revenue.
The statement further said that the Board had decided after its 129th meeting held on 23rd and 24th April, 2014 at the Headquarters of Edo State Internal Revenue Services in Benin that:
a. “In the light of the Court judgment against the FRSC, the Board decided to suspend the 30thJune, 2014 deadline earlier  announced for a change to enhanced Motor Vehicle Number Plate and the Driver’s License pending the outcome of the appeal by the FRSC”
b. “The States Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Vehicle Inspection Offices (VIOs) have been encouraged to put all necessary logistics in place to improve Motor Vehicle registration and issuance of Driver’s License in order to build a comprehensive database”.
 I said earlier that there was one case claiming infringement of fundamental human rights. The Benue High Court sitting at the Okogba Division dismissed the suit filed by one Godwin Ndubisi alleging that the impoundment of his car by FRSC operatives for violating traffic rules and regulations was an infringement on his fundamental human rights as guaranteed by Section 44(1) of the 1999 constitution. the presiding Chief Judge, Justice David Igoh dismissed the case, stating that among other things, Section 10(4) and (5) of the FRSC Act, 2007 empowers the Corps to arrest persons reasonably suspected to have committed any traffic offence, detain the vehicle, prosecute the offender and even apply to high court for order of forfeiture of the vehicle within six months from the date of detention.The Court also stated that if the Corps is vested with the powers of arrest, it necessarily follows that the right to detain is implicit and therefore held that the applicant did not establish that his fundamental human rights were breached or violated by the Federal Road Safety Corps.
Unfortunately, since these judgments were given, a cross section of motorist including enlightened motorists, have misconstrued the outcome of the legal tussle to mean a license for all kinds of infractions on the highways. This is perhaps the reason why I have chosen to do a rehash of these rulings and the Corps position and to the clarify the position of the extant laws with respect to the number plate. Before I dwell on my focus, I wish to state here that the relief sought at the Lagos Federal High Court was not on the legality of the new number plate, but the absence of a valid law proscribing the old one. The reliefs were: 1. “An order of the Honourable Court declaring that threatening to arrest and/or arresting the Applicant and/or impounding his Toyota Camry Car with Registration No. GT 454 AAA as from 1/10/2013 or any other date for using a vehicle number plate which is in accordance with Regulation 22(10)[a] of the National Road Traffic Regulations, which is a subsidiary legislation made under the Federal Road Safety Commission Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, as revised in 2004, without any law validly made in accordance with the 1999 Constitution prohibiting the use of the said vehicle number plate and/or declaring its use an offence and defining the offence and prescribing the penalty thereof in a written law, is a violation and infringement of the Applicant’s fundamental right under Section 36[12]of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

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