Traffic offenders watch as Lagos gov’t auctions their vehicles | Dailytrust

Traffic offenders watch as Lagos gov’t auctions their vehicles

Some of the vehicles auctioned
Some of the vehicles auctioned

In what looked like a nightmare, traffic offenders whose vehicles were confiscated and forfeited to government on Wednesday watched their vehicle being auctioned to the general public.

According to the Lagos Traffic Reform Law, driving in a direction prohibited by the law or neglect of traffic directions attracts forfeiture of vehicle to the state while offender may possibly go to prison in addition to the forfeiture.

Legal backing

The Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences Unit (Taskforce) had on January 18, 2021 secured a court order authorizing it to publicly auction 88 vehicles impounded by the Agency for contravening the ‘One-Way Traffic Law’ and forfeited to the government by an order of a Lagos State Mobile Court.

Cross section of owners of the vehicles

The vehicles were forfeited by the Lagos State Mobile Court for driving against prohibited route (one-way) contrary to Part (III) Item (27) of the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law (2018) as amended.

This is the second time in two months, the Lagos State government is auctioning vehicles confiscated from traffic offenders. In November 2020, 44 confiscated and forfeited vehicles were auctioned to the public; totalling 132.

Tears

At the first auctioning exercise, which took place at the agency’s car park at Alausa, most people who forfeited their vehicles attended with the intention of buying back their vehicles but many could not as other people bided higher and bought their cars in their presence; leaving many in tears.

To avoid the same scenario from playing out, the Lagos State government made public the date and venue of the second auctioning, inviting the general public, particularly the vehicle owners to come buy their vehicles back if they are lucky not to have higher bidders.

While some people were lucky to buy their vehicles back in what appeared to be survival of the fittest as the vehicles end with the highest bidders, some could not, losing their vehicles to people who bided higher.

At the auctioning ceremony, our reporter observed the presence of some money bags who were ready and willing to buy off as many vehicles as possible if allowed but they were stopped by the taskforce officials who noticed their actions.

A man who could not buy his vehicle back was seen in tears, expressing disappointment in government’s action, which he said was too harsh. He was also seen laying curse on whoever buys his vehicle but was unwilling to talk to the press.

All the bidders approached during the auctioning declined speaking to the press but some were observed during their side talks and discussions saying, “the process of auctioning was not transparent enough,” alleging that some individuals might have been planted among the bidders to bid higher in order to get their choice vehicles.

A bidder, who spoke on grounds of anonymity, also alleged that some of the vehicles auctioned do not have good engine or gear box. A middle-aged man who gave his name as Akeem quietly told our reporter that he feels cheated as he was unable to buy his car back, saying, the prices bided was deliberately too high.

While some vehicles like the yellow danfo buses were sold for as low as N150,000, some others went for N1million and above. On how it went, the auctioneer stood by the vehicle and rang hand bells intermittently as he announced the prices of vehicle starting from N100,000 and raised it as bidders bellowed their interest to have the vehicles.

More vehicles auctioned

Names of the highest bidders were written down by officials of the task force with the number plates of the vehicles auctioned to them while they were asked to proceed to make payment. The officials emphasized that monies paid for vehicles auctioned are not refundable.

 

Criticism

The auctioning of forfeited vehicles to the public by government have been criticized by some residents who described the action as ‘too harsh, a penalty for traffic offence’. Popular Disc Jockey Obianuju Catherine Udeh also known as DJ Switch has described the order granted by the Lagos State mobile court for the auctioning of 88 seized vehicles as cruel, barbaric, which must be resisted by all.

DJ Switch in a video on her Instagram account slammed the state government for taking such an action when it could have fined the offenders or send them to jail.

She said, “What happened to fines? Why can’t you fine these people? Give them something to pay or better still a minimum jail term. A weekend in jail or community service. All of a sudden, you want to sell off their vehicles. Lagos State government is a thief. I am very sure that a lot of people whose cars are there are crying out but nobody knows them. Where are our celebrities?

Also, a Lagos-based lawyer, Johnson Esezoobo Esq, in his reaction said that the Lagos State government’s action is not reasonable and justifiable in a democratic society.

In his words, “In Nigeria, the constitution provides that governmental actions shall be humane, not high handed. This is high handed. But let’s look at the issue of reasonableness, are we saying that a man who sent his driver out with his car to get some grocery for him can lose (forfeit) his car to the government simply because his driver was caught driving against traffic or may have been framed up and might not have been able to ‘settle’? In the case of a commercial vehicle, how reasonable is it to forfeit what is best described as tool of trade? Will such a man with his dependents not become a liability to the state?”

“I believe that our experience with the End SARS saga should teach us a lesson. That a person who wilfully, and intentionally drove against traffic can go away while the inanimate object that he drove is forfeited to who?” he queried.

Although, the spokesman of the Task Force, Adebayo Taofiq, had earlier said that the exercise was not punitive but corrective in nature and necessary to sanitize the state of careless and ignorant drivers and motorcycle riders who had started misbehaving with impunity. He explained that the traffic offenders had earlier been charged to the Lagos State Mobile Court and the court had forfeited their vehicles to the state government.

“After the forfeiture, the law says we embark on auction but before we can embark on auction, we have to get a court order, which we applied for and we were given the court order. After getting the court order, we made a publication informing interested members of the public, particularly owners of the vehicles to come for the auction exercise,” he said.

Taofiq further said, “Immediately after the EndSARS protests, Lagos was locked down by motorists driving against traffic, driving on BRT corridors and causing obstruction on highways, not minding security personnel on the road.”

The coordinator of the State Mobile Court, Arinola Ogbara-Banjoko, explained at the auctioning ground that all the vehicles had gone through due process, saying, “We have court order for the auction to take place.”

Chairman of the Taskforce, CSP Shola Jejeloye, urged all motorists to desist from driving against traffic (one-way) as the penalty is outright forfeiture of such vehicle to the government without an option of fine.

He made known that other traffic offenders caught plying BRT corridors or those causing obstruction to other road users were also arraigned and fined by Lagos State Mobile Court at Bolade, Oshodi.

Daily Trust Saturday further observed that the COVID-19 safety protocols issued by government and health experts were flouted by bidders who struggled to benefit from the auction of the 88 impounded vehicles.

Though the use of nose mask was enforced from the entry point, but the people were quick to pull them below their chins after gaining access into the premises of the auctioning. It was also observed that the social distancing protocol was not observed especially immediately the auctioning began proper in what appeared to be survival of the fittest as every vehicle auctioned ends with the highest bidder.

Even when one of the officials at the auctioning ground with the use of a public address system reminded the people to use their face mask and observe social distancing, the bidders did not comply as they stood in clusters engaging in side talks and discussions.

By Christiana T. Alabi, Adelanwa Bamgboye and Eugene Agha

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