A Federal High Court in Lagos has declared that the new number plates introduced by the Federal Road Safety Commission are unconstitutional and as such cannot be imposed on vehicle owners.
In a judgment delivered by Justice James Tsoho on Wednesday, the court held that the redesigning of the old number plates was not backed by any law. Tsoho, who was delivering the judgment in a suit by a lawyer, Emmanuel Ofoegbu, against the FRSC, therefore, held that the FRSC had no power to impose the redesigned number plates on vehicle owners, who had not acquired them. The judge said, “The issue of redesigning new number plates by the respondent is not covered under the provisions of any law in Nigeria. The respondent cannot force Nigerians to acquire new plate numbers by impounding cars without the backing of any legislation to that effect.
“I hold that the act of the respondent amounts to an arbitrary use of power, and is therefore illegal and unconstitutional. Judgment is therefore entered in favour of the plaintiff, and all the reliefs sought is hereby granted, I so hold. Ofoegbu had instituted the suit on September 30, 2013, to challenge the power of the FRSC to impound vehicles of motorists who failed to acquire the new number plates.
The plaintiff contended that the threat by the FRSC, which gave October 1 deadline for all vehicle owners to acquire the new number plate, was a gross violation of the provisions of Section 36 (12) of the 1999 Constitution, which guaranteed the rights of individuals. He maintained that the threat by FRSC was illegal, since the amended National Road Traffic Regulations (2012) should not affect everything that was done, based on the revoked NRTR (2004), under which the old number plates were issued.
According to the plaintiff, Regulation 230(2) of the National Road Traffic Regulations (2012) states that the revocation of NRTR (2004) “shall” not affect anything done, or purported to be done pursuant to that regulation. He submitted that the NRTR 2004 was a subsidiary legislation, made under the Federal Road Safety Commission Act, Laws of the Federation, as revised in 2004.
He, therefore, asked the court to declare as unlawful, the threat by the respondent to arrest motorists, using the old number plates, as according to him, “there is no law validly made in accordance with the constitution, prohibiting its use.”
The applicant also sought a court injunction restraining the FRSC from impounding vehicles, arresting or harassing vehicles owners, who refused to comply with the directive.