A Federal High Court in Lagos Wednesday declared as unconstitutional, the decision by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to impose the new number plates on motorists.
The presiding judge of the court, Justice James Tsoho, while delivering judgment in a suit filed by a lawyer, Emmanuel Ofoegbu, against the FRSC, held that it was unlawful for the respondent to impose the new number plates on motorists, where there was no existing law permitting same.
Justice Tsoho submitted that the issue of redesigning new number plates by the commission was not covered under the provisions of any law in Nigeria and that the commission cannot force Nigerians to acquire new plate numbers by impounding cars, without the backing of any legislation to that effect.
He therefore, held that the action of the commission amounted to an arbitrary use of power, which according to him, is illegal and unconstitutional.
“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” he said
The plaintiff, in the suit, challenged the power of the commission to impound vehicles of motorists who failed to acquire the new numbers.
He had sought a declaration that the threat by the respondents to impound vehicles of motorists, who failed to acquire the new number plates, was invalid and unconstitutional.
In his statement of facts, the plaintiff averred that the old plate numbers were issued under the provisions of the National Road Traffic Regulations (NRTR) 2004.
He averred that the NRTR 2004, is a subsidiary legislation made under the FRSC Act, Laws of the Federation as revised in 2004.
According to the plaintiff, the NRTR 2012, in Regulations 230 (2), provides that “the revocation of the 2004 Regulations, shall not affect anything done, or purported to be done pursuant to that regulation.”
Ofoegbu averred that there is no law made in accordance with the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which prohibits the use of the old plate numbers, or declares its use as an offence.
He also averred that the threat by the respondent to impound vehicles and arrest motorists who failed to comply with the Oct. 1 deadline, was a gross violation of the provisions of 36 (12) of the 1999 Constitution which guarantees the rights of individuals.
He had therefore urged the court to declare as unlawful, the threat by the respondent, to arrest motorists using the old plate numbers, because there is no law validly made in accordance with the constitution, prohibiting its user
The applicant had also sought an order of injunction restraining the defendants from impounding vehicles or otherwise arresting or harassing motorists who failed to acquire the new plate number.