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Court declares new number plate illegal

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday declared the new number plate imposed on motorists by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) as unconstitutional, unlawful and illegal.

Justice James Tsoho arrived at the conclusion while delivering judgment in a suit filed by a lawyer, Emmanuel Ofoegbu.

The lawyer had sued the FRSC to challenge the power of the commission to impound vehicles of motorists who failed to acquire the new numbers before the imposed deadline.

Justice Tsoho, in his judgment, held that it was unlawful for the FRSC to impose the new number plate on motorists, where there was no existing law permitting it.

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 prayers sought are hereby granted, I so hold,” the judge ruled.

The plaintiff had filed the suit on September 30, 2013 through an activists, Ogedi Ogu, who was described as ‘The Source’.

The plaintiff had sought a declaration that the threat by the respondents to impound vehicles of motorists, who failed to acquire the new number plate, was invalid and unconstitutional.

In his statement of facts, the plaintiff averred that the old plate number was issued under the provisions of the National Road Traffic Regulations (NRTR) 2004.

He averred that the NRTR 2004 was 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 further averred that there was no law made in accordance with the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which prohibits the use of the old plate number, 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 October 1 deadline is a gross violation of the provisions of Section 36 (12) of the Constitution which guarantee 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 number, because there was no law validly made in accordance with the Constitution, prohibiting its users.

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