The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) says it is still in possession of the powers to impose fines on road users found to have violated traffic rules.
Contrary to reports that appeared to show that a fresh court judgement had nullified FRSC’s power to fine traffic offenders, the agency said that John Tosho, a justice of the federal high court, actually gave the ruling back in 2014.
It said it had appealed the court judgement, but admitted that the appeal had not yet been decided.
In a statement issued on Monday, the agency said those who do not accept to pay fines have the option of challenging their notice of offence in court.
“The FRSC is aware of the post trending in the social media, which is the handiwork of mischief makers that a federal high court in Lagos has just decided that the FRSC has no powers to arrest, issue fines ticket, impose fines and impound offenders vehicles,” the statement read.
“The truth is that there is no recent judgement of the FHC Lagos on the Tope Alabi case as is being circulated. What happened was that one Bar Tope Alabi challenged the powers of the FRSC to arrest him and impound his vehicle and make him pay fines for offences alleged. The FHC presided over by Justice Tsoho held that FRSC had no such powers. This was in Sept, 2014.
“However, in a case on all fours with the Tope Alabi case earlier in March, same year, 2014, same Justice Tsoho in the case of Bren Williams & Anor v FRSC held that FRSC had statutory powers to issue notice of offence, arrest, and detain vehicles suspected to have been used to commit traffic offences.
“On that same day Justice Tsoho delivered another judgement similar to The Tope Alabi case in Emmanuel Ofoegbu v FRSC in which he held that FRSC had no powers to set deadlines for motorists to change over to new number plates and that it would be ultra vires the powers of FRSC to arrest motorists for not using the new number plates under the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2012, a subsidiary legislation to the FRSC Act, 2007. This decision was challenged on Appeal.
“The court of appeal held, inter alia, in October, 2014, that FRSC had statutory powers conferred by its enabling laws made pursuant to the Nigerian Constitution to regulate the use of number plates, design and set deadlines for change over to new ones.
“The Sept 2014 judgement of Justice Tsoho which has also been challenged on appeal is the one currently being circulated on the social media. Note that in another case by the same Tope Alabi before same Justice Tsoho, the FHC , taking a cue from the court of appeal decision Emmanuel Ofoegbu’s case, held in FRSC’s favour in June, 2015.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there are reported court of appeal decisions to the effect that FRSC has powers to arrest, issue notice of offence to suspected violators and impound vehicles used to commit traffic offences and electing to pay the prescribed fines instead of challenging the notice of offence in court does not amount to usurpation of court powers.
“It is the voluntary decision of whoever decides to pay fines instead of challenging the notice of offence in court.”
FRSC did not state if it secured a stay of execution after the high court judgement; and when TheCable sought clarification on it, Bizi Kazeem, spokesman of the agency, claimed that it was unnecessary.
“A stay of execution is not necessary once you have filed an appeal,” he said. “It is like a lower court removing a governor from office. The governor does not need a stay of execution to continue in office once an appeal has been fined.”