The threat by the respondent to impound vehicles and arrest motorists who failed to comply with the October 1 deadline, is illegal, the court ruled.
The new number plates introduced by the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, is unconstitutional, a Federal High Court in Lagos said on Wednesday.
Delivering judgment in a suit filed by Emmanuel Ofoegbu, a lawyer, against the FRSC, the judge said that it was unlawful for the commission to impose the new number plates on Nigerians, where no existing law permitted it.
“The issue of redesigning new number plates by the respondent, is not covered under the provisions of any law in Nigeria,” said James Tsoho, the judge.
“The respondent (FRSC) 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,” the judge added.
Mr. Ofoegbu filed the suit on September 30, 2013, through a Human Rights Activists, Ogedi Ogu, challenging the power of the FRSC to impound vehicles of motorists who failed to acquire the new numbers.
Mr. Ofoegbu had sought a declaration that the threat by the FRSC 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”
Mr. Ofoegbu stated that there is no law made in accordance with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which prohibits the use of the old plate numbers, or declares its use as an offence.
He also said that the threat by the respondent to impound vehicles and arrest motorists who failed to comply with the October 1 deadline, was a gross violation of the provisions of 36 (12) of the constitution which guarantees the rights of individuals.
He, 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.