The federal high Court in Lagos has order Federal Road Safety Corps [FRSC] not to take law into their hands by punishing motorist and traffic offenders and fine them for any reason.
Tope Alabi, a lawyer, had approached the court to declare that only a court of competent jurisdiction could pronounce a person guilty under section 10 (4) and 28 (2) of the FRSC Act 2007.
Tosho said while FRSC was statutorily empowered to arrest and fine traffic offenders, a closer look at the definition of the word “fine” meant a pecuniary criminal punishment or civil penalty payable to the public treasury.
“In the instant case, however, the involvement of the element of arrest takes the imposition of fine by the FRSC to the realm of criminal punishment,” he said.
“From these definitions, it is obvious that the act of sentencing is a judicial action or exercise, and imposition of fine connotes conviction for an alleged offence.
“It is, thus, very clear that the FRSC, not being a court of law, cannot impose fine, especially as it has no powers to conduct trial.
“Hence, the exercise of the statutory powers given to the defendant under the Act as pertain to imposition of fine is clearly a usurpation of judicial powers exclusively vested in the courts.
“In the circumstances, I endorse the plaintiff’s submission that by virtue of section 1(3) of the constitution, the power to impose fines conferred on FRSC by the enabling act is null and void to the extent of its inconsistency with the constitution.”
Tsoho held that the FRSC resorted to “legislative absurdity” when it imposed a fine of 3,000 on the plaintiff, rather than the N2,000 statutorily prescribed.
“FRSC’s function should not go beyond issuance of mere notices of offence,” he ruled.
“It is a cardinal principle of natural justice that no person can be condemned without being heard.
“It is in observance of this that a person alleged to have committed an offence has to respond to such allegations before a court of law during trial.”