FRSC’s Speed Limiter: When Abuja court spoke for poor Nigerians
‘Commission, Agents Can’t Monopolise Sale Of Device’
Details of what actually transpired at the Federal High Court in Abuja on April 7, 2016 depend on the narrator. Ask the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and it will tell you: “Federal High Court Consents to FRSC Speed Limiting Device”, as splashed on its webpage, http://frsc.gov.ng/federal-high-court-consents-to-frsc-speed-limiting-device.
“The case against FRSC at the Federal High Court Abuja by Registered Trustees of International Human Rights & Anti Corruption Society in Suit No FHC/Abj/CS/805/15 challenging the powers of FRSC on the speed limiter was today dismissed by the Federal High Court, Abuja, presided over by Justice Chukwu, who described the positions of the opponents to the speed limiting device as lacking in merit,” writes the FRSC, adding:
“The court held that FRSC has acted in line with its statutory powers by introducing, imposing and implementing the use of the speed limiting device in Nigeria.”
Nowhere, whatsoever, in the FRSC’s version of the judgment did it mention that the court gave the Commission and its notorious plan to enforce use of the speed limiter a black eye! Nowhere was the same Justice Chukwu quoted to have said: “I am inclined to hold that in enforcing the provision of the law, the directive by the 1st Defendant (FRSC) that speed limiter device be installed in vehicles in Nigeria is within the purview of its powers. What I must state here is that the Act never entitled the 1st Defendant to limit the scope from where ordinary Nigerians can buy the speed limiter nor did the Act allow them (FRSC and its agents) the monopoly to install the device at an astronomical price of N36,000 on innocent Nigerians, who are already groaning in abject poverty.”
The Registered Trustees of the International Human Rights and Anti-corruption Society was led by Dr. U. O. Udofia. Defendants in the suit included the FRSC, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), National Automotive Council (NAC), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami.
The plaintiff, through its lawyer, E. A. Egbebu, had argued that the FRSC lacks powers under any known law to impose the speed limiter, dictate the price and where it could be bought. It added that the Commission’s prescription that the device will cost N35,000 each and will be installed at N1,000 by its accredited agents is illegal.
The group contended that FRSC’s decision to impose the limiter on an average of 25 million car owners in the country, with estimated revenue of N900bn is “actuated by corruption and abuse of human rights, as the 1st defendant (FRSC) was not established to generate revenue for government.”
Earlier in the judgment, Justice Chukwu struck the objections filed against the suit by the defendants on the ground that the plaintiff has the locus standi (right to initiate an action in court) to institute the suit, which is a public interest case.
The judge also struck out the name of the AGF from the suit on the ground that it is not a necessary party to the case. Udofia said he would appeal the court’s ruling.
With a whirling N900bn wind taken out of the sail of FRSC’s speed limiter plot, it remains to be seen whether the Commission will still retain the will to implement the policy with the same ferocity with which it had always barked.
While the FRSC is basically charged with maintaining sanity on Nigerian roads, it goes without saying, and to the consternation of citizens, that some of its policies, more often than not, have been driven by monetary gains.
The Adamu Ailero-led administration of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), few years back, sold an FRSC gimmick called ‘encoder’ to Nigerians for N5,000. It was to be attached to the bottom of vehicle number plates, and was supposed to relay information on car documents, roadworthiness, speed, etc., to another device installed in FRSC’s vehicles, enhancing seamless monitoring and tracking. Shockingly, the device turned out to be a worthless piece of metal that delivered none of the features.
When Osita Chidoka was Corps Marshal, the FRSC decided to change number plates. It was to cost N35,000. Reasons for the plan included tracking vehicles and their owners, following security concerns in the country. Nigerians, now wiser, pressed the Commission to explain the difference between the old and new plates.
Two lawyers in Lagos and Abuja simultaneously filed separate suits to challenge the Commission. At the Federal High Court in Lagos, Justice James Tsoho ordered a stay of action, saying it was unlawful for the FRSC to impose plates on motorists, where there is no existing law permitting the same, and that the decision is not covered under the provisions of any law in Nigeria. He said the Commission was overreaching itself, contrary to provisions of the Constitution.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, upheld the Lagos judgment and declared FRSC’s action ultra vires, null and void. He said: “The Commission’s planned action is tantamount to executive recklessness, as the FRSC cannot amend any act of the National Assembly or promulgate another one. The court is also mindful of the recent judgment of a Lagos Federal High Court on the same subject matter, which I completely align with. The court, therefore, orders the Commission to stop forthwith its threat to start arresting vehicle owners accordingly, until the expiration of the extant licences.”
Enter Boboye Oyeyemi and his speed limiter. This time, it appears Nigerians are not prepared to take the Commission’s antics lying down. A member of the House of Representatives, Philip Shaibu, recently called on Nigerians to resist the FRSC.
Shaibu, of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), condemned the idea, alleging that some members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) were hand in glove with the FRSC hierarchy to fleece Nigerians.
“I’m calling on all Nigerians, first, to resist the FRSC and I am prepared to lead a protest to the Commission and to the President because certain individuals in this government are trying to derail the change agenda of the President. We cannot be talking about change with a Road Safety Commission that in the past brought reflective stickers that never worked, brought numbers plate they said had chips but never worked, and are now coming to bring an obsolete technology. This product is meant to enrich certain people. And I am aware that certain highly placed individuals in this government are supporting this process. I want to say unequivocally that the administration of President Buhari means change and means well for Nigeria. However, some of them want to support a policy that will ridicule the image of the government, but some of us will resist it.”
Shaibu also wondered why the FRSC was in a hurry to implement the initiative when two motions on the floor of the House of Representatives had already faulted the matter.
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