New number plate: FRSC has legal powers, court rules
A Federal High Court sitting in Awka, Anambra State has declared that the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) has legal powers to make regulations in respect of design and production of the new vehicle number plate, driver’s licence and registration of vehicles.
Justice Peter Umeadi, ruling in a suit filed by one Chief Ajefo Ekwo challenging the constitutional powers of the Commission to enforce compliance by motorists with its directive on the re-registration of motor vehicles previously registered, by obtaining and replacing same with the new vehicle number plates, also declared that the FRSC’s is constitutionally empowered to arrest and prosecute persons suspected to have committed any traffic offence. The court also said the commission has the power to impound any vehicle by which an offence under the FRSC Act of 2007 is reasonably suspected to have been committed.
The judge said, “I see that the six issues for determination distilled by the respondent (FRSC) flow from the eight reliefs of the applicant (Chief Ajefo Ekwo). The relief number one tend to suggest that it was the respondent who came up with the idea to register vehicles by obtaining and replacing the old number plates with new number plates.”
On the relief sought by the plaintiff, the court said: “The powers for such a directive emanated from the National Road Traffic Regulation (NRTR) 2012. Section 36 of the regulations of 2012 stipulate as follows; ‘All private and commercial vehicles shall from the commencement of these Regulations have in them Vehicle Identification Number Plates which shall (a) be carried by the motor vehicle on two plates which shall conform to the requirements of these Regulations and (b) the number plates shall be fixed (i) in such a manner that each is not easily detachable and (ii) in an upright position or within 15 degrees of such position.’
It added: “the Regulations of 2012 commenced on 13 August 2012 and was made by the Federal Road Safety Commission pursuant to Section 5 of the FRSC Establishment Act of 2007. The second part of the Section 39(9) of the Regulations (NRTR) of 2012 made it an offence for any vehicle not to have the said identification number plate.”
It also said that the FRSC’s directive flows from Sections 36 and 39 (1)to (II) especially 39 (90)of the NRTR, and held that the directive to all motorists previously registered to re-register their vehicles for the purpose of changing their old vehicle number plates with new vehicle number plates is legal, constitutional and stand firmly on both the Act of 2007 and the National Road Traffic Regulations of 2012.
Justice Umeadi said that the FRSC is authorized to “interfere, intervene and give directives regarding regulations made by the States and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja” on highway regulations and dismissed the suit for lack of merit.
The court held that the registration of the old vehicle number plates was not discontinued by the FRSC but by the force of the law as encapsulated in the National Road Traffic Regulations 2012 and directed any person wishing to challenge this discontinuance to seek a repeal or amendment of the NRTR and not to attack the Federal Road Safety Commission.
In a related development, the Okogba division of the Benue State High Court has dismissed a suit filed by one Godwin Ndubisi in which he alleged that the impoundment of his car by FRSC operatives for violating traffic rules and regulations, was an infringement on his fundamental human rights as guaranteed by Section 44(1) of the 1999 constitution.
Delivering judgment in favour of the FRSC, Justice David Igoh said that Section 10(4) and (5) of the FRSC Act, 2007 empowers the Corps to arrest persons reasonably suspected to have committed any traffic offence, detain the vehicle, prosecute the offender and even apply to the high court for order of forfeiture of the vehicle within six months from the date of detention.
Justice Igoh also stated that if the Corps is vested with the powers of arrest, it necessarily follows that the right to detain is implicit and therefore held that the applicant did not establish that his fundamental human rights were breached or violated by the Federal Road Safety Corps.
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