Human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa has given Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly notice of his intention to file a case in court to challenge the imposition of fines on motorists with expired vehicle documents.
This is contained in a letter dated February 11, 2019, in which Adegboruwa informed the Governor and the Speaker of an alarming post currently circulating on social media about hidden cameras mounted in strategic areas in Alausa, to be deployed to capture and read the particulars of all vehicles and any vehicle discovered to bear expired documents will be subjected to a fine of N20,000 or the said vehicle will be impounded.
The activist is contending that the government of Lagos State has no power to impose any fine on any citizen without a law defining and prescribing such a fine, after a full trial before a court of law.
He is relying on section 36 (12) of the 1999 Constitution to argue that no citizen can be subjected to any conviction or payment of a fine unless there is an existing law covering such fine. He said that upon receiving several calls and messages from concerned citizens, he has searched all the laws of Lagos State and could not find any law authorising such imposition of fine on motorists.
He therefore wants Governor Ambode and the Speaker to furnish the particulars of such law and if there is none, they should immediately debunk the alarming information since it is already creating fear of the unknown in many Lagosians who are now scared to go out.
Below is the full text of the letter:
Our Ref: A&C/RC/L-07/02/2019
Monday, February 11, 2019
The Executive Governor of Lagos State,
RE: ALLEGED HIDDEN CAMERAS IN ALAUSA AREA AND IMPOSITION OF FINES AND TAXES ON MOTORISTS
The above matter refers. I write to bring to your esteemed notice, a recent development concerning alleged hideen cameras said to be positioned around government secretariat in Alausa area of Lagos, to be deployed for the imposition of fines on motorists plying roads in Lagos State.
About a week ago, the social media became agog with news of a new revenue drive by the Lagos State Government, through the imposition of fines on motorists with expired vehicle documents. For ease of reference, the said alariming and disturbing message is reproduced herein:
“Don’t drive any of your vehicles with expired documents within Ikeja environs especially the Alausa secretariat. There are special cameras mounted to caputure plate numbers, read their vehicle details and charge them where a defaut exists. A text message will come to your phone requesting you to pay the fine within seven days or the car will be impounded. Each offecen is N20,000. Yes, they are using Secretariat to test run the system. Eventually it is going to be installed all over Lagos. At least one will pass through areas like Oshodi, Ikeja, Agege (when completed), VI, Lekki, Ajah, Marina, Ikorodu, Epe, etc. At all these areas, this system will be installed. No matter how fast you are, the camera will pick your number. More money for Lagos. Let’s do the right thing at the right time. Always check your particulars and renew when due.
The next stage will be direct debit to your bank account. No vehicle will be registered or renewed without the owner (sic) bank account. That is what they operate in South Africa. Now, police won’t be disturbing and checking particulars.”
From the above post, there is an alleged plan by the Lagos State Government, to be penalising motorists whose vehicle documents have expired, by compelling them to pay a particular amount ranging from N20,000 and above. It is my humble view that a fine or penalty should be a result of the violation of an existing law, following due process of law. In other words, the defaulting motorist must have been properly arraigned pursuant to an existing law, before a court of competent jurisdiction and subjected to proper trial and conviction, to be liable to pay any fine or penalty.
I have however searched through the latest compilation of the laws of Lagos State, 2015 and subsequent laws enacted by the House of Assembly of Lagos State, and I have not been able to locate any law authorising the imposition of penalty or fine on motorists on account of expired vehicle documents. The procedure that I am presently familiar with is that the Lagos State Government has perfected a reminder mechanism by which all motorists are enjoined to renew the documents of their vehicles and all outstanding charges are collected in that process.
Under and by virtue of section 36 (12) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended):
“Subject as otherwise provided by this Constitution, a person shall not be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty therefore is prescribed in a written law …”
This section has been interpreted by the Courts, especially in the famous case of Aoko v Fagbemi (1961) 1 ALL NLR 400, to the extent that no citizen of Nigeria, (including motorists in Lagos State), can be subject to the rule of arbitrariness, such as contained in the above post. The power to impose any fine upon any citizen resides with the court properly established for that purpose. I therefore humbly seek your kind confirmation and/or clarification of the above Sir, to enable me respond to several inquiries that I have received from many Nigerians, who are now scared to move around for fear of the unknown.
Sir, it is the requirement of the newly enacted High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules of Lagos State, 2019, that all avenues of resolution of potential court cases be explored, before proceeding to file any case in court. I will thus be glad to meet with any official of the State, to be better educated and enlightened on this development. I also do humbly suggest, where this alarming information is not correct, that steps be taken to alert all residents of Lagos State on the true state of affairs.
If however the information is true and correct, kindly take this as notice of my intention to commence an action in the High Court of Lagos State, against the Lagos State Government and all its functionaries, including but not limited to the Lagos State House of Assembly, to seek declarations from the court, to annul the said policy as illegal, unconstitutional, null and void. I will also be seeking an order of injunction to restrain the Lagos State Government from implementing the said policy.
While appreciating your prompt and positive response, please accept the best assurances of my warmest regards, always.
EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA, ESQ.