POWERS OF THE FRSC VIS-A-VIS THE POWERS OF THE COURT
CASE TITLE: FRSC v. ALABI & ORS (2020) LPELR-51060(CA)
JUDGMENT DATE: 17TH SEPTEMBER, 2020
PRACTICE AREA: GOVERNMENT AGENCY
LEAD JUDGMENT: EBIOWEI TOBI, J.C.A.
SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:
This appeal borders on the Powers of the Federal Road Safety Commission.
This appeal is against the judgment of Hon. Justice J.T. Tsoho (now Chief Judge) of the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos delivered in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1234/2013 – Tope Alabi vs. National Assembly & 2 Ors on 26/9/2014.
The facts of the case are that the 1st Respondent (Plaintiff at the Federal High Court) case was that he was flagged down by officers of the Appellant (2nd Defendant at the Federal High Court) for the offence of Vehicle Windshield Violation (VWV) and was issued with a notice of offence sheet to pay the sum of N3,000 as penalty.
Despite the plea and explanation of the 1st Respondent to officers of the Appellant, his vehicle was towed to the office of the Appellant and same was only released to him when he explained that he was to attend Court that morning, but his vehicle and driver’s licences were seized by the officers of the Appellant which documents will only be released to the 1st Respondent after payment of the penalty. The 1st Respondent wrote several letters to the Appellant for the release of his vehicle and driver’s licences but his request was not heeded to. After a period of over five months, when it seemed like the Appellants were not willing to release his vehicle and driver’s licences, neither were they willing to prosecute him in Court, the 1st Respondent instituted this suit via an originating motion seeking both injunctive and declarative reliefs. The Appellant on the other hand states loud and clear in their case at the lower Court that its officers acted within the provisions of the law not violating the provisions of the Constitution.
The Federal High Court after hearing the arguments of parties held in favour of the 1st Respondent principally on the grounds that Sections 10(4) and 28(2) of the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act 2007 were contrary to Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the sections conferred judicial powers on the Commission and officers of the Commission.
Dissatisfied, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
The Court determined the appeal on these issues couched as follows:
1.Whether the exercise of powers conferred on the Appellant by Section 10(4) and 28(2) of the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, 2007 and the issuance of the Notice of offence Sheet to the 1st Respondent pursuant thereto, the Appellant can be said to exercise Judicial Powers of the Courts in violation of Section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
2. Whether the Appellant is statutorily empowered to retain the vehicle papers and driver’s licence of the 1st Respondent who had violated Section 10(4)(w) of the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, 2007 preparatory to prosecution before a competent Court as prescribed by the Act.
3. Whether the trial Court was right when it granted N1,000,000 to the Respondent as general damages, for performing duties prescribed by the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, 2007.”
On the whole, the Court allowed the appeal in part. The 1st Respondent’s claim before the Federal High Court was held to succeed in part to the extent that for general damages, the 1st Respondent was entitled to N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira).
- GOVERNMENT AGENCY – FEDERAL ROAD SAFETY COMMISSION: Whether Sections 10(4) and 28 (2) of the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, 2007 confers judicial powers on the Federal Road Safety Commission/its officers contrary to the provisions of the Constitution
- GOVERNMENT AGENCY – FEDERAL ROAD SAFETY COMMISSION: Instance where the Federal Road Safety Commission will be held to have acted within the provisions of the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, 2007 to retain the vehicle papers and driver’s licence of a traffic offender
- CONSTITUTIONAL LAW – RIGHT TO FAIR HEARING: Nature of the right to fair hearing; Importance of fair hearing; effect of absence of fair hearing on Court proceeding
- DAMAGES – AWARD OF DAMAGES: Principles governing the award of general damages; Object of the award of damages and whether once there is a wrong there is a remedy