Alleged Plan to Impose Fine on Motorists – Adegboruwa Serves Pre-Action Notice on Lagos Govt.

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Ebun Adegboruwa

Human right lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa has issued a pre-action notice to the Lagos State Government and the State House of Assembly over plan to impose tax on motorists with expired license alleged hidden camera.

According to Adegboruwa, alleged hidden cameras are said to have been positioned around government secretariat in Alausa area of Lagos, to be deployed for the imposition of fines on motorists plying roads in Lagos State.

The letter reads in part:

“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 hidden 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 alarming 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 capture plate numbers, read their vehicle details and charge them where a default 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 offence 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 penalizing 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 authorizing 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 subjected 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.

PRE-ACTION NOTICE

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.

Yours Sincerely,

Ebun-olu Adegboruwa, Esq.”

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