A Federal High Court in Abuja has upheld the powers of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to fine motorists for alleged traffic offences without first prosecuting them in a court of law.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo gave the decision on August 27, 2021 while dismissing a suit by a motorist, Dr M.Y Suleiman, seeking N10 million as damages from the FRSC for the detention of his car.
The car’s detention followed Suleiman’s alleged violation of a traffic offence and his subsequent payment of a fine without first being prosecuted.
The judge held that contrary to the plaintiff’s claim, the practice whereby road marshals issue tickets to motorists on allegation of the commission of offences under the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2012 and demand ‘offenders’ to pay a fine, did not offend section 6(6) of the Constitution, Rules 166 and 220 of the National Road Traffic Regulations.
He noted that the matter had already been settled by Tijani Abubakar JCA (as he then was) at the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division in the 2019 case of Olookan v FRSC.
Suleiman filed the suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1167/2019 following the detention of his car, for, among others, his making a call in his car while driving.
He sought nine reliefs, including a declaration that fair hearing was not achieved by the FRSC issuing a ticket to him to pay a fine, since the defendants were the complainants, prosecutors and the judge in their cause and consequently the fine he paid was unlawful.
But dismissing his claims for want of merit, the judge held that Suleiman did not deny making a call in his car but tried to rationalise his actions by saying that his phone was connected to his car.
He said: “It is borne out of the facts presented by both parties before the court that the Plaintiff was issued with a Notice of Offence and that the plaintiff actually paid the fine. I see no wrong done to the plaintiff who elected to pay the fine rather than being prosecuted.