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Another Court Also Rules That LG Councils Lack Power To Impound Vehicles, Penalise Owners Over Traffic Offenses

Recalcitrant Oshodi/Isolo LG Council again ordered to pay claimant N1.2m

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A Lagos High Court has reaffirmed the illegality in impounding vehicles over alleged traffic offenses, as it has again ordered the Oshodi/ Isolo Local Government Council to pay a lawyer, Mr. Iwowo Anthony, the sum of N1.2million, as damages, for the unlawful confiscation of his car.

Justice D.T Olatokun, delivering judgment in a suit filed before the court by the claimant who said his vehicle was impounded from April 9 to April 12, 2021, declared that the action is illegal.

The court ruled that the LG, its chairman and officials lack the constitutional power to impound vehicles and to inflict traffic-related penalties on road users, motorists and owners.

A similar ruling was made last year against the same LG Council, by an Ikeja High Court, where Justice Obafemi Adamson granted an order of perpetual injunction “restraining the respondent or its agents from harassing, threatening or arresting motorists or road users for traffic offences, imposing fines and impounding vehicles.”

Anthony had last year instituted fundamental human rights enforcement suit pursuant to Sections 34, 36, 41(1) & 44 of the Constitution as amended, claiming that his unregistered fairly used Sienna vehicle, driven by his mechanic on April 9, 2021, was impounded by taskforce officials of the council, who claimed he drove without a driver’s license among others.

He sought an order of mandatory injunction compelling the respondents to jointly and severally pay the sum of N10m as exemplary/aggravated damages for the wanton and grave violation of his revered fundamental rights to fair hearing, freedom of movement, right to own property and compulsory acquisition of property, following the illegal arrest, harassment, extortion and impounding of his vehicle.

The claimant also asked the court to grant an order of mandatory injunction, compelling the respondents to jointly and severally pay the sum of N5m as general damages for the unimaginable hardships, mental stress, embarrassment, victimisation and psychological trauma, owing to the unlawful and illegal actions of the respondents’ officials.

In his ruling, Olatokun said that the action was a grave violation of the claimant’s fundamental rights to freedom of movement, right to fair hearing, right to own property as well as compulsory acquisition of property.

The court further ruled that the arrest, impounding, harassment, threats, continuous detention and extortion of money from road users/motorists/owners by the respondents is ultra vires the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and therefore illegal.

 

Awarding exemplary damages of N1million against the LG Council and its chairman, the court also ordered a refund of N25,000 fine Anthony was made to pay.

 

Adamson, had in his own ruling, also said the action against Idahosa was beyond legal power or authority of the council under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

This followed the fundamental human rights suit filed by a motorist, Mr. Louis Idahosa, whose counsel, Mr. Emmanuel Eze, claimed that the Oshodi/Isola LG Council, threatened, harassed and extorted him of N28, 000, over allegation that his driver drove against traffic.

Adamson, while ruling that the applicant’s fundamental human rights as enshrined in Sections 34, 36, 41(1) and 44 of the 1999 Constitution was breached by the LG Council, ordered a N1m compensation in favour of Idahosa, declaring further as illegal, the extortion of N28, 000, which he ordered to be refunded.

He also awarded a N100, 000 cost against the council’s counsel, Mr. L. O Mazoke.

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