An activist and legal practitioner, Mr. Tope Alabi has instituted a contempt proceedings against the Chief Executive of Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi, for allegedly disobeying a court order barring the corps’ imposition of fines on motorists.
A Lagos Federal High Court, presided over by Justice John Tsoho, had on September 26, 2014 nullified FRSC’s powers to fine motorists for violating traffic rules.
Justice Tsoho held that only a court of law can pronounce a motorist or driver guilty of violating traffic rules and order them to pay a fine.
The judge, who delivered the verdict in a suit by the activist, ruled that FRSC is not empowered to impose fines under sections 10 (4) and 28 (2) of the FRSC (Establishment) Act 2007 because it is not a court.
The judge had ruled that FRSC can arrest motorists for traffic offences, but it must take them to mobile or other courts which have the powers to punish traffic offenders.
Alabi is contending that FRSC officials have not complied with the judgment which he said is yet to be set aside by the Court of Appeal. He also said that FRSC did not apply for or obtain any stay of execution of the judgment.
Therefore, he filed a Notice of Consequences of Disobedience to Order of Court, dated August 20.
The notice accuses Corps Marshal Oyeyemi of contempt if his men continue to violate the order by arresting and imposing fines on erring motorists without taking them to court.
Parts of the notice reads: “Take notice that unless you obey the directions contained in this order, you will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison.”
‎Alabi in the suit, had prayed the court to declare that only a court of competent jurisdiction can pronounce a person guilty under Section 10 (4) and 28 (2) of the FRSC (Establishment Act) 2007 and Regulation 143 of the Nigerian Roads Traffic Regulation, 2011.
The judge declared the sections null and void for being inconsistent with Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution.
He also awarded N1 million damages to the plaintiff because FRSC confiscated his vehicle and driver’s license for an alleged traffic offence.
Justice Tsoho said while FRSC is statutorily empowered to arrest traffic offenders, a closer look at the definition of the word “fine” means ‘a pecuniary criminal punishment or civil penalty payable to the public treasury.’
He held: “In the instance case, however, the involvement of the element of arrest takes the imposition of fine by the second defendant, FRSC, to the realm of criminal punishment. It is noteworthy that a fine, when viewed from that perspective, is a component of sentence.”

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