Abuja – Some lawyers in Abuja on Friday said that the plan by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to begin enforcement of the new drivers’ licence and number plates on Aug. 1, was illegal.
A cross-section of the legal practitioners said in separate interviews that FRSC cannot compel motorists to do so because of conflicting judgments.
Chief Chris Uche, SAN, said that it was a nullity for the commission to choose one judgment out of three judgments on the same issue as they like for enforcement.
“It is not lawful for the FRSC to just choose or pick one judgment out of three judgments of courts of coordinate jurisdiction for execution,’’ he said.
He said that the only option available to the FRSC was to wait for the court of appeal to decide on the matter, since there were two subsisting judgments against them.
Also speaking, Mr Tob Kekemeke, a Jos-based lawyer, faulted FRSC’s threat to begin impounding the vehicles of motorists who do not have new drivers’ licence and number plates.
Kekemeke said the decision of the Anambra High court was tantamount to “disorder having regard to the preceding judgments of the Lagos and Abuja Federal High Courts on the issue’’.
“FRSC must wait for the outcome of the appeal it filed instead of trying to enforce one of the three judgments of courts of equal jurisdiction that is in its favour,’’ he said.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Funke Adekoya, said the Anambra State High Court, Federal High Court as well as the FCT High Court were courts of coordinate jurisdiction and could rule on the matter.
She said even if a matter was raised in terms of management and control of a federal agency, it could be formulated to fall within the jurisdiction of a state high court.
Speaking on the conflict in the rulings, Adekoya advised the persons who got judgment in the Federal High Court to seek to enforce the judgment to stop the Federal Road Safety Commission.
She, however, said the matter could only be determined by the Court of Appeal.
“It depends as to whether the state high court was made aware of a decision from another court. That is why we have a Court of Appeal. So, the Court of Appeal will determine it at the end of the day.
“The people who got the judgment in the Federal High Court could seek to enforce that judgment and that will then stop the Federal Road Safety Commission,” she said.
Similarly, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Adamu Alimi, said the courts were of coordinate jurisdiction, as such only a court of higher jurisdiction could settle the matter.
“Last week, the same thing happened in the US with respect to the Affordable Care Act.
“One court in the morning took to a decision saying that only the state exchanges can give health insurance subsidy but later that day, another court of coordinate jurisdiction said federal exchanges can give that subsidy.
“So, in a situation like this, it is not invalidation, they gave contrary decisions; it is now left for a court of a higher jurisdiction to resolve the issue,” he said.
Alimi, however, said that if the Federal High Court had ruled that
redesigning of new number plates was not covered under the provisions of any law in Nigeria, the FRSC has nothing to enforce.
NAN recalls that Mr Chidi Nkwonta, FRSC Lagos Sector Commander, on Tuesday announced that the commission would begin enforcement of the new drivers’ licence and number plates on Aug 1.
He said that the decision was sequel to a judgment of an Anambra High Court which gave the FRSC the go-ahead to impound defaulters.
“Nigerians must discountenance that first misleading judgment and take this one because we are going to continue enforcement as from Aug. 1, 2014.
“So, while we are still waiting for the appeal we are going to go on with this other judgment,’’ Nkwonta had said.
It would be recalled that the Anambra Chief Judge, Justice Peter Umeadi on June 30, in his judgment held that FRSC’s directive to change old drivers’ licence and number plates was legal.
However, Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Lagos on March 26 declared that the FRSC had no legal authority to impose new number plates on motorists in the country.
“The ongoing exercise by the FRSC to replace the old number plates with a new one is illegal and unconstitutional because there is no law empowering it to carry out the exercise,’’ he said.
Also, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of an Abuja Federal High Court had on May 20 restrained the FRSC from enforcing the new drivers’ licence and vehicle particulars on motorists.
“The commission’s planned action is tantamount to executive recklessness, as the FRSC cannot amend any act of the National Assembly or promulgate another one.
“The court is also mindful of the recent judgment of a Lagos High Court on the same subject matter,’’ he said. (NAN)