A federal high court in Lagos has declared that Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, lacks the power to impose fine on traffic offenders.
Delivering judgment in the suit, Justice Okon Abang, declared that sections 9, 11, 12 and 13 of the law establishing LASTMA is unconstitutional and of no effect.
Justice Abang awarded damages of N500,000 in the suit brought against LASTMA by Mr. Jonathan Odutola and also ruled that the four sections of its law were contrary to Section 36 of the Constitution, which gives the right of fair-hearing to every Nigerian.
He held that while LASTMA has the power to arrest traffic offenders, it does not have the powers to impose fine on them, adding that instead, it is a court of law that has power to impose fine on anybody who contravenes the law.
The judge submitted that the imposition of fine on any traffic offender by LASTMA amounted to being a judge in its own cause.
“Sections 9, 11, 12, and 13 of the law establishing LASTMA is unconstitutional. It is against the spirit of the Section 36 of the Constitution, which gives right of fair-hearing to every Nigerian. Moreover, that would amount to being a judge in your own cause,” the federal judge ruled.
Odutola had sued LASTMA for unlawfully impounding his car and imposing and slamming an illegal fine on him.
In the suit, he stated that in March 2015, while driving his car on 3rd Mainland Bridge, it suddenly developed some mechanical problems.
According to him, to ensure that the car did not obstruct free flow of traffic, he immediately called a towing-van which towed the vehicle completely out of the road. He said he also paid towing-van operator some money for the service rendered.
Odutola stated that he also called his mechanics to come and rescue him and the vehicle, adding that as soon as the mechanics arrived, some policemen patrolling the bridge who apparently wanted him to give them money refused them to work on the car.
When he insisted, Odutola and the mechanics were thoroughly beaten and harassed.
The policemen then called LASTMA officials at Sura, Lagos Island, who immediately came and towed the applicant’s car to their office and consequently slammed him with a fine if he must get his car back.