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Court outlaws fine, towing of vehicles by LASTMA

A high court in Ikeja has outlawed imposing fines and towing of vehicles of motorists suspected to have committed traffic offences by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

The presiding judge, Olalekan Oresanya said this on Friday while giving judgment in a suit instituted by one Lawal Aliyu whose vehicle was impounded in November 2021 by officers of LASTMA.

Aliyu was fined N20,000 for an alleged traffic offence and N10,000 for towing charges.

The plaintiff demanded the sum of N5 million as damages against the respondents jointly and severally for breach of his fundamental rights.

“Public authorities and bodies cannot act in a manner that is inconsistent and incompatible with the fundamental rights of citizens as guaranteed by the constitution, which is the ground norm,” the judge held.

He held that the applicant should have been arraigned before a competent court before he could be penalised for any traffic offence.

The judge condemned LASTMA for the practice of forcefully towing vehicles of alleged traffic offenders who do not resist arrest, saying it is the height of oppression.

“I must add that it is strange and bizarre that the first respondent (LASTMA) towed a serviceable vehicle in good working condition and thereby cause damage to the vehicle in the process when it has not been established that the applicant resisted the arrest of his vehicle, only for the first respondent to subsequently impose a fine on the applicant for a service not solicited by the applicant. To my mind, this is the height of oppression and impunity and it is condemnable,” he said.

“On the whole, I give judgment for the applicant in the following terms, I make a declaration that the obstruction, towage, seizure, and impoundment of the applicant’s car with Registration NO. AGL 93 DW on the 23rd November 2021 by the respondents is unlawful, illegal, and unconstitutional as same amounted to a gross violation of the applicant’s fundamental right to freedom of movement enshrined in Section 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

“I make a declaration that the imposition and enforcement of LASTMA fine in the sum of N20,000.00 and LASTMA towing fine in the sum of N10,000.00 on the applicant without an order of a court of competent jurisdiction is unlawful, Illegal and null and void and the said fines should be paid back by the respondents to the applicant.

“The sum of N750,000 compensatory damages is awarded against the respondents for the violation of the applicant’s fundamental rights.”

Writing by Muzha Kucha