An Ikeja High Court, on Monday, ordered Oshodi Local Government Area (LGA) of Lagos to pay N1 million as compensation to a motorist, Mr Louis Idahosa, for extorting N28,000 from him for allegedly driving against traffic (one-way).
Delivering judgement, Justice Obafemi Adamson held that local governments lacked the constitutional power to impound vehicles and to inflict traffic related penalties on road users.
The judge said that threatening, harassing and extorting N28,000 from Idahosa by Oshodi LGA officials and impounding his vehicle under the guise that he drove “one-way” was illegal.
Justice Adamson held that the applicant’s fundamental human rights as enshrined in Sections 34, 36, 41(1) and 44 the 1999 Constitution was breached by the local government.
The judge ordered Oshodi LGA to refund Idahosa of the N28,000 and gave an injunction restraining the LGA from harassing road users.
“An Order is hereby granted directing the respondents (Oshodi LGA) to refund to the applicant (Idahosa) N28,000 which was extorted from him under the guise that he drove one-way without affording him fair hearing.
“An Order of perpetual injunction is hereby granted restraining the respondent or its agents from harassing, threatening or arresting motorists or road users for traffic offence, imposing fines and impounding vehicles.
“Doing so is ultra vires (beyond legal power or authority) their powers outlined under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),” Justice Adamson said.
In addition to the N1 million compensation awarded in favour of the applicant for breaching his rights to a fair hearing and freedom of movement, Justice Adamson also awarded N100,000 against the counsel for Oshodi LGA, Mr L.O. Mazoke.
Idahosa had through his counsel, Mr Emmanuel Eze, filed a fundamental human rights suit dated September 3, 2019 against Oshodi LGA.
According to Eze, Idahosa on August 28, 2019 while being driven by his driver in his Toyota Corolla car with registration number KRD551CZ along Oyetoyo St., in front of the Oshodi/Isolo LGA, they were accosted by six men who were not in uniform.
“They stopped and arrested Idahosa and his driver insisting the driver contravened traffic laws by driving one-way and were taken into the LGA office.
“Idahosa insisted that if any crime had been committed, he and his driver should be arraigned in court.
“Officials of the respondent did not agree to an arraignment but resorted to harassing, intimidating and threatening them with continuous detention.
“The applicant was forced to pay N28,000 into the respondent’s treasury.
“He, however, discovered that only N25,000 was written on the receipt issued and upon enquiry, he was informed that the outstanding N3,000 was gate pass fee,” Eze said.
Oshodi LGA in court documents, however, denied extorting Idahosa noting that the persons who arrested and extorted the applicant and his driver were not staff of the LGA.
The LGA also noted that it did not authorise anyone to extort money from the applicant.