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It’s illegal for govt. to issue road worthiness certificate, demand levy from private vehicles – Appeal Court

Private vehicles

The Court of Appeal sitting in Asaba has affirmed the judgment of the High Court, Ughelli declaring that the Delta State government lacks the power to authorize and demand the payment of levy and issuance of Road Worthiness Certificate in respect of private vehicles.

While delivering the judgment on March 12, 2021, Justice Joseph Eyo Ekanem stated that he found no merit in the appeal and therefore affirmed the decision of the trial court.

Excerpts of the court judgment, with appeal NO: CA/B/333/2017, shared by TheNigeriaLawyer, read:

“Before drawing the curtain on this judgment, I need to remind public bodies and public officers that a public body or public officer vested with statutory power must take care not to exceed or abuse its or his power. It or he must keep within the limits of the authority committed to it. This is to prevent arbitrariness and the rule of man rather than the rule of law.

“The Vehicle Inspection Officers went beyond the powers vested in them by the Law and the RTR by violently stopping the private vehicle of the Respondent on a public highway using menacing tactics and dangerous implements to demand a certificate of roadworthiness which the said vehicle is not required to have. Such conduct sends a wrong signal to the citizens who may adopt such strong-arm tactics as a means of settling disputes.

“A private motor vehicle is a motor vehicle belonging to a particular person or which is for the use of a particular person or group in carrying their personal effects and not for public use or for hire or reward and it will be absurd and completely illegal to impound a private motor vehicle for not having or carrying hackney license or stage carriage license because it is provided as two of the particulars for which any vehicle may be impounded for not having.”

The judgement of the appellate court comes about seven years after the Welfare Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association and a human rights lawyer, Kunle Edun, had in 2014 brought an action against the Governor of Delta State, the Attorney of the state and the Senior Vehicle Inspector Officer, Ughelli North Local Govt Area, Delta for asking him to produce a valid Road Worthiness Certificate for his private vehicle, when there is no provision of law in the state for such certificate.

Kunle Edun in his Summons noted that the said certificate is required for commercial transporters or haulage.

After going through the pleas, the trial court noted that the Road Traffic Law of the state does not confer on them the right to demand any fee or issue a certificate of Road Worthiness in respect of vehicles used for private purposes.

The court also noted that the money collected by the defendants to the issuance of the said certificate was illegal and a violation of the provision of the Road Traffic Law (CAP R9) Law of Delta State, 2008.

The trial court, therefore, awarded the cost in the sum of N100,000 against the defendants in favour of Kunle Edun.

Justice Ekanem, therefore, awarded the cost of N200,000 against the appellants.

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