The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has ruled that the imposition of fines by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) is illegal.
The appeal court held that imposition of penalties by the LASTMA ultra vires its power, especially where no platform was established to observe the principles of natural justice.
The court declared this while ruling on the appeal filed by LASTMA over judgment delivered by the Federal High Court on September 16, 2011, in the suit no FHC/L/CS/653/2011 wherein it was held that it breached the right of the respondent in the suit.
LASTMA had appealed the judgment delivered by Justice Okon Abang wherein the court declared that the unlawful assault and illegal arrest, seizure and continuous detention of applicant’s Pick-up van with registration number BE 736 KSF by the respondent on March 18, 2011 was a breach of the applicant’s fundamental right to human dignity as guaranteed by Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution.
The applicant, Mr. Jonathan Odutola had filed the suit against LASTMA over the alleged unlawful detention of his Pick up Van, and the court awarded N500.000 as damages against it (LASTMA ) and ordered issuance of public apology.
Delivering the lead judgment by Justice Jamilu Yammama Tukur which was adopted by Justice Biobele Abraham Georgewill and Justice Abimbola Osarugue Obaseki-Adejumo, the court held that “by the provisions of section 1 (1) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the constitution is supreme and its provisions are binding on all authorities and persons in Nigeria.
“Therefore, if any law is inconsistent with any provisions of the constitution, the constitution shall prevail and other law shall to the extent of that inconsistency be void.” The court cited Nosdra v.Exxonnmobil (2018) LPELR -44210 (CA), pp 5-9 para E-C.
Also, the court held that the imposition of a fine by the appellant, it (LASTMA) acted in a judicial capacity which they are not imbued with under the constitution.
“The appellant constituted itself into a court with judicial or quasi-judicial powers, when ìn fact the law that created it did not donate such jurisdiction to it.
By doing so, the appellant became a judge in its own cause, the complainant as well the judge, contrary to the maxim ‘nemo judex in causa sua’. The court will not allow any authority to act ultra vires its power under the constitution.
“There is, therefore, a lacuna in that law creating the appellant. In view of the fact that the main crux of the respondent’s grievance bothers on the imposition of fine/penalty on it, I hold that there is no merit in this appeal whatsoever. I find the appeal as lacking in merit as same is hereby dismissed,” the court held.