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A’court bars Delta govt from vehicle road worthiness levy

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By Nosa Akenzua

The Court of Appeal sitting at Asaba, on Monday, affirmed the judgment of the High Court, Ughelli declaring that the Delta state government lacks the power to demand the payment of levy and issuance of road worthiness certificate for private vehicles.

Justice Joseph Eyo Ekanem on March 12, 2021, while delivering the judgment in appeal NO: CA/B/333/2017, stated that he found no merit in the appeal and therefore affirmed the decision of the trial court.

According to the certified true copy of the judgment, the court further stated that “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.”

The court also holds that 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 Appeal Court, therefore, awarded the cost of N200,000 against the appellants.

The welfare secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Kunle Edun, had, in 2014, brought an action against the governor of Delta state, the attorney general of the state and the senior vehicle inspector officer, Ughelli North local government 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.

Edun, in his summons, noted that the said certificate was required for commercial transporters or haulage.

The trial court, having gone through their pleadings, noted that the Road Traffic Law of the state did not confer on them the right to demand and /or collect any fee/levy or issue 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, the respondent.

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