A High Court in Edo State has barred the state government and the Edo State Traffic Control and Management Agency from impounding vehicles, auctioning seized vehicles and demanding the payment of penalties for alleged traffic violations without recourse to the court.
One Chukwuka Enegide had dragged the state government, EDSTMA, its managing director and three others to court after the agency impounded his vehicle over alleged traffic violation without recourse to the court.
He had sought a declaration that granting absolute power to compulsorily take possession of citizens’ vehicles, impound them indefinitely, impose fines and penalties, and auctioning of such vehicles without affording them any opportunity of hearing was unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
Enegide also urged the court to determine if the relevant section of the EDSTMA law granting it absolute power to impound, auction vehicles or demand payment without recourse to the court was inconsistent with sections 1, 3, 35, 44 and 72 of the 1999 Constitution, among other declarations.
In his ruling, Justice P. A. Akhihiero held that the applicant was able to prove his case and grant the declarations sought.
The judge also awarded N5m as aggravated/exemplary damages against the defendants and N200,000 as costs to the applicant.
“The relevant section of the EDSTMA law granting absolute power to impound and auction vehicles or demand payment of penalties without recourse to the courts are inconsistent with sections 1,3,36,44, and 75 of the 1999 Constitution and are declared null and void to the extent of inconsistency,” the judge added.
The court also declared that the respondents’ illegal act of extortion, unlawful seizure and compulsory acquisition of the applicant’s vehicle and its detention was unconstitutional and a violation of his right to fair hearing and property as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution.