Lagos lawyer and public interest litigation activist, Jiti Ogunye, has filed an action challenging the constitutionality and the legality of the plan of the Federal Road Safety Commission to embark on the issuance of new vehicle plate numbers and drivers’ license exercise all over the Country. The FRSC’s new National Driver’s Licensing Scheme (NDLS), and National Vehicle Identification Scheme (NVIS) is purportedly endorsed by the Joint Tax Board of the Federation and the National Economic Council of the Federation.

In an  Originating Summons filed at the Federal High Court, Ikeja Division against the FRSC, the National Assembly, Attorney-General of the Federation, Attorney-General of Lagos State, and the National Identity Management Commission, Jiti Ogunye claims that  the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, 2007, published as Act No 22 in Government Notice No 58 in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No 89, Vol.94 issued in Lagos on 13th July 2007, which makes the FRSC  the sole designer and producer of driver’s license and vehicle number plates, is, in whole or parts, not a validly passed and enacted Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, due to   the breach of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 ( as amended) and the respective Rules of the House of Representatives and Senate whilst the Bill for the enactment of the Act was being considered and passed in the National Assembly; and that even if theFederal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, No 22 of 2007, published as aforesaid is held to have been validly enacted, Section 5 (g) and Section 10(3)(d & f) thereof are null and void for having been passed, made and  enacted  in excess of the legislative powers of the National Assembly under the provisions of Section 4, and  Items 63 and 68 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution  of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999
Ogunye also claims that the actual or envisaged implementation (execution and enforcement) of the provisions of the said sections of the Act, generally by the   Defendants, by virtue of its commencement, and in particular the  intended or actual exercise of the powers in the said sections by the FRSC, including the plan to generate biometrics identity data for purpose of issuance of driver’s license and vehicle license, and the plan to  centrally re-design, reproduce and reissue vehicle licenses and vehicle number plates in Nigeria, which proposal was purportedly approved by the National Economic Council  of the Federation in December, 2010, are unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.

In the Summons, Ogunye submitted five questions for the determination of the Court, and sought ten reliefs or orders. The questions are whether the FRSC Commission (Establishment) Act, No 22 of 2007 is, in whole or parts, a validly passed and enacted Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having regard to the breach of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 ( as amended) and the respective Rules of the House of Representatives and Senate whilst the Bill for the enactment of the Act  was being considered in and passed by the National Assembly?; whether Section 5 (g) and Section 10(3)(d & f) Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, No 22 of 2007 vesting in the  Federal Road Safety Commission and/or the Federal Road Safety Corps the power to make regulations relating to “designing and producing driver’s license and vehicle number plates to be used by various categories of vehicle” and the functions of “designing and producing the driver’s license to be used by various categories of vehicles operators” and “ designing and producing vehicle number plates” , were not made and enacted  in excess of the legislative powers of the National Assembly under the provisions of Section 4, and  Items 63 and 68 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, and if so, are  not null and void and of no effect whatsoever, even  if the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, No 22 of 2007, as a whole, is held to have been validly enacted ?; whether the intended or actual exercise of the powers conferred by the said Section 5 (g) and Section 10(3)(d & f) of the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, No 22 of 2007 by the Federal Road Safety Commission or Federal Road Safety Corps, especially  the plan to centrally design, re-design, produce or reproduce and  re-issue vehicle licenses and vehicle number plates all over Nigeria, which proposal has purportedly been approved by the National Economic Council of the Federation, are not unconstitutional, illegal, null and void? Whether the Ist-3rd Defendants, can lawfully, through the Federal Road Safety Commission, the Lagos State Number Plates Production Authority, and/or the Lagos State Driver’s License Production/Issuance Authority demand for, generate, store and deploy biometric identity data of Applicants for driver’s license or vehicle number plates, at all or without the permission or authorisation of the National Identity Management Commission, having regards to the provisions of Sections 5, 14 and 15 of the National Identity Management Commission Act, No 23 of 2007,  published as Government Notice No.59 in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No 90, Vol. 94, issued in Lagos on 14th July, 2007; and whether the said plan to centrally design, re-design, produce or reproduce and re-issue vehicle licenses and vehicle number plates all over Nigeria, which proposal has been approved by the Executive Council of the Federation, is not contrary to public policy, illegal null and void?

Ogunye then sought declarative and injunctive reliefs, including an Order of Injunction, restraining the FRSC and the other Defendants, either by themselves,  or by their  agents,  from implementing, enforcing or in any way or manner whatsoever and howsoever operating the said provisions of Section 5 (g) and Section 10(3)(d & f) of the Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, No 22 of 2007, especially in relation to the power therein to make regulations on and to produce driver’s license and vehicle number plates, and generating, storing and warehousing the said identity biometric data;

In the Suit, Ogunye traced the evolution of the FRSC, contending that although from its inception in 1988 and by law in 1992, up to 2007, the FRSC was only vested with the power of “ designing the driver’s license to be used by various categories of  vehicle operators”; and “ designing vehicle plate identification numbers and controlling the use of speed limiting devices”, for the sake of uniformity in form and appearance of the number plates and licenses, the FRSC was, through a newlaw- Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, 2007, published as Act No 22 in Government Notice No 58 in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No 89, Vol.94 issued in Lagos on 13th July 2007-, unconstitutionally empowered to make regulations relating to “designing and producing driver’s license and vehicle number plates to be used by various categories of vehicle” and the actual functions of “designing and producing the driver’s license to be used by various categories of vehicles operators” and “ designing and producing vehicle number plates”
The power granted the FRSC to produce driver’s license and vehicle number plates under the Act violates the right of the States to produce driver’s license and vehicle number plates and generate revenue for themselves. It is against the principle of federalism that underpins the relationship between the States and the central government in Nigeria . Apart from the issue of federalism, FRSC’s intention to redesign and reproduce driver’s license and vehicle plates all over the Country, thereby subjecting Nigerians to a needless but costly plate number and license renewal exercise is goaded by selfish interests to generate revenue like other government agencies, and use or misuse same, without probity, and without recourse to appropriation accountability through the National Assembly, 

The FRSC has agreed with the States, through the Joint Tax Board that it will share the revenue generated with the States. It is the boost of the Internally Generated Revenue dimension or perspective that is used as a bait, ploy or incentive by the FRSC and the Federal Government to compromise the State Governments who are now willing to surrender their hitherto principled opposition to the unlawful and unconstitutional usurpation of power by the FRSC and the Federal Government over the driver’s license and vehicle plate number production issue; and who are now colluding with the FRSC to escalate the cost of obtaining driver’s license and vehicle plate numbers to the detriment of the driving public.

Hearing of the Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction seeking to restrain the FRSC from embarking on the exercise, pending the hearing of the substantive Suit came up  before Hon. Justice S.J Adah of the Federal High Court, Ikeja on Monday, the 9th of May, 2011. The case could not proceed and was adjourned to 19th of May for continuation because of the conflicting appearances or legal representation  entered for the Defendants by the law firms of two senior advocates of Nigeria. While C.A Candide Johnson Esq, SAN, told the Court that he had the instructions of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke,SAN to represent all the Defendants, Dr. Alex A Izinyon, SAN maintained that he was briefed by the FRSC to represent it. Consequently the Court directed the Defendants' Counsel to sort out the issue of representation before the next date of hearing.

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