An Ikeja High Court has ordered Oshodi Local Government Area of Lagos to pay the sum of N1 million as compensation to a motorist, Mr Louis Idahosa for extorting him of N28,000.
Idahosa was extorted of the said amount for allegedly driving against traffic (wrong-way driving), Tribune reports.
Justice Obafemi Adamson said it was not part of the constitutional duties of local governments to impound vehicles and inflict traffic-related penalties on road users.
The judge, therefore, described the action taken by the local council officials as illegal, saying it is contrary to fundamental human rights as contained in Sections 34, 36, 41(1) and 44 of the 1999 Constitution.
Apart from the award of N1 million to the applicant for breach of his right to fair hearing and freedom of movement, the judge ordered the local council to refund N28,000 to Idahosa and also gave an injunction restraining Oshodi Local Government Area from harassing road users.
It also awarded a cost of N100,000 against the counsel for Oshodi local council, Mr L. O. Mazoke.
“An Order is hereby granted directing the respondents (Oshodi LGA) to refund to the applicant (Idahosa) N28,000 which was extorted from him under the guise that he drove one-way without affording him a fair hearing.
“An Order of perpetual injunction is hereby granted restraining the respondent or its agents from harassing, threatening or arresting motorists or road users for traffic offences, imposing fines and impounding vehicles.
“Doing so is ultra vires (beyond legal power or authority) their powers outlined under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),” Justice Adamson said.
Idahosa had via his legal counsel, Emmanuel Eze filed a fundamental human rights suit dated September 3, 2019, against the local government.
Eze told the court that Idahosa on August 28, 2019, while being chauffeured in his Toyota Corolla car with registration number KRD551CZ, in Oshodi/Isolo Local Government Area, they were accosted by six men who were not in uniform.
“They stopped and arrested Idahosa and his driver insisted that the driver’s wrong-way driving contravened traffic laws.
They were subsequently taken into the council office.
“Idahosa insisted that if any crime had been committed, he and his driver should be arraigned in court.
“Officials of the respondent did not agree to an arraignment but resorted to harassing, intimidating and threatening them with continuous detention.
“The applicant was forced to pay N28,000 into the respondents’ treasury.
“He however discovered that only N25,000 was written on the receipt issued and upon enquiry, he was informed that the outstanding N3,000 was gate pass fee,” Eze said.
Oshodi local council, in court documents, however, denied ever extorting Idahosa and his chauffeur, claiming the persons who arrested and extorted them were not working for the local government.