By Sunny A Ijmoah
A high court in Akwa ibom has declared the impounding of vehicles and the imposition of penalties for alleged breach of traffic offences by Vehicle Inspection Officers, unconstitutional.
This judgement was delivered on October 8 2021 by Justice Aniekan Etome in a fundamental rights enforcement suit no. HU/FHR/171/2021 filed by Edidong Akpanuwa ESQ on behalf of applicant to the effect that vehicle inspection officers (VIO) acting on the instructions of the Akwa Ibom State Government cannot by virtue of section 36 of the Constitution assume the powers and/or functions of the court to impose penalties and impound vehicles of a person alleged to have committed traffic offence.
The court declared such action by the VIO as unconstitutional.
Accordingly the court ordered the Government of Akwa Ibom State and the Ministry of Transport to :-
1) Immediately return to the Applicant the sum of N5000 illegally collected as penalty for alleged breach of traffic regulations
2) To pay to the applicant N500,000 as general damages
3) N1,500,000 as exemplary damages
4) N80,000 as cost of the action.
Consequently, the real functions of VIOs include:
1) Training and testing of applicants for Driver’s license
2) Testing and training of applicants for Rider’s card
3) Organizing seminars and public lectures
4) Carrying out inspection of vehicles involved in accidents
5) Certification of driving schools
6) Co-operating with other agencies to enforce traffic rules and regulations
7) Providing accessible emergency services
8) Co-operating with relevant agencies engaged in road safety activities or the prevention of accidents on the highways
9) Preparing and keeping statutory registers and a database of all certificates issued and revoked.