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Illegal fines: Motorists abandon vehicles

Posted by Kunle Adeyemi, Tobi Soniyi and Soni Daniel on 2005/06/23 | Views: 363 |

Illegal fines: Motorists abandon vehicles

Excessive fines for traffic offences may have forced many motorists to abandon their vehicles at parking lots belonging to traffic control agencies in Lagos and Rivers States, investigations have revealed.

Excessive fines for traffic offences may have forced many motorists to abandon their vehicles at parking lots belonging to traffic control agencies in Lagos and Rivers States, investigations have revealed.

In Lagos, no fewer than 250 vehicles are dumped at the premises of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority in Oshodi, Alausa, Ikeja, and Lagos Island.

In Port Harcourt, more than 500 impounded vehicles have been abandoned in 10 police divisions visited by our correspondents.

Many of the impounded vehicles in LASTMA’s parking lots are commercial buses.

Investigations showed that in some of the parks, officials demanded up to N5,000 from motorists before their impounded vehicles could be released. If a vehicle remained in the park over night, the fine could shoot up to N10,000.

The Traffic Act, however, provides that for each day that a vehicle impounded for a traffic offence remained in the park, the owner should pay a fine of N500 before he could reclaim it.

LASTMA’s spokesman, Mr. Sikiru Olusesi Azeez, who spoke with our correspondents, did not deny the allegation of inflated fines for offences.

But he noted that the agency had always warned motorists to promptly lodge complaints at the authority’s headquarters in Oshodi any time they felt they were being extorted.

He noted that the statutory fine for any vehicle that stayed for more than 24 hours in the park was N500

Azeez acknowledged, however, that charges levied by officials for the various offences could range from N1,000 to N50,000.

“For instance, a vehicle that is impounded for moving against the traffic will be released after the payment of N25,000; drivers whose vehicles are impounded for ‘wilful obstruction’ will pay a fine of N5,000; bullion vans pay N50,000 each,” he said.

The case is not so different with the task force and the police, especially traffic policemen who have been directed by the state police command to stop routine check of vehicle particulars.

Investigations showed that some traffic policemen demand as high as N5,000 from drivers for an offence as minor as jumping the traffic light.

The Federal Highways Act, Chapter 135, Section 20, states the condition under which a vehicle could be impounded as when it was driven in a way that it damaged any part of the highway.

But the Lagos State Traffic Act is more specific on this. Section 18 of the Act reads, “Where any motor vehicle is found plying or being driven or used on any highway within Lagos State without the necessary particulars, any police officer may impound the vehicle and cause the vehicle to be removed to a vehicle park.”

On the recovery of such impounded vehicle, Section 19 states, “Any person entitled to the custody of a removed vehicle who, within 24 hours after the vehicle was impounded, tenders to the official in charge of the removed vehicle park where the vehicle is, the following, that is:

(a) such evidence, as that officer may reasonably require, of his entitlement to the custody of the removed vehicle which is in the park;

(b) the necessary particulars in relation to that vehicle issued prior to the impounding of the vehicle;

shall be entitled on demand at the park and without payment of any fees, to have the vehicle delivered up to him at the park.”

Sub-section 2 of Section 19 allows the vehicle owner to pay a fine only when the vehicle has been in custody for more than 24 hours. Immediately the fine is paid, the vehicle should be handed over to the owner.

Section 20 of the Act reads, “Where any removed vehicle is not claimed in accordance with section 19 within the period of two weeks specified under that section, the removed vehicle shall vest in the Lagos State Government.”

The Act stipulates another condition that can warrant impounding of a vehicle to be, “where a motor vehicle is stationary or abandoned on the highway or near a private premises.”

Sub-section 5 states: “Where the vehicle was found not to have been abandoned, but left on the highway for an unreasonably long time with a view to eventual removal by its owner, the owner shall bear the cost of towing the vehicle to a removed vehicle park.”

Offences that may warrant impounding a vehicle include driving with a forged licence, driving without a driver’s licence, driving of any vehicle by a person under 18, driving an unlicensed vehicle, driving with forged vehicle particulars, and driving with fake number plates.

Others, such as driving an unregistered staff bus, causing obstruction on the highway, driving under the influence of drug or alcohol, disobeying traffic personnel or traffic lights attract a fine of N2,000.

The vehicles impounded in Port Harcourt included assorted cars, buses, tankers, trucks, and motorcycles.

Our correspondents learnt that some of these vehicles were impounded over 10 years ago.

Impounding vehicles seems to be an oddity in the Federal Capital Territory, as our correspondents’ investigations showed that police divisions in Abuja were almost free of seized vehicles.

Except in a few and isolated cases where vehicles involved in accidents were removed to the police station, others seen in most of the divisions were stolen but recovered, with the owners yet to be identified.

Our correspondents learnt that the Abuja police command had issued an instruction to all divisions to avoid impounding vehicles for minor traffic offences.

The Punch, Friday, June 24, 2005

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Comments (3)

Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown