Johnson O. Esezoobo Esq
RE: Auction Of 44 Vehicles By Lagos, By Johnson Esezoobo Esq
I just read with great concern the auction by the Lagos state Government of 44 vehicles seized from alleged traffic offenders. A Task Force presided over by a Magistrate who is a lawyer, had earlier ordered forfeiture of the vehicles to the Government.
I do not want to go into analysis of the action to demonstrate that it is stealing and does not accord with our State Policy under the Constitution. But let us reason together. How reasonable, and justifiable, is this sort of law in a democratic society? In Nigeria, the Constitution provides that governmental actions shall be humane, not high handed. This is high handed.
Admittedly, driving against traffic is dangerous. And I dare add that it is an act of irresponsibility for anyone to drive against traffic. But dangerous as it is, the ‘offence’ remains what it is: a compoundable offence. That is why when the law enforcers hop into your car, they tell you to go here or there; treat you into a ‘settlement‘. It is those who failed to negotiate or who did not negotiate well that are ‘brought to book’.
The situation is worse when one was not near committing the offence at all but was just framed up. Once a victim, I know how it feels to be framed up and lied against; that one was caught driving against the traffic. It takes the grace of God, and the strength of character endowed by God, to stand such accusation.
But let’s look at the issue of *reasonableness, are we saying that a man who sent his driver out with his car to get some grocery for him can lose (forfeit) his car to the Government simply because his driver was caught driving against traffic or may have been framed up and might not have been able to ‘settle’? In the case of a commercial vehicle, how reasonable to forfeit what is best described as tool of trade? Will such a man with his dependants not become a liability to the State?
Have we considered the socio-economic and political implications of this manner of law in a depressed economy that is harbouring a large army of unemployed youths? I want to believe that our experience with the End SARS saga should teach us a lesson more than we are demonstrating by this sort of unreasonable law: that a person who wilfully, and intentionally, drove against traffic can go away while the inanimate object that he drove is forfeited to who?
Perhaps, an experience in a case of execution we carried out against the Government of one of the States will assist an insight into the idea of forfeiture a Lexus car was attached. Before we knew it, papers got manipulated here and there and the car was ‘auctioned‘ without the knowledge of the judgment creditor and judgment debtor. Investigation revealed that the auction was to a front for the Chief Judge of the… Worse still, the proceeds of the auction are no where to be found to date. If we keep quiet over unreasonable laws and actions executed under them, a time comes when everyone becomes a victim. That is why the Supreme Court denounced governance by Task Forces as an *’innovation‘ it would ‘not be a party to’ in the case of FCSC v Laoye 2NWLR (Pt.106) 652.
It is a rebellion against the society when a lawyer, either as such or as a magistrate or a Judge interprets a law that in such a manner that does not protect the society but only projects the interest of persons in Government. That is not in the public interest. Let us therefore, speak up now to avert the coming evil.
Johnson Odion Esezoobo, can be reached via +234803 320 0595