Why Appeal Court barred VIO from demanding private vehicles’ roadworthiness certificate — Lawyer - OPID News

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Thursday, 22 September 2022

Why Appeal Court barred VIO from demanding private vehicles’ roadworthiness certificate — Lawyer

 Why Appeal Court barred VIO from demanding private vehicles’ roadworthiness certificate — Lawyer

Kunle Edun

A former Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Kunle Edun, tells TOBI AWORINDE how he defeated the Vehicle Inspection Office up to the Court of Appeal in a suit challenging the agency’s demand for roadworthiness from private vehicle owners

You recently secured a court judgment against the Vehicle Inspection Office in respect of roadworthiness certificate. Can you tell us about it?

Sometime in 2014, I had cause to be driving along a major road in Ughelli (Delta State), where I wanted to inspect a piece of land, which a client of mine wanted to purchase. Along the road, I came across some kind of obstructions put on the road by some persons purporting to be Vehicle Inspection Officers. They stopped me and I identified myself. They demanded my vehicle’s roadworthiness certificate, and I told them, ‘Sorry, I don’t understand what you mean by that. As a matter of fact, I don’t have it, so should you clear the way for me to pass?’

They were stopping other vehicles for the same purpose, but I insisted that since what they were doing was wrong, I would not assist them to persevere in that error they were committing. So, I told them, ‘Sorry, I will not give you any of my documents; you don’t have any right to be on the road, asking for such documents from me.’ On that basis, they refused to allow me to pass through and that caused a scene. By then traffic had started to build and when they saw that the situation was becoming more chaotic, they had no other option but to allow me to pass through.

Was there any attempt by the officers to impound your vehicle?

When I insisted that ‘you guys don’t have the right to stop me on the road or ask me for my particulars,’ they delayed me for about eight to 10 minutes. But interestingly, when I started lecturing them about their duty under the law, some seemingly educated commuters were telling me, ‘Oga barrister, show them your documents nao. Find something for them nao.’ And I felt disappointed but I was not discouraged. I insisted that the right thing must be done. I know that whenever the VIOs demand such documents from private vehicle owners, they have a way of settling the matter. I wouldn’t know if money exchanges hands, but they have a way of settling it and that has emboldened them (VIOs) to continue in the act. So, that day, I said, ‘No, enough is enough.’ This country belongs to all of us. While we all shout that the government is failing, we too, as individuals, are failing society. So, I stood my ground and when they realised I wouldn’t budge, they allowed me to pass. But then I told them, ‘For daring to stop me and detain me for 10 minutes, I will take it up.’ I considered what they did a harassment and I didn’t like it.

The fact is that they have no right to even be on a public road purporting to be asking for roadworthiness certificates. As of the time of the renewal of my vehicle particulars, if they want to check whether the vehicle is actually roadworthy, that is where they should do that, rather than get on the roads to be harassing commuters, asking for documents.

How did they react to your threat to sue?

They thought I was joking. They said, ‘You can’t do anything.’ I discovered that it was a rampant practice by the VIOs in Delta State and nobody had bothered to take the matter up. At the time, I was the Vice Chairman of the NBA in Warri, and I was also the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the NBA in Warri. So, I had a duty to ensure that the right thing was done. That was what compelled my filing this action at the High Court, Ughelli. The Governor of Delta State was the first defendant; the second defendant was the Attorney General of the state; and the third defendant was the Vehicle Inspection Office under the Ughelli inspectorate.

We have about 125 branches of the Nigerian Bar Association. Each branch has a Human Rights Committee, and I know some branches also have Public Interest Litigation Committees. Reports can be made to each of the branches, particularly for Nigerians who do not really know their rights and are indigent. Those that are well-to-do can brief any lawyer to take up the case for them. If we have a better society, it will also help us in entrenching the rule of law. When the rule of law is upheld, I bet you, everybody will be happy that we are living in a sane society. So, the NBA is there; human rights activists are there to also help out.

Are you satisfied with the N200,000 compensation you got from the Court of Appeal?

I’m not particular about the compensation, really, because I just wanted to use the judicial process to make a statement that government institutions should adhere to the laws setting them up and try not to abuse the powers conferred on them. The high court awarded N100,000 and the Court of Appeal awarded N200,000. I’m not particular about it because even if the Delta State Government is going to pay me the money, is it not part of my tax? If they pay me, I would rather donate it to one charitable organisation to further help their cause. My wish is, let them do the right thing. The PUNCH


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