LAW Ab­ro­ga­tion of Abuja’s ‘Park and Pay’ pol­icy

Daily Trust - - CASE REVIEW - By Soni Ajala Chief Jus­tice of Nigeria, Aloma Mariam

Sun­trust Sav­ings and Loans Ltd vs. Hon. Min­is­ter, Federal Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory (Un­re­ported Suit No: FCT/HC/CV/1116/2012 de­cided on Thurs­day, the 17th April, 2014 by the FCT High Court, CORAM Peter O. Af­fen)

The renowned po­lit­i­cal philoso­pher, Harold Laski, had stated that a le­gal sys­tem is sur­rounded by the penum­bra of an at­tain­able ideal which it must reach as the price of its preser­va­tion. In this pur­suit of at­tain­able ideal for the preser­va­tion of the so­ci­ety, a key tool is the ju­di­ciary as a jeal­ous maid in the in­tri­cate af­fair of doc­trine of sep­a­ra­tion of power and rule of law as en­trenched at­tribute gov­er­nance in a civ­i­lized so­ci­ety. It is the ju­di­ciary that steps in as bul­wark of refuge for ag­grieved per­sons and en­ti­ties for the pur­pose of ven­ti­lat­ing their grievances in con­tradis­tinc­tion to re­sort to self help with its at­ten­dant like­li­hood of ero­sion of pub­lic or­der and pub­lic peace.

Thus, Sun­trust Sav­ings and Loans Limited ag­grieved that her move­able as­sets were clamped and fine of N20, 000.00 im­posed some­time in 2012 by agents of the first and sec­ond de­fen­dants (Hon. Min­is­ter, Federal Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory and Federal Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory Ad­min­is­tra­tion) ap­proached the court for re­dress. Sun­trust Sav­ings and Loans Limited as plain­tiff sought in­ter alia declara­tory re­liefs and re­strain­ing or­der of per­pet­ual in­junc­tion against the de­fen­dants on ground the Park and Pay Scheme in­tro­duced by the de­fen­dants within Abuja Me­trop­o­lis were not le­gal for fail­ure of req­ui­site leg­isla­tive back­ing.

On the other hand, the de­fen­dants, par­tic­u­larly the Hon. Min­is­ter, Federal Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory and the Federal Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory Ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­gued that the ex­tant pro­vi­sions of the Federal Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory Act, LFN 2004 par­tic­u­larly sec­tions 10 and 11 (1)(e) & (m) of the Road Traf­fic Act, they have the com­pe­tence to make bye-laws and/or reg­u­la­tion with re­gard to road trans­port and al­lied mat­ters within Abuja Mu­nic­i­pal­ity. The de­fen­dants fur­ther ar­gued that the Park and Pay scheme is sub­sumed un­der the ‘Park and Ride’ pol­icy as pro­vided un­der sec­tions 118 and 119 of the FCT Road Trans­port Reg­u­la­tion, 2005.

The learned trial judge was there­fore faced with the task of in­ter­pret­ing the lat­i­tude of sec­tion 11 (i) (e) of the FCT Road Trans­port Reg­u­la­tion, 2005 which em­pow­ers the Hon. Min­is­ter, Federal Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory and the Federal Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory Ad­min­is­tra­tion to do among other things “the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of park­ing places, and the days and hours dur­ing which and max­i­mum pe­riod they may be used and fees, if any to be im­posed.”

In dis­charg­ing this duty the ju­rist reached the con­clu­sion that by the letters and spirit of the FCT Road Trans­port Reg­u­la­tion, 2005, the Federal Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory Ad­min­is­tra­tion has the com­pe­tence to make reg­u­la­tions or bye-laws in gen­eral or spe­cific terms such as park­ing spa­ces and fees thereto. He how­ever stated and rightly too, that the FCT Road Trans­port stopped with im­me­di­ate ef­fect. The learned trial judge ob­served that be­ing vested with power to make a bye-law or reg­u­la­tion as pro­vided un­der sec­tion 11 (i) (e) of the FCT Road Trans­port Reg­u­la­tion, 2005 (for the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of park­ing spa­ces and fees if any, to be im­posed) is one thing, but fail­ure to have validly ex­er­cised and/or acted pur­suant to such power be­fore are rolling out the Park and Pay scheme is an­other thing.

The court distin­guished the “Park and Ride” pol­icy as pro­vided un­der the FCT Trans­port Reg­u­la­tion, 2005, from the il­le­gal “Park and Pay” scheme which was des­ti­tute of any known law author­ity of WIL­LIAMS vs. LSDPC (1978) 3 SC, where the apex court of the land held that “no pe­cu­niary bur­den can be im­posed upon the cit­i­zen of this coun­try by what­ever name it may be called, whether tax, due, rate or toll ex­cept upon the clear and district le­gal author­ity es­tab­lished by those who seek to im­pose them.” He ad­mon­ished that there can be no crime with­out law and no one can be pun­ished for on of­fence un­less the of­fence is de­fined and the penalty thereof pre­scribed in a writ­ten law. That ac­cord­ing to Hon. Jus­tice Peter Oyin Af­fen is the trite po­si­tion of the law as cod­i­fied un­der sec­tion 36 (12) of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion as amended.

On a part­ing shot, the ju­rist un­der­scor­ing the util­i­tar­ian na­ture of the Park and Pay scheme de­clared that, “My un­der­stand­ing of the im­port and im­pli­ca­tion of the prin­ci­ple of supremacy of the law, and the wider con­cept of the Rule of Law pro­hibits the in­tro­duc­tion of even an ex­cel­lent pol­icy other­wise than by due process of law.”

This au­thor can agree less as any­thing to the con­trary will be a slide to the ‘hobbe­sian state of na­ture.’

A salient rev­e­la­tion in the de­ci­sion of the court is the usual con­demnable ten­dency and act of im­punity by most pub­lic of­fice hold­ers in our clime. Whereas the oper­a­tors of the pur­ported Park and Pay scheme signed agree­ment with the Federal Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory Ad­min­is­tra­tion for “IN­STAL­LA­TION, OPER­A­TION AND MAIN­TE­NANCE OF ON-STREET PARK­ING ME­TRES” on des­ig­nated high­ways and streets, they failed

Wand/or ig­nored to in­stall any me­tres. Rather they quickly let loose ‘ thug- like’ agents on Abuja res­i­dents who re­sorted to sub­jec­tive and ar­bi­trary is­suance of dock­ets man­u­ally. hile the Abuja res­i­dents wait for the next step to be taken by the au­thor­i­ties that be, one thing is cer­tain, that cit­i­zens of the coun­try have been fleeced of their hard earned money over the pe­riod the il­le­gal Park and Pay pol­icy was im­ple­mented. But then a Daniel has come to judg­ment. Bet­ter late than never.

The com­mend­able courage and sense of pa­tri­otic zeal ex­hib­ited by the trial judge is an el­e­gant re­minder of the time­less words of Oputa JSC in EN­GI­NEER­ING EN­TER­PRISE VS. AG. KADUNA STATE (1987) 2 NWLR (PT. 57) 381 at 417 that “the courts have a duty to in­ves­ti­gate and dis­cover what in any par­tic­u­lar case will sat­isfy the in­ter­est and de­mands of jus­tice. And the in­ter­est of and de­mands of jus­tice will cer­tainly be dic­tated by the pe­cu­liar facts and the sur­round­ing cir­cum­stances of each case.”

The re­fresh­ing de­ci­sion of the court in the case un­der re­view just like the equally sooth­ing de­ci­sion of the courts re­strain­ing the Federal Road Safety Com­mis­sion (FRSC) and La­gos State Govern­ment from im­ple­ment­ing the no­to­ri­ous ve­hi­cle plate num­bers reg­is­tra­tion and tolling of the new Ikoyi bridge re­spec­tively re­as­sures us that the ju­di­ciary re­mains the last hope of the com­mon man.

Soni Ajala, Ph.D, FCI. Arb (UK) is an Abuja based le­gal prac­ti­tioner

FCT Min­is­ter Bala Mo­hammed

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.