Their Lordships held that there is no express provision of the Road Traffic Law of Delta State or any other law which confers on him the right to sue or be sued eo nominee.
The Senior Vehicle Inspection Officer is only an administrative head of his zone and not the overall body, to wit: the Vehicle Inspection Unit.
The right to sue or be sued does not arise from the mere fact that a statute recognizes the existence of a body or office for the performance of a function.
The right must be donated by statute expressly or impliedly.
Their Lordships placed reliance on Erokoro v. Government of Cross River State (1991) 4 NWLR (pt. 185) 322.
His Lordship Joseph Eyo Ekanem, JCA held that, ‘‘The position of a Senior Vehicle Inspection Officer is akin to the position of a Divisional Police Officer who is the administrative head of a Police Division.
In the case of African Ivory Insurance v. Commissioner for Insurance (1998) 1 NWLR (pt. 532) 50, at 57, it was held that while the Commissioner of Police could be sued eo nomine as it is known to the Constitution, the Division Police Officer being an office set up merely for administrative convenience, cannot be sued.
It is, therefore, my opinion that the 3rd Appellant is not a person that can sue or be sued eo nomine’’.
Whether by virtue of the provisions of all relevant laws relating to Road Traffic, the Certificate of Road Worthiness has no application to private motor vehicles.
The Appellants’ counsel argued that Certificate of Road Worthiness has application to private vehicles.
He referred to the learned trial Judge’s interpretation of Section 48(1), (4) and (5) of the Law and submitted that it cannot be the correct intendment of the lawmakers.
This he said is because the law defines “Motor Vehicle” to mean mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads. He also referred to Section 3(2) of the Road Traffic Law.
He contended that if the intention of the lawmakers was that private vehicles be exempted from carrying the Certificate of Road Worthiness, it would have been expressly so stated.
He stated that this is on account of the fact that Section 48(1) and (2) of the Law, which empowers persons authorized to impound vehicles plying the road without certain particulars includes Road Worthiness Certificate as one of the particulars meant to be carried by vehicles plying the road.
The Respondent submitted that a perusal of the Law and its Regulations shows that there is no provision therein that empowers the Appellants to issue Certificate of Road Worthiness in respect of vehicles used for non-commercial purposes.
Rather, the only section that authorizes the Appellants to examine vehicles is Regulation 58 of the Regulations, which relates only to examination of commercial vehicles and the issuance of certificate therefor after such examination.
He referred to Section 2 of the Law (the interpretation Section) and submitted that his vehicle does not fall within the definition of a commercial vehicle.
He also referred to Regulation 2 of the Regulation and Section 43 of the Law, which empowers the State Execution Council to make regulations on various matters relating to road traffic and Regulation 5 of the Regulation made pursuant thereto, which he said relates to the examination of commercial vehicles only.
He argued that there is no similar provision in respect of vehicles used for private purposes.
Their Lordships held that Paragraphs (2), (3), (4) and (5) of Regulation 5 of the Road Traffic Regulations (RTR) made detailed and comprehensive provisions for the factors or matters that must be present for the registration of categories of vehicles as follows:
(1)Paragraph (2) is for registration of commercial and passenger carrying vehicles, to wit: categories (iv), (v), (vi), (vii) and (viii) of the paragraph (1).
(2)Paragraph 3 is for registration of trailers (that is to say category (iii) of paragraph (1).
(3)Paragraph 4 is for registration of agricultural machine, that is to say category (ix) of paragraph (1).
(4)Paragraph 5 is for registration of tractor, that is to say category (x) of paragraph 1..
The requirements include the production of a Certificate of Road Worthiness issued under Regulation 58 at the time of the application for registration.
Regulation 58(1) and (2) of the RTR states:
(1) Every commercial vehicle, trailer, taxi, stage carriage, omnibus, shall before being registered or licensed and every 6 month thereafter, be examined by a Vehicle Inspection Officer.
(2) Examination Certificate – where at such examination a vehicle is found to be roadworthy, the Vehicle Inspection Officer shall issue a certificate to that effect as in Form M. L. 9 in the Sixth Schedule, which shall remain valid for 6 months. Such certificate shall be carried in the registration book and produced when required by Licensing Authority, a Vehicle Inspector or a Police Officer.”
Their Lordships held that this requirement applies only to vehicles that come under paragraphs (2) and (3) only, that is, commercial and passenger carrying vehicles and trailers.
Their Lordships held that it is, therefore, clear from the above that the provisions of Regulation 5 is loudly silent in respect of private motor vehicles.
I agree with the learned trial Judge. The provisions for particulars of motor vehicles are to be found in the RTR which as I have already demonstrated do not require a private motor vehicle to have a Certificate of Road Worthiness.
It follows therefore that the words “any of the particulars…” refer to the particulars as are required in respect of each category of motor vehicle as set out in Regulation 58 of RTR.
Their Lordships held that from the foregoing it can be drawn that a private motor vehicle is a motor vehicle belonging to a particular person, or which is for the use of a particular person or group, and for the carrying of their personal effects and not for public use or for hire or reward.
His Lordship Joseph Eyo Ekanem, JCA held that
‘‘Before drawing the curtain on this judgment, I need to remind public bodies and public officers that a public body or public officer vested with statutory power must take care not to exceed or abuse its or his power.
“It or he must keep within the limits of the authority committed to it. This is to prevent arbitrariness and the rule of man rather than the rule of law. See Wilson v. Attorney-General of Bendel State (1985) 1 NWLR (pt. 4) 572, at 591.
“The Vehicle Inspection Officers went beyond the powers vested in them by the law and the Road Traffic Regulations, by violently stopping the private motor vehicle of the Respondent on a public highway, using menacing tactics and dangerous implements to demand for Certificate of Road Worthiness which the said vehicle is not required to have.
“Such conduct sends a wrong signal to the citizens who may adopt such strong-arm tactics as a means of settling disputes’’.
The Appeal was dismissed.
- O. Monye, Esq. (Director, Civil Litigation, Ministry of Justice, Delta State, (with him, G. I. Ugbechie, Esq – Senior State Counsel) – for the Appellants.
Respondent in person.
Reported in (2021) Modern Weekly Law Report (MWLR) pt 11 P. 331-385
Modern Weekly Law Report (MWLR) is a publication of Doyen Law Publishers Limited)